Farmer Returns 700 Acres To Native American Tribe

Above photo: From The Trust for Public Land/Brendan Moriarty

Sonoma County, CA – For the first time in nearly two centuries the Kashia Tribe of the Pomo Native Americans will be able to enjoy the Pacific coast where they and their ancestors once hunted, fished, and developed a rich culture.

Richardson Ranch Land Returns to Pomo Kashia Tribe

The final piece of the complex deal was completed October 18, 2015 when California landowner,  Bill Richardson, agreed to gift his 700 acres family farm to the neighbouring Kashia Tribe of Stewarts Point.  The sheep ranch has been in the Richardson family since 1925.

No longer must the Kashia remain inland, away from their breathtaking coastline.

It took five years of fundraising by the Sonoma County supervisors, The Trust for Public Land,  private foundations and groups. Sonoma County contributed two million dollars for the project, while another six million was raised by the coalition of groups seeking to buy the property for the Kashia. The Richardsons accepted a discounted price nearly $1 million below the appraised value.

The agreement is being hailed as a proud, healing occasion — one that restores coastal access to the Kashia people while providing for environmental conservation and public use.

The transaction, is expected to become final in mid-November.

Kashia Coastal Reserve Is Established

1ca2In exchange, the 8-mile  California Coastal Trail will extend from Salt Point State Park’s northern edge across the Kashia’s newly reclaimed land. It straddles Highway 1, with about 52 acres of coastal prairie on the west side and 636 acres on the inland side long used for cattle grazing and timberland.

This will give the public their first opportunity to experience the sweeping  dramatic coastline views with its 70-foot bluffs and dramatic, craggy rocks below.  Seasonal streams that cross the property descend to the ocean, creating spectacular waterfalls, officials said.

The newly established Kashia Coastal Reserve protects important cultural sites, two scenic barns on the coast side of the highway, and provides a place to connect present and future generations of the Kashia with their heritage. Harvest of native wildlife and plants also will be limited.

The Tribe will manage the 350 acres of redwood forest as a demonstration forest. It will serve as a gateway for educating and engaging the public about the history and practices of native people in the area. Plans include the creation of a museum to showcase the history of the area — both the tribe’s and that of the loggers and ranchers who settled it.

The Pomo Indians will get to start using the land immediately, while Richardson will get to live out his days on the mile-long stretch of property—and be buried on a hillside when he passes on.

History of the Kashi Pomo and Their Territory

1ca3The Kashai People (also known as Kashaya) consider their name to be “People From the Top of the Land.” The name Kashia, which means “expert gamblers,” was given to them by a neighbouring Pomo group. TheKashia are one of seven individual groups of people who speak what linguists have labeled as the Pomoan languages.

The population of pre-contact Kashia is estimated to have included 1,500 persons living in large villages over the different environmental zones within their territory. The tribes’s nearly 1,000 members  people live on Stewarts Point Rancheria located  at Skaggs Springs Road in Stewarts Point, Sonoma County.

The Kashai occupied lands extending about thirty miles from the Gualala River in the north to Duncan’s Point a few miles south of the Russian River. West to east, the Kashia territory reached from the Pacific coastline over four coastal ranges, down the Warm Springs Creek to the confluence of Dry Creek, some thirty miles inland. The important old village site of Metini situated near the Russian Fort Ross was central to the Kashia territory.

(see The First People by Otis Parrish for more information)

While the Kashai experienced less acculturation pressure and fewer forced removals to missions and reservations; this timeline shows their lives were non the less disrupted:

  •  1812 Kashi sustained their first contact with non-indians, the Russians, who were more interested in sea otter hunting and establishing a food base in California than in dominating the Kashaya or altering their way of life.
  • 1817  the Treaty of Hagemeister is signed with the Russians. The treaty allowed the Russians to build Fort Ross, which quickly became a thriving trade port along the California Coast that brought in natives (and traders) from Hawaii to Alaska. While not a perfect relationship, but it than that of neighbouring tribes, who suffered greatly at the hands of the Spanish, Mexicans, and later groups of white settlers.
  • 1811-1842  A tri-cultural community was established consisting of Russian administrators and workers, Aleut hunters, and the Kashia, who were employed as laborers. Their way of life became altered though not forgotten.
  • 1822 California became part of the Mexican Republic. Mexican and American settlers entered the coastal lands in growing numbers. Great changes occurred in the Kashia way of life.
  • 1848 Gold is discovered, bringing with it American settlers causing great changes and tragedy to their lives.
  • 1856, the Pomo were “rounded up” and forced to live on the newly established Mendocino Indian Reserve.
Reno Keoni Franklin at the California State Capitol, Sacramento. Photo by Clayton Franklin. Courtesy of the Franklin family.

Reno Keoni Franklin at the California State Capitol, Sacramento. Photo by Clayton Franklin. Courtesy of the Franklin family.

Our history has its dark times, and I encourage our members not to forget that those dark moments existed, but also not to let them define who we are. Reno Keoni Franklin, current Chairman, Kashia Band of Pomo Indians reminds us:

Upon the transfer of his people’s lands the Chairman posted on Facebook:

I once said that Tribal Chairmen never cry, but that was before this moment, as I sit here with tears in my eyes.

It is my humble honor to inform my tribe and our community, that today, the Kashia Pomo Tribe, has returned to ownership of land along our ocean. Through the assistance of many and the prayer of all, we have secured the last piece of funding to purchase the 700 acre Kashia Coastal Reserve. We are again, owners of coastal property.

History, 200 years ago we signed a treaty with the Russians at Fort Ross. We lived in relative peace until the Russians left. In the late 1860’s, we suffered a mass hanging of three Kashia men at Plantation. At that time, we moved away from our coast and to the safety of a relatives property, the Haupt Ranch. We have not had unrestricted coastal access since, being forced to ask others for permission to access a coast that we had used for 12,500 years. Today, we righted that wrong.

Yahwee to the County of Sonoma, who voted today to approve $2,900,00.00 towards the purchase, as well as the State of California, Lannan Foundation, Moore Foundation and the Trust for Public Land.

It is a good day to be Kashia.

Our Personal Connection to the Richardson Ranch


Diving at Fort Ross, home of the Pomo

Diving at Fort Ross, home of the Pomo

This stretch of coastline is well known to divers of Sonoma Coast as one of the best dive spots.  This precious and productive piece of land brings back so many wonderful and personal memories.  And is one of the reasons we returned to the Mendonoma area and Abalone Bay.Yes, there is not doubt in my mind how joyous an occasion this must be for the Kashia People.

I recall the many times my husband, Jorge, our friends, and I use to travel up the coast to park outside the Richardson sheep ranch for an early morning’s dive for abalone and spear fishing.

This was in the days of abalone limits of 6 per day in possession.

We would pull up alongside the fence line to suit up for our dive. Dressed in 3/4 inch neoprene wetsuits, with 50 pounds of weights cinched along our waist, and our gear  in our arms we’d “hop” the fence, but not before paying our $1.00 parking fee in the mailbox nailed to it.

Weaving our way between the outcropping of rocks, tall meadow grass and sheep keeping the meadows in check, we would channel our inner mountain goat to climb down and then back up the cliffs that line the coast. Often we’d celebrate the day’s catch by cooking one fresh on the beach and then return back out to replenish our catch to the limit.

And now it has rightfully returned into the hands of its original owners.

(WATCH the video below from KNTV)


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