I recently had the opportunity to travel with our president, Phil Glynn, and our Community Development Entity (CDE) manager, Michael Bland, to meet the Tribal Council leadership of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians.
Their land is at the northernmost end of the Russian River Valley, a beautiful route I loved to visit for wine tasting when I lived and organized in the Bay Area. Our meeting began with story sharing.
I heard accounts from Eddie, the tribal historian, of California’s so-called “termination act” that disbanded and seized Native lands for the supposed interest of assimilation. These lands included those of his father who was given $1,400 for five homes and the tribal land he was forced from.
I saw and heard in these stories an organized community of resistance. Coyote Valley responded to the California Indian Termination Act of 1957 with a class action law suit in 1958.
The Tribal Council today is clear that the community center and classrooms they recently constructed and rehabbed were just the start to a powerful plan for job creation, affordable housing, tourism generation, and Native cultural recognition.
One particularly compelling leader is Priscilla Hunter. She described to me, while wearing her brightly tie-dyed shirt, that she organized just as hard to support the human rights campaign of the indigenous Maya communities in Chiapas, Mexico (the Zapatistas) as her own band of Pomo Indians against the injustices of archaeological reviews that use bureaucracy to take land.
Priscilla is a legend in the tribe for American Indian rights and her son, Tribal Chairman Michael Hunter, and family follow in her powerful footsteps. Read an account of her leadership here.
The Coyote Valley leaders are organizing their own path, despite the barriers. It was an honor to hear their story and see their vision. Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this blog, where I’ll share their most recent accomplishment.
Visit the Coyote Valley Band’s website to learn more about this dynamic tribe.