Kashia Pomo culture on display at Fort Ross 'Bigtime' gathering

  • Billyrene Pinola displays a Native American feather skirt, one of several items that will be on view at the "Big Time " event at Fort Ross State Park held by the Kasha historical preservation group, Tuesday June 4, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

The dances and foods of the Kashia tribe will be on display at Fort Ross State Historic Park this weekend, the first time the site has hosted a "Bigtime," a gathering and party involving Native American groups from around the North Coast.

The Metini Native Cultural Foundation organized the event, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, featuring song, dance and traditional food. It is open to the public and costs $15 per car, or $14 for cars including at least one senior.

"We have a rich history" at the Fort Ross site, said foundation founder Billyrene Pinola. "But that has not been told over the years as much as we'd like to have seen."

Fort Ross State Historic Park


Metini is the name of a tribal ceremonial site near the fort site, she said.

The event is the first step in a broader effort to emphasize the history and culture of the Kashia, the tribe that occupied an area roughly from the Gualala River to the Russian River for thousands of years before the arrival of Russian fur traders in 1812.

But the Kashia "have really not been intimately involved in the park since the beginning; they have not been that present," Senior State Archaeologist E. Breck Parkman said. This event, therefore, is "a big deal for history."

Historians estimate there were about 1,500 Kashia living in the area when the Russians established the fortified trading post. The Russians enlisted members of the tribe as laborers, and relations between the Russians and the locals was relatively cordial.

The fort was surrounded by dwellings built by the Kashia and members of nearby Miwok tribes, along with Aleuts from Alaska, brought south by the Russians.

"You had this really thriving multicultural community there," Parkman said. "But when the Russians left, it really broke apart."

Under pressure from the Spanish and American settlers who followed the Russians, the Kashia moved inland and eventually settled on a ridgetop reservation, where many live to this day. Pinola said she and others in the tribe were taught the "bad history" of the fort, of exploitation of the native people by the Russians and being forced off their ancestral land.

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