Pomo - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Pomo were hunters and gatherers. From the coast, fish were taken, and shellfish and edible seaweed gathered. In the hills, valleys, and coastal plains, edible bulbs, seeds, nuts, and greens were collected, and deer, elk, rabbits, and squirrels hunted or trapped. From the rivers and streams fish were taken. In the lake, fish were plentiful, and in winter the migratory water-fowl numbered in the millions. The staple food for all the Pomo was the acorn. Both the coastal and lake dwellers allowed others to fish and take food from their unique environments. Most now work for wages and buy their food in a grocery, though many still like to gather old-time foods like acorns and seaweed. The commonest wage work in the past century has been as laborers in agricultural fields or canneries. Coastal Indians have had better paying work in lumber camps. With more education, many are now moving on to better jobs. In daily life, little clothing was worn: men usually went naked but in cold weather might wrap themselves in a robe or mantle of skin or tule; women wore a skirt of skins or of shredded bark or tule. Elaborate costumes of feathers and shells were, and still are, worn on ceremonial occasions.

Industrial Arts. As money and as gifts, beads were produced in large numbers: most common were beads made from clam shells collected principally at Bodega Bay in Coast Miwok territory. More valuable were larger beads of magnesite, known as "Indian gold." Pendants of abalone were also appreciated. Mortars and pestles of stone were shaped for grinding acorns and various seeds. Knives and arrowheads were of obsidian and chert. Boats of bundled tule were used on Clear Lake; only rafts were used on the coast. The Pomo are famous for their fine baskets.

Trade. There was aboriginally a considerable amount of trade among the various Pomo communities and with Neighboring non-Pomo. Items traded included salt from the Salt Pomo, and from the coastal groups came shells, magnesite, finished beads, obsidian, tools, basketry materials, skins, and food that one group might have in excess and another need. Beads were the measure of value, and the Pomo were adept in counting them to the tens of thousands.

Division of Labor. The men did the hunting, fishing, and fighting. Women gathered the plant food and prepared the food; especially time consuming was the grinding and leaching of the staple acorn. Men made the beads, rabbit-skin blankets, weapons, coarsely twined burden baskets, and quail and fish traps. Women wove the fine baskets.

Land Tenure. Aboriginally, with few exceptions, land and hunting and gathering rights were possessed by the village community. Some Central Pomo had family ownership of certain oak trees, berry bushes, and bulb fields. For the Southeastern Pomo, land around their island villages was communally owned, but named tracts of land on the mainland were owned by individual families, who had exclusive gathering rights, although others might be allowed to hunt there. Of twenty-one small reservations existing in the middle of the twentieth century, fourteen were terminated in the 1960s and the land allocated to individual ownership. Many sold their land, and thus outsiders are living among these groups. Many have also left these reservations and bought homes in towns near and far.

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