Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California

June 9, 2021

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The Pomo is the largest group of indigenous people in the state of California. In the early years, it was recorded that they inhabited the northern part of California and to the west, to the Pacific Coast. They derived the name Pomo from a conflation of words which meant those living in the red earth. Additionally, it is commonly known that this section of the population used the red mineral known as magnesite for decorations and making red beads, hence receiving the name. The Dry Creek Rancheria band is one of the sub-tribes among the Pomo, and thus it shares much of the cultures and traditions of the latter. Their central reservation is in Sonoma County in Geyserville area. This paper is going to provide more insight about the Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo Indians, their language, where they are located, family structures, lifestyle, social activities and cultures among other important details relating to this group of people.


The Pomo Indians preferred living in small groups. These little communities were collectively called bands. The Dry Creek descended from the Makahmo and Mihilakawna bands, and was referred to as the Southern Pomo. The Pomo as an Indian tribe was composed of hundreds of independent communities. Their historical territory was on the Pacific coast between Duncan point and Cleones. Some of the earliest contacts between the Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo and outsiders began in the 18th century when they started trade relations with the Russian fur trappers (Dry Creek Rancheria). In the 19th century, American settlers began settling amongst them, and they quickly outnumbered the natives. Despite all these changes, some groups of the population managed to preserve some aspects of their culture, and this was mainly facilitated by marriage, geography, and lineage. The Pomo people spoke seven Pomoan languages. They were forced to alter their name from Dry Creek Rancheria in the year 1915, when the government purchased their land and renamed it Dry Creek Valley (Mason).

Land Reservation

Their reservation was the Dry Creek Rancheria area. As was earlier mentioned, this territory is situated near Geyserville in Sonoma County. The land is estimated to be close to 300,000m2/17acres in size. This is quite a small fraction considering that the tribe once owned close to 86,400 acres (Atkinson). A large section of their land was flooded by water after the construction of the Warm Springs Dam in what is commonly referred to as Lake Sonoma. The Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo also owns another 227 acres located in South of Petaluma (Mason). With globalization and movement of people, the Dry Creek Pomo has expanded its business practices and conducts its operations out of Healdsburg and Geyserville. Adults were assigned land and encouraged to put it into agricultural use. To maintain their unique culture and prevent being assimilated by other cultures, the tribe reorganized itself in 1972 and changed its name to the initial Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians. In the year 2001, through government intervention and well-wishers aid, they established River Rock Casino.

Religion and Social Life

The Dry Creek Rancheria tribe adhered to Shamanism tradition (Mason). Shamanism had very practical and adaptable practices. Although it is not as organized as other religions like Christianity, it has its cosmology, symbols and is inhabited by totems and gods. They had puberty rites of passage and believed in Guksu who had supernatural powers (Dry Creek Rancheria). Medicine men were central figures across the Dry Creek Rancheria tribe, because they acted as healers. According to their creation story, the Dry Creek Rancheria tribe and the general Pomo population believed that they were descendants of the Hokan speaking people. The Coyote was their creator god.

Basket weaving was one of the most common social practices among the Dry Creek Rancheria Pomo. Mostly, women were more skilled in twining, plaiting and coiling (Atkinson). In fact, basket weaving is among their traditions which are recognized worldwide. The baskets had several uses including storing food, religious ceremonies, and fishing among others. Before their encounter with the Europeans, the Dry Creek Rancheria tribe also manufactured jewelry from clamshells and abalone. Most of these traditions have, however, dispersed and are now uncommon, as they have not been passed to the younger generation.

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Membership and Leadership

There has been a lot of controversy about membership in Dry Creek Rancheria tribe. As a result, it has been hard for the government to determine the exact population of the Dry Creek Pomo fully. For example, even though at the beginning of 2009, there were close to 970 registered members, the statistics soon changed when the leadership of the tribe disenrolled some members (History of the Dry Creek Rancheria).In 2014, close to 75 members were indicated to have faced expulsion from the tribe. Traditionally, the Dry Creek tribe had tribal leaders whose major duties included presiding over important religious ceremonies and rights of passages. Additionally, these leaders who were mostly elderly men ensured that there were peace and justice in the community by hearing and judging cases brought before them (Mason). The impact of this was that there were cooperation and a sense of unity and belonging in the whole community.

In the modern time, apart from recognizing the federal and local governments, there is also a functioning tribal government system the major role of which nowadays is to enroll community members and safeguard community cultures and doctrines. Their oversight role is, however, left to the legal governments recognized by the country’s constitution. There have been several coup d’?tat to replace the tribal government. In the year 2001, for example, there was an attempt to replace the tribal board of directors but without success. In 2010, angered by the policies adopted by the tribes board of directors, the chairman was removed, and new ones elected to continue with the mandate (History of the Dry Creek Rancheria).

Family and Community Values

As is the case with many other communities and tribes around the world, the family is the smallest social unit and is headed by the father. He is also the breadwinner, while the mother is expected to attend to daily chores including taking care of the children. Although cultural integration has had an impact on how people interact, gender roles are still observed in most families. Their main food, especially before coming into contact with the outside world, world was acorns. It was harvested in conical buskers and stored. Additionally, as is the case with many native groups, the Dry Creek Rancheria tribe also embraced fishing and hunting. These activities provided their daily food supply. Examples of food items that were consumed by this tribe include mushrooms, grasshoppers, gnats and wild greens. Acorns where, however, their most important and valued diet and are still consumed and enjoyed by the current generation.

Impacts of the Mission System and Gaming Habits

Some of the earliest groups of people to come into contact with the Dry Creek Rancheria tribe were the Europeans for trade. One of the outsider groups which greatly impacted on the cultures of the Dry Creek tribe was the Spanish mission. They brought with them secular religious policies of Spain. They introduced technology, European fruits, vegetables, and horses. Before their emergence, the Dry Creek Pomo were hunters and gatherers and were very peaceful people. Since the native population was important to the Spanish mission, the latter introduced some of their practices, religion and food crops to the Dry Creek Rancheria tribe. Up to date, effects of this interactions are still felt through the kind of food crop grown, agricultural practices and religion.

Generally speaking, the Dry Creek Rancheria is a gaming tribe, and they do have a casino. One of their famous gaming sites is known as the River Rock Casino the mission of which is to provide quality entertainment for its guest. All the services offered are guest-centered thus ensuring excellent service delivery and funny environment. The gaming environment upholds mutual respect among the visitors, neighbors and the community. Apart from the casino, other amusement facilities within the area inhabited by this group include the Alexander Valley Park, campground and Bellacana Vineyard.

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The United States prides itself as one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Its history dates back to hundreds of years before Columbus journey. One of the native tribes that have inhabited the United States is the Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo Indians. As is the case with other native Indian communities, they faced similar challenges such as hostility from other groups and races. Despite their small population in Sonoma County in Geyserville area, this tribe has tried to hold on to some of its unique cultural attributes such as religious belief and economic activities such as weaving baskets. Additionally, they have tried to manage their remaining acres of land and used it to sustain themselves through agriculture and other forms of business. Currently, members of Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo are spread across the United States and the world and have invested in different sectors of the economy.