The Pomo, like other Northern Californian Native Americans lived in small groups with a decentralized political structure, and lived from hunting and gathering.
There were about 8,000 Pomo in 1770. The 1910 Census reported 777 Pomo, but that is probably low. Kroeber estimated 1,200 in the same year. According to the 1930 census there were 1,143.
Pomo is a word believed to be derived from Poma, the village name given by anthropologists at the beginning of the century. The Pomo originated in California and were divided into three regions, the coast, the valley, and the lake regions of northern, central and southern California. They inhabited Mendicino, Sonoma and Lake counties. They also resided in the Russian River Valley and still reside in these areas today. The northern Pomo are named the Bokeya, the central are the Yokiya, and the southern Pomo are the Kashia.
It is believed that there were originally seven different languages but only three are still spoken including Hokan.
In the early 1800's, the Pomo had become close allies with the Russian fur traders and constantly traded items between the two camps. The Russian fur traders believed having Indians on their side was to their advantage. The Pomo were forced into Spanish missionaries or onto Indian reservations. During the 1830's & 1840's, they were subjected to numerous raids by the Mexican camps who attempted to secure slaves. There was also dramatic increases in the number of people who contracted smallpox and other deadly diseases. In 1857, the U.S. government set up a reservation for the Pomo Indians at Fort Bragg, California. Ten years later it was deserted and the Pomo were sent to live on other reservations throughout California.
Daily Life: The daily life of the Pomo was all based on simplicity. The men were often naked and the women wore short, thick kilts and shirts made of deerskin. One source of warmth during cold weather came from rabbit robes. Their houses were shaped like an elliptical circle and consisted of three layers held by poles. Their daily diet included acorns, berries, fish and meat. The Pomo had two ceremonial rituals including the “Ghost Dance,” during which the dead were recognized and the “Far South,” which was a rite of passage for children of the tribe.
Because the Pomo Indians lived in a variety of environments, there was a large variety of food available to them. The communities living inland made journeys to the coast for sea food, and the coastal communities made journeys inland to gather foods not found in their local environment. The Pomo Indians ate nuts from acorns, chestnuts, buckeyes, pepperwood, and conifer trees. They also ate wild grapes and berries. “Almost all species of mammals, birds, fishes, etc. were utilized, chiefly as sources of food.” (Material Aspects of Pomo Culture. page. 96). Among these were land birds like quail, pigeons, doves, woodpeckers, and blue jays. The clear lake communities had access to ducks, geese, swan, cormorants, cranes, egrets, herons, bitterns, and snipe. There were also certain animals that were considered taboo to hunt or eat. Here is a small list of some of these animals and reasons not hunted.