Lake Sonoma could again be site of Pomo traditions

  • Dry Creek Pomo Historic Preservation officer Tiernay Giron stands among Santa Barbara sedge grass used to make baskets on a 5-acre site near the Warm Springs Damn. The Army Corps of Engineers has given tentative approval for a small native village on the site for ceremonial activities.

A site near Warm Springs Dam soon could be the location for a small native village and ceremonial arbors, helping re-establish a Pomo Indian connection to their ancestral territory.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is nearing approval of the Dry Creek Rancheria's application to lease 24 acres near Lake Sonoma and develop five of the acres for tribal use.

The plan is to use the land for dance practices, picnics and events that include other tribes.

Tribal Chairman Harvey Hopkins declined to comment, referring questions to the tribe's public relations firm.

"It's an opportunity to have an area set aside for their cultural activities, for their dance activities," said spokesman Dave Hyams, a senior vice-president with Solem & Associates in San Francisco. "It's an important part of the preservation of the tribe and its culture."

The Army Corps, which built Warm Springs Dam and manages the surrounding recreation area, issued a 59-page draft report this week with a tentative finding that the project will have no significant environmental impact.

The public has until March 15 to comment on it.

The project is part of ongoing "cultural mitigation" efforts to offset the effects of dam construction, according to Army Corps archeologist Richard Stradford.

When Warm Springs dam was built three decades ago, the lake formed behind it flooded ancestral Pomo lands, including sedge areas used in basketweaving.

"For thousands of years these beds were up Dry Creek and would be harvested," Stradford said.

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