Column: Elem Pomo Nation battles developer over sacred site

"The oldest human remains so far discovered in California belong to the Elem Pomo Nation, who have lived on the eastern and southern shores of the Clear Lake basin for at least 10,000 years, also inhabiting much of the peninsula between eastern and southern arms of the lake. For a minimum of 5,000 of those years, the Elem’s way of life has centered on an island, roughly 56 acres in surface area, located just off the north shore of the lake’s eastern arm. The island has been the home of five documented Elem village sites, as well as dance houses, cremation pits, human burial sites — in short, the major hallmarks of the people’s religious, cultural, and political life.

In spite of nearly 200-year history of Euro-American encroachment into the Pomo nation’s ancestral territory, no development has ever taken place on the island. It has been called “arguably the lushest place in Lake County.” Located a mere 60 yards offshore the Elem’s current 50-acre reservation, just outside the sleepy Lake County town of Clearlake Oaks, it is one of the last pristine sacred places to Native Americans in California.

Without it, the Elem Pomo would cease to be who they are as a people.

In 2004, a wealthy Bay Area electronics mogul named John Nady assumed paper title to the island, proposing to build a vacation home along with various supporting structures. Nady says these buildings will be constructed “sustainably,” by which he means an array of solar panels and other accouterments of “green technology.” He asserts that his private property rights ought to trump the Elem’s ability to use the island. Since gaining his paper title, he has even refused to allow the Elem access to the island for ceremonies and other traditional purposes.

Nady’s fanatical devotion to the American system of private property relations is understandable, given the way in which it has worked to his material benefit."

Get the Story:
Will Parrish: The Struggle For Rattlesnake Island (Counterpunch 8/26)

Related Stories:
County delays decision on building plans at ancestral Pomo site (8/17)
Elem Pomo Tribe steps up efforts to reacquire ancestral land (6/24)
Elem Pomo Tribe seeks study of housing at ancestral site (5/12)
Elem Pomo Tribe battles plan for housing at ancestral site (5/4)

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