The Pomo Project raising money for new mural at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa
At Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa, there will soon be a new, colorful recognition of Pomo Native American traditions and culture.
The Pomo Project has launched a fundraiser to cover an outside wall near the entrance of the Santa Rosa high school with a vibrant mural of Pomo dancers and basket weavers surrounded by rolling hills, purple mountains and crashing waves. The school is named after Elsie Allen, a renowned Pomo basket weaver who spent her childhood in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
“It was just a great fit. The campus already has awareness of Pomo culture and contributions,” said Christine Cobaugh, a member of The Pomo Project.
She and Rose Hammock are coordinating fundraising efforts for the mural, which is expected to cost $13,000 to complete. They recently launched a GoFundMe to cover $2,000 and plan to pay for the rest through grants and other donations.
The group also is collaborating with Artstart, a Santa Rosa-based organization that mentors young artists while they complete public and private artwork throughout Sonoma County. Artstart will guide art students at Elsie Allen, and local Native American community members and other Sonoma County residents also will contribute to the work.
The group hopes work on the mural will begin before the year ends.
“We know it’ll be a long process, fundraising being the hardest part,” Cobaugh said.
The public art project is a way for Hammock to give back to her alma mater and encourage the expansion of pride in her native culture and community. A member of the Pomo, Wailacki and Maidu tribes, Hammock attended Elsie Allen High School and founded a Native American club there before she graduated in 2014.
Now Hammock leads the Pomo Youth Dancers and gives Native American history presentations at preschools and elementary schools.
“Our native community in Sonoma County is really large,” she said. “The opportunities we have just like this mural project help raise awareness for our people.”
The Pomo reside across Northern California, including in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties. The mural — designed by Joseph Salinas, founder of Sonoma County Pomo Dancers — highlights multiple facets of Pomo culture across a broad, undulating vista populated by basket weavers and traditional dancers.
Dancing and basket making are still integral to the community, despite misconceptions that modern Native Americans are disconnected from their traditions, Hammock said.
“Whatever space we have, our connection to dance is so special,” she said. “That’s like my church. It’s my time to pray. It’s my time to teach.”
Several animals featured in the mural, like the eagle, hawks and bears, also play a role in traditional Pomo culture, Hammock added.
“For me, when people see this mural, I want them to see this is a piece of who we are still,” Hammock said. “When people talk about native people, they talk about them in the past. ... We’re proud of who we are. We’re proud of our culture.”