Pomo - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. All the Pomo believed in a creator who made the world. Most equated this creator with Coyote, the animal and the mythological trickster. Some Eastern Pomo gave the creator a different name, separating him from the other roles of Coyote. All believed that there was a time in the distant past when animals could speak and had other human as well as animal attributes. Then all creatures changed to their present forms. Supernatural forces abided in everything; specific named supernatural beings could appear to one who broke a rule, such as a childbirth or menstrual taboo on a woman or her husband, and by fright cause coma and death. In the early historical period, the Pomo were performing a Kuksu ceremony, in which dancers impersonated certain spirits. In 1871, the Ghost Dance swept in from Nevada across northern California, predicting the return of the dead and the elimination of White people. This reached the Pomo in 1872 in a modification called the Earth Lodge Cult, which stressed a destruction of the world from which the faithful could be protected by gathering in subterranean lodges. Pomo from as far away as the Kashaya streamed into the Clear Lake region to await this event. When the end did not come, the participants suffered great hardship and starvation, not being prepared for life to go on. A development, known as the Bole-Maru, abandoned the belief in imminent catastrophe and stressed belief in an afterlife and a supreme being. Local dreamers and prophets among the various Pomo groups have guided further evolution, even to this day. Most Pomo now belong to some Christian church, but many still fear the consequences of breaking old restrictions.

Religious Practitioners. Shamans may conduct Ceremonies and preach and prophesy or they may doctor. They may specialize in one function or the other, or do both. In the past, they may have inherited the position, but now the powers are usually received through dream inspiration plus apprenticeship. It is said that before 1870 most shamans were men, but now women predominate.

Ceremonies. Ceremonies were held for certain annual occasions. The Kashaya still hold some of these: in May the strawberry festival for the blessing of the first fruits of the year; in the fall an acorn festival; in summer four nights of sacred dances ending with a feast on the Fourth of July; and in winter possibly another dance. At any time a feast might be pledged, conditional on a sick family member recovering, and then the pledge is carried out by the kin group. The Pomo had a great variety of amusements, games, and sports. One rough team sport that could involve an entire village was a game similar to lacrosse. But, the game in which they took the most passionate interest was that called the hand game (it involves guessing which hand of the opponent holds a marked bone). This they could play all night and would often wager all their possessions on its outcome.

Arts. Pomo baskets are considered by many to be the finest in the world. They are admired for the great variety of weaves and styles; the delicacy, evenness, and tightness of the stitching; and the artistry of the design. Most spectacular is the sun basket whose surface pattern is made of feathers of different natural colors. The art form still lives and appears to be expanding; the finer work sells for very high prices. In the past century the women have vied in producing the largest baskets (which take many years to complete) and the smallest (which approach pinhead size). The art of singing is well developed for almost any occasion: ceremonial dancing, blessing, doctoring, warding off evil, bringing good luck in the harvest, hunting, attracting a mate, gambling, and so on. Two-part singing is common: one sings the melody while another, called the "rock," keeps the rhythm vocally. Rhythm was also kept with a split-stick rattle, a foot drum, and a two-toned whistle. Tattooing of both the face and body were formerly common, but now the type and frequency of tattoos are no more than among the rest of the populace.

Medicine. Minor physical ailments like rashes, boils, sore eyes, diarrhea, constipation, or indigestion are often treated herbally by poultices or infusions of various plants and plant parts. For obvious physical injuries and recognized diseases, a White doctor is now usually consulted. Other ailments of unobvious origin might be attributed to the consequences of breaking some taboo or to poisoning (more magical than chemical) by enemies. A shaman, locally called an Indian doctor, is often successful in treating the latter problems by singing powerful songs, by the laying on of hands, or by sucking out the disease or poison. Indian doctors still practice their profession and are sometimes called in by local White people for relief of chronic ailments not helped by modern medicine.

Death and Afterlife. The deceased were formerly cremated, but about 1870 a shift was made to burial. Mourners would bring gifts (beads, baskets, robes), some specifically designated to be burned with the dead, some to be distributed later; the bereaved family would later return an equivalent in value. The house and personal property of the deceased were also burned, lest the ghost linger around the objects. The Supernatural paraphernalia of a doctor, however, might be turned over to a successor apprentice. One year after the Funeral, the bones of the deceased were dug up and burned again, along with more gifts, thus terminating the period of mourning. Even now, after the shift to burial, valuable gifts may be thrown into the grave. All the Pomo believed in an afterworld. It was important to have a sacred Indian name, bestowed from the family's ancestral stock (from either the maternal or paternal side, or from both), to announce on reaching the afterworld so that ancestors who were already there could greet the newly arrived family member.

User Contributions:

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Sep 5, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
It would be great if you guys would mention if they had a government or not. And if you do mention it it would be very helpful if you could explain how it worked.
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Sep 5, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
I agree with Stephanie! I am doing a school project and I can't find any information about the government anywhere!
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Nov 19, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
i would love it if u guys could make a page on their education and music because i cant find it any where and i am also ding a school project
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Nov 19, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
i would love it if u guys could make a page on their education and music because i cant find it any where and i am also ding a school project
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Nov 19, 2012 @ 7:19 pm
i would love it if u guys could make a page on their education and music because i cant find it any where and i am also ding a school project
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Jun 12, 2013 @ 7:07 am
hey i live in australia and i have given my son the middle name DASAN i was lead to believe that Dasan and his father were from the bird clan and ruled and maintained the earth, could i have more about this story please as i want to share it with my son!
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Sep 22, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
I found this very helpful thank you! I just hope next time you could make it more descriptive about the culture, life and maybe add a bit about famous pomo indians.
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Sep 29, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
i wish she would talk about what the kids did like if they worked or played
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Oct 1, 2013 @ 8:08 am
great info. would like to see more about their government and money/beads.
is a dick
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Dec 3, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
I am also doing a school project and I cant find anything about music. Also I got a lot af my questons answered on this site!!! Keep up the good work! ;)
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Sep 24, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
I am doing a project on Pomo so this is helpful!!!
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Oct 27, 2015 @ 1:13 pm
School project in the bag .this is so helpful for school project like im doing right now.
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Nov 13, 2015 @ 11:23 pm
Pomo Indian tribe is the best. I have to do research, I love this site it gave me so much information.
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Dec 13, 2015 @ 1:13 pm
I have a school project to do, and so the paragraph about their ceremonies was quite helpful, THANK YOU.
Is there a page somewhere around here on what roles certain members of the tribe had and their daily activities? Project due on Thursday, help!
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Apr 7, 2016 @ 6:18 pm
I really need about the traditions can you please add that and I am also doing a class project
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Apr 17, 2017 @ 5:17 pm
i need to learn about the pomo tribe for class today.
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Sep 19, 2017 @ 5:17 pm
This site was very helpful with my essay, thank you
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Sep 29, 2017 @ 1:13 pm
This is very helpful for school projects on culture,
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Nov 15, 2017 @ 9:09 am
This is the best website ever for doing an article!
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Nov 16, 2017 @ 12:12 pm
im doing a school project and i need government info
big dick
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Nov 28, 2017 @ 12:12 pm
thanks for some information about games that the pomo tribe played
Amy R Hunter
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Jul 10, 2018 @ 12:00 am
I am an aide with the Native American Ed program in Yolo County, and we have several students who are part of the Pomo Tribe. It would be wonderful if we could get more of the Pomo myths, or more on the language, as it is really hard to find much information on Pomo religion or spoken word. Some games would also be helpful. Thank you.
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Sep 30, 2018 @ 2:14 pm
this is very important too many words that i don't understand are in this your paragraphs are great tho
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Sep 30, 2018 @ 3:15 pm
okay okay your paragraphs are the BEST,and you have very good explanation on each. GREAT JOB
Keira A Nieto
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Oct 9, 2018 @ 10:10 am
It would be great if u would mention there most important ceremony and this article was great thanks GREAT JOB
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Oct 11, 2018 @ 11:23 pm
So I was thinking if I could have 200 words in a paragraph then I could have a lot of information but you only made 100 so exponent is a parag
raph to a 1 point nine so that means that your paragraphs have informArion just that you wrote a quater onto the point that you did a medium. But hey you did good
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Nov 7, 2018 @ 8:20 pm
this site was very helpful for me on my school work
Mr. Roudabushh
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Feb 26, 2019 @ 2:14 pm
I have a question. I have a class project, and need help but I'm a student with permission to use my teachers email. Where did the Pomo live long time ago? What myths did the Pomo believe long time ago? Also where did the kids go to educate them? And what was your goverement like? My last question is what was some rituals that you did? I hope you respond by next Tuesday because that's when its due! Thank you.
Ashlee S Rios
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Feb 27, 2019 @ 10:22 pm
The Pomo Indian people did in fact have a sense of government; however, the political power was littler more than a desire to conform to social norms less be frowned upon by the community locally and abroad. The leaders of family units were called Captains and represented the family group in general counsel. While on the other hand, there was also a leader of the Captains identified when "closed counsel" so to speak. In many ways the "governmental" system was akin to parliament. And, although there was too, a religious leader in the tribal organization, the Lead Captain of the tribe was still the most important political officer of the tribe and acted in many similar to modern day ambassadors as opposed to a formally recognized president.
With in the religious corridor of Pomo Society there is also a political hierarchy. And similar to the political arrangement offices within the religious branch of Pomo society were passed on through linage. There were Lead Singers, Fire Tenders, Lead Dancers, and most importantly Indian Doctors (medicine men). Yet, unlike the political the religious sector of Pomoan culture there was an initiation process for men and it was only these initiated men that could hold religious offices, and take part in certain restricted ceremonies.

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