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 (www.mapom.com), 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 (www.kuleloklo.com), 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 – www.gratonrancheria.com), 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.