Pomo - Orientation



Identification. "Pomo" and "Pomoan" refer to a family of seven California Indian languages and to their speakers. The seven are often differentiated by placing a direction before the word Pomo: Southwestern Pomo, Southern Pomo, Central Pomo, Northern Pomo, Northeastern Pomo, Eastern Pomo, and Southeastern Pomo. Two of these seven groups had a name for themselves as a whole and thus can be referred to by adaptations of their self-designations: "Kashaya" (Southwestern Pomo) and "Salt Pomo" (Northeastern Pomo). The others had names for their politically separate village communities but not for the language groups as a whole. The name "Pomo" arises from a blend of two terms in the Northern Pomo language: the common noun p h ó' ma', "inhabitants," and p h o• mo•, "at red earth hole," a specific Village.


Location. Six of the linguistic groups lived in a compact area of northern California with a southern boundary fifty miles north of San Francisco (about 38°20′ N), extending northward for ninety miles (to about 39°20′ N), and from the Pacific Ocean inland for fifty miles to Clear Lake. The seventh group, the Salt Pomo, lived in a small detached area on the east side of the Inner Coast Range, about twenty miles to the northeast of the main body. The climate is of the Mediterranean type, with rainy winters and dry summers. Along the coast, the summers are foggy and cool, ideal for the redwood forests. In the interior, the summers are very hot and dry.

Demography. The aboriginal population of all the Pomo has been variously estimated at from eight thousand to twenty-one thousand. The numbers were not evenly distributed among the seven linguistic groups: the Kashaya, Salt Pomo, and Southeastern Pomo were the smallest at about 5 percent each of the total. The Eastern were about 10 percent, the Central Pomo about 15 percent, and the Southern and Northern about 30 percent each. The more numerous linguistic groups were divided into a larger number of politically independent village communities. In the devastation of the nineteenth century, over 90 percent of the population was lost, down to a nadir of about eight hundred. The population recovered somewhat, to twelve hundred by 1910 and has increased steadily since. Later censuses are quite inadequate, as they count only residents of current reservations and omit the great majority of the Pomo who live either on land whose Reserved status has been terminated or at other sites.

Linguistic Affiliation. The seven languages of the Pomoan family are quite distinct; at the maximum divergence they are more different from each other than are English and German. At a deeper time depth the Pomoan family is postulated to have been related to other Indian languages, scattered from northern California southward into Mexico, in the Hokan linguistic stock.


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