A TRYST WITH THE ELEM NATION OF CLEARLAKE
Many great tribes lived around Clearlake one of the largest masses of natural water in an area so beautiful and pristine that many tribes would make a pilgrimage to charge their lungs and heal themselves.
Natural geysers, rich minerals, fauna and fish, game, you name it flourished. The tribes around Clearlake were rich in everything.
For thousands of years the Southeastern Pomo consisting of the Elem, the Cignom, the Koi, and Komdot lived in PEACE. It was a matriarchal system, which perhaps stopped a lot of warring amongst them, built consensus, and brought about immense prosperity and longevity.
In recent times having lost control over 2 million acres of pristine land. 50 miles of lake shoreline, their matriarchal system, the language, their culture, all that remains of the Elem Nation is a population of 250 of which ONLY 80 have chosen to stay on the grounds of the Elem Nation Colony which is about 50 acres. The Bureau of Indian Affairs calls them the Elem Indian Colony and states that they live on a land surrounded by a Superfund site - the Sulfur Bank Rancharia.
Today, many people from all over go to Clearlake to check out the panoramic sites. Boating and fishing abound, and the surrounding hills make for good hiking. The many creeks and the lake provide many boating opportunities. Tourists abound and enjoy the sights.
The area has a lot of mercury mines, there is a lot of gold as this was gold country, other mineral mines abound in plenty, as plenty as the oak trees which flourish in this area. Lots of farmers reap a bountiful harvest from the alluvial soil which all belonged to the First People for thousands of years.
The local tribes always treated the land with respect. The land belonged to all the tribes, they looked upon Mother Earth as their collective responsibility. The tribes took from the Earth what they deemed necessary. There was always this bond of respect, which today no more exists. Where there was harmony today much of the land is hurting. The strangers brought in the concept of GREED and waste. Today capitalism has paved good roads, which have exploited all that was good and left the land and waters - polluted. Looking back many of the elders today hope that something can be done to make Clearlake a less polluted place to live. Right the wrongs of yester years.
From 1840 to 1860 there were laws that legally protected the Whites. No Indian could take a White to Court nor testify to defend her or himself. One could kill an Indian - no question asked and get as much as a paltry sum of $5 for a scalp. These were laws that Sacramento enforced and which many settlers abused to amass land and wealth that belonged to the Elem, the Komdot, the Koi, and the Cignom.
Today, many senior citizens make Clearlake their home and most of them mean well and do not want to dwell on the bloody crimes of the past. How ever even as they want to live well they have come to understand - pollution. They do not eat fish from the lake as it is contaminated with mercury. They drink bottled water even though they have springs, water, and more water everywhere.
Many of them suffer from cancer and other diseases brought about by coming into contact with contaminants - some so toxic that the Environmental Protection Agency has declared some sites and put them on the Superfund List. Only the most toxic sites are put on the Superfund List.
There is a lot of volcanic activity in the area surrounding Clearlake and the tribes as do the old timers have witnessed many quakes and horrendous flooding. When the tribes ruled the land - they had so much land that they could move freely and away from any site hit by flooding or earthquakes. Today most of them have no choice. The Whites too have to bear the consequences of Mother Earth and Nature - stay put on the land they have purchased.
Today, as if the past history did not provide the wisdom for future and present inhabitants of Clearlake NOT to repeat from crimes of greed - outsiders are putting the native and non-native habitants in harms way. State and Federal agencies spurred by the Bush administration are drilling for oil and now for energy - as in geothermal.
Right next to a Superfund site a mercury mine a governmental agency the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (CDOGGR) wants to construct a Geothermal Plant. A firm called EDAW located at 150 Chestnut Street in San Francisco has been hired as consultants. The paradox is any power harnessed will not benefit the community it will be tied into the existing GRID and feed the GREEDY!
The Mooselodge Lodge some five minutes distance from the main town was chosen as a site for a community meeting and was attended by over 350 people from the area, Thursday 16, 2003. There were many senior citizens and many informed constituents - some geologists, some well informed about mining, real estate experts, environmentalists, but mostly women and men who wanted to be informed and stand for what is right.
The CDOGGR held this Environmental Impact Report Scoping Meeting to find out first hand what the community thought. They did not expect such a large turn out and what is more did not expect to get some of their own medication. Perhaps they thought they could pull a fast one - but the constituents gave them plenty of free advice. The majority did not want any geothermal plant anywhere in the area.
The CDOGGER was surprised to learn that the constituents knew very well that the prospectors had not gone through the Planning Process. That the Supervisors had been bought and that it was time to recall the Supervisors. That this so called geothermal projects had been initiated before and had been a failure. That this project could be nipped in the bud because due legal process had not been followed - the project did not have the community in mind and the consequences of toxins and pollution did not really bother the project sponsors, who did not live anywhere near Clearlake.
Some State and Federal Agencies gathered were shocked that the Community was so UNITED that they backed out from too much talk. May be for the first time in recent history they had to listen from constituents who own property in the area but had to drive all the way from Oregon and San Francisco to attend this meeting.
Around 1805 President Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on an expedition. The expedition set out on the East Coast and reached the West Coast and laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean. In the year 2005 it will be 200 years since officially the first Americans visited the West Coast. Today all of California and more belong to the United States.
18 treaties were signed between California tribes and the United States. None of the treaties were ratified. Again and again anything and everything was carried out to kill the Native American and rob them of their land and culture. Today after all these years the State and Federal government still prefer to treat the Native American as second class citizens. Today, after all these years the little they have as do the Elem Nation is being taken away from them - more toxins dumped as if they have not suffered enough.
The State and Federal agencies know that a Superfund Site next to the Elem Nation has not been cleaned or abated. Now, they are pushing their luck and mocking the injustice done to the Elem Nation - enough is enough. Today, those who thought nothing of the Elem Nation value their existence and understand the hardship the Elem Nation has suffered.
Where once there were peaceful and prosperous tribes in California - we have destitution. Where once tribes enjoyed their culture, spoke their language, sang and danced their songs, cared for Mother Earth - we have total decimation of tribes, who do not speak, sing, and dance to the music of their mother tongue - many drastic methods were used to wipe the tribes and anything that had to do with their culture.
We have the living and the living dead - those who do not respect the living and despise justice are the living dead.
top - back