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200 years of history brings Russians, Indians to Fort Ross

  • Violet Parrish-Chappell, 80, of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians talks with Russian Consul General Vladimir Vinokurov at Fort Ross State Historic Park, Saturday Jan. 21, 2012 after a blessing kicking off the Bicentennial of Fort Ross. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Russians and Kashia Indians gathered at Fort Ross State Historic Park on Saturday for an "opening blessing" of the 200-year anniversary of the historic Russian settlement.

The ceremony, which brought together elders of the Kashia band of Pomo Indians and the Russian consul general of San Francisco, sought to evoke the first encounter between the tribe and Russian and native Alaskan settlers.

"I hope this is the...renewal of a relationship that was established 200 years ago," said Vladamir Vinokurov, the consul general, after he was given an elaborate handmade Native American necklace.

Blessing Of Fort Ross State Park

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The ceremony kicked off a series of events this year aimed at commemorating the history of Fort Ross. Events include planned San Francisco and Santa Rosa performances of a 30-year-old Russian rock opera about a love affair between a Russian nobleman and the daughter of the Spanish commandante in San Francisco in the early 1800s.

Kashia tribal members pointed out that during the time the Russians lived among them, their treatment of the Indians contrasted sharply with the way Native Americans were treated by Spanish colonists elsewhere in California.

Reno Franklin, vice chairman of the Kashia Pomo tribe, said the Russian fort was often a safe haven for Indians abused by others colonizers.

Park supporters said they hope this year's bicentennial events help spur public-private funding for the park, which now is only open on weekends.

"We're going to have to look at new creative models for funding our open space and parks," Sonoma County Supervisor Efre Carrillo said.

The event also drew State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and California Parks Director Ruth Coleman.

Mark Dillen, a member of the Fort Ross Interpretive Association advisory board, said "it's crucial we use this year as a launchpad for the future."


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