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Smith: Bonds between Russian, Kashia people keep enduring

  • Russian Consul General Vladimir Vinokurov at Fort Ross State Historic Park, Saturday Jan. 21, 2012 attends the Bicentennial of Fort Ross. ((Kent Porter / Press Democrat))

A blue-ribbon delegation from Russia sojourned in Sonoma County the other day, strengthening new bonds that honor the remarkable moment 200 years ago when the coast's native Kashia Pomo people befriended the newcomers at Fort Ross.

Exciting prospects are emerging from this rekindled trans-Pacific kinship.

There's talk of St. Petersburg's historic Kunstkamera museum possibly loaning Sonoma County pieces from its rich collection of Kashia and Coast Miwok artifacts.

Also a possibility: A new sister-city relationship between Santa Rosa and the Russian town of Totma, both the birthplace and final resting place of Ivan Kuskov. He was a major player in the Russian-American Company that established Fort Ross in 1812 as a short-lived trapping and agricultural center.

Already, Kashia elders and other Sonoma County people and organizations keen to strengthen the connection with Russia are anticipating the next visit there in the spring of 2014.

The previous journey to Russia happened in September. It took in Totma and the native treasures — hundreds of Kashia and Pomo baskets, headdresses and other artifacts — at the museum in St. Petersburg.

But, sadly, that visit was overshadowed hereabouts by the involvement of County Supervisor Efren Carrillo. Then an important advocate of mining the Fort Ross era of Kashia history, Carrillo took that trip shortly after his arrest following a fight outside a San Diego nightclub.

Also on that visit, Kashia elders sang songs that blessed the artifacts at the museum, and they advised grateful members of the Kunstkamera staff of misinterpretations of some of the items' uses and significance. The curator remarked afterward that he would never again view the artifacts from Fort Ross the same way.

We watch to see what other discoveries result from the rebirth of the Kashia-Russia connection.

KEEP IT COOL: Rosie Keller, who's 18 and grew up in Kenwood and the Swiss Alps, will be at Sonoma's Sebastiani Theatre on Monday evening to show the film she's made to try to save the world.

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