Big Time Festival at Kule Loklo

The annual Big Time Festival is at Kule Loklo tomorrow, July 21, 2012, the 32nd year that this popular annual festival has been held.  It will feature Northern California Indian dancing, skills demonstrators, and vendors.

Kule Loklo is a replica Coast Miwok Indian village in Point Reyes National Seashore.  The village was originally constructed in the 1970s and is maintained entirely by volunteers.

The Big Time will be open from 10am to 4pm.  Parking is at the Point Reyes Seashore headquarters near Olema, California.  A .4 mile trail leads from the Seashore parking lot to Kule Loklo.  There are no food facilities, so bring a lunch.  You can buy a sandwich in the nearby communities of Inverness Park, Olema, and Point Reyes Station.

For more information about Kule Loklo, visit the Kule Loklo volunteers’ website  For information about the Big Time and for directions to Kule Loklo, visit the Point Reyes National Seashore Big Time page.

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MAPOM blog

The Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin (MAPOM) now has a blog:

MAPOM offers California Indian skills classes, sells and publishes books about California Indian history and culture, and created the replica Coast Miwok Indian village Kule Loklo in Point Reyes National Seashore.  MAPOM’s website is


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Celebration of Life for Sylvia Thalman (1927-2012)

Yesterday a Celebration of Life was held for Sylvia Thalman, bringing together Sylvia’s family, California Indians, members of the Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin (, the National Park Service, and others whose lives Sylvia had touched.

Sylvia, who died in January after a stroke, was a giant, a person who those who knew her will never forget and can never replace.  Back in the 1960s, long before there was any public interest in Native America, she worked with other non-Indians in Marin to learn the history of the Coast Miwoks who once were the guardians of the land that is now Marin and southern Sonoma Counties.  She was a cofounder of  the Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin (MAPOM) and was active as a director until her stroke.

In the 1970s, she and others in MAPOM worked with the National Park Service to create Kule Loklo (, intended to honor the Coast Miwoks, who at the time were thought by non-Indians to be an extinct people.  She also quietly worked at researching the genealogy of the Coast Miwoks, meticulously combing through Mission, genealogy, and public records.

At yesterday’s service, Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (Coast Miwoks –, spoke of when his people were trying to regain the Federal tribal recognition that had been taken from them decades earlier, they found that Sylvia’s quiet but dedicated research provided them the documentation they needed to regain Federal tribal recognition.

Julia and Lucy Parker, who’ve long taught MAPOM basketmaking classes at Kule Loklo, sang two Yosemite Miwok songs with Lucy’s son and spoke of their long friendship with Sylvia.  Other speakers included MAPOM president Ralph Shanks and his wife Lisa, John Golda of the National Park Service, Pat Rapp, and members of Sylvia’s family.

I first met Sylvia in 1993 and for most of the 1990s, exchanged a lot of information with her about Coast Miwok history and genealogy, by email, on the phone, and in her house.  Once in a while I was able to dig up bits of information she didn’t know, but most of the time she shared what she knew.  I learned a lot from her and like everyone who knew her, have found a deep void in our lives created by her passing.

Sylvia, we’ll miss you always.

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Art of the Americas

This coming weekend February 24-26 is the 28th annual Marin Show: Art of the Americas.

This show with its over 200 exhibitors is for anyone with an interest in indigenous art and historical items from North, Central, and South America. It will include both historical and contemporary items for sale.

In addition to exhibits, there will be several lectures:

  • Saturday Feb 25 9am: Jeb Taylor symposium “The Initial Settlement of North America”
  • Saturday Feb 25 1pm: Betty Goerke lecture “Feathers and Beads: Unique Ceremonial Regalia of the San Francisco Bay Area”
  • Sunday Feb 26 10am: Dr. Ruth Phillips lecture “Eighteenth Century Native American Art from the Great Lakes Region: A Legacy of Diplomacy, Warfare and Curiosity”

The show is being held in San Rafael, California at two neighboring venues, Marin Center and Embassy Suites. You can get directions and more information at the show’s website:

I’ll be working at the Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin (MAPOM) table at the show on Sunday afternoon. If you’re there, stop by and say hi!

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Buy a pizza, help a museum

The Marin Museum of the American Indian needs your help.   One way to help is by buying a pizza.

Hidden away in the North Marin community of Novato, California, this little-known museum is on the site of an actual Coast Miwok Indian village and is the only museum of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It houses rare artifacts and its educational programs serve over 4,000 school children each year.

Founded in 1967, the museum today faces financial problems like many nonprofits.  On Wednesday, April 20, 2011 the museum will hold a fundraiser at California Pizza Kitchen in Corte Madera.   The address is 347 Corte Madera Town Center and the phone is 415.945.0401.  All you have to do is print the poster that you can download at and take it to the Corte Madera California Pizza Kitchen on April 20.  If you present the poster, 20% of your purchases that day will go to the museum.

If you want to donate in other ways, visit the museum’s webpage to learn more.

On Saturday April 23, the Museum will celebrate Multicultural Day in conjunction with the Novato Multicultural Commission.  The festival will be held from noon to 5pm at the  museum’s location in Miwok Park at 2200 Novato Blvd, Novato CA, 94947.

You can learn more about the museum and its activities at its website or by phoning 415.897.4064.



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Coast Miwoks – a brief history

If you’ve seen the Ewoks, the furry creatures in Star Wars living in a redwood forest like much of the Coast Miwoks‘ home territory, you’ve seen an insulting caricature of non-Indian perceptions of Coast Miwoks.  The truth is very different.  While the Coast Miwoks seem to have been very welcoming of the newcomers from the sea, they resisted oppression by the newcomers.  Marin County itself, the heart of traditional Coast Miwok territory, is named after a Coast Miwok rebel who was baptized in Mission Dolores as Marino and is known to us today as Chief Marin.   Another rebel, the insurgent leader Pomponio, who terrorized missions up and down the coast, was a Coast Miwok born near today’s village of Bolinas.  He was executed by the Mexicans in 1824.

The Coast Miwoks’ first contact with Europeans came in 1579, when Sir Francis Drake landed in today’s Marin County.  After that, 200 years would pass before they encountered any more Europeans, in the decade after the Spanish established Mission Dolores in today’s San Francisco in 1776.  Like other coastal California Indians, Coast Miwoks underwent three successive ways of colonization.

The first wave was the Spanish.  Franciscan priests, the liberals of the day, wanted to avoid the calamitous treatment of Indian people in South and Central America and created what they believed would be a humane model, in which California Indians would be placed in missions where they would be taught the skills that would make them into virtual Europeans.  The intent was to give them back their land after they had learned to farm it and live like Europeans, but it never worked out that way.

The Mexican overthrow of Spanish colonial rule in the 1820s introduced a second wave of colonization.  Any pretense of giving land back to its original Native occupants was abandoned, but Native people appear to have been at least treated with some respect, though Coast Miwoks experienced the Mexican governor reneging on an agreement to give them title to land in the Nicasio area.

This ended when California became a state.  Mexicans and Indians alike ended up at the bottom of the social and economic scale (joined there by the Chinese a few decades later).  The one Coast Miwok who managed to get a land grant from the Mexicans, Camilo Ynitia in Novato, lost most of it when the newly formed Marin County assessed it at a higher price than he could pay the taxes for.  He came out OK though.  He sold it to the tax assessor for over $5,000.   Part of his land today, including the remains of his adobe home, is Olompali State Park.

Like most California Indians, the next 100 years were a difficult period.  It wasn’t until the last decades of the 20th century that Coast Miwoks began reorganizing and reestablishing their tribal identity.  They achieved success in 2000, and today are a federally recognized tribe, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.  The tribe’s website is

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California Indians

Warrior Brothers‘ main character Cody Jackson is a California Indian who was born in space and has never been to Earth.  His father is Coast Miwok and his mother Kashia Pomo, neither of them tribes that are well known outside of California.

This is true of most California tribes.  Media have long focused on a few tribes outside California, particularly Plains and Southwest tribes, and have mostly ignored Native people from the Sierra west to the Pacific, who not only had a very different experience post contact with Europeans than tribes outside California, but also from each other.  Tribes along the California coast from roughly the Russian River south to Mexico had the earliest contact, beginning in the 18th century, and had a very different experience than tribes to the east and north who remained mostly isolated until the 19th century.

The Coast Miwok traditional territory was today’s Marin County and southern Sonoma County, the territory north from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Russian River.  The Coast Miwok first contact with Europeans was with the Spanish.  The Kashia Pomo people were in Sonoma County north of the Russian River.  Their initial contact was in the early 19th century, with Russians.  The two experiences were very different, with the Coast Miwoks being virtually annihilated as a cultural entity – they didn’t regain their Federal tribal recognition until 2000 -while the Kashia Pomo were able to maintain an unbroken tribal tradition that continues today.  I’ll write more about both groups in future posts.


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