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Related Categories: North Coast | Racial Justice
Native Americans walk the California Trail of Tears
by Christina Aanestad
Wednesday Sep 19th, 2007 2:47 PM
NATIVE AMERICANS FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ENDED A WEEK LONG JOURNEY CALLED THE CALIFORNIA TRAIL OF TEARS THIS PAST WEEKEND. ROUND VALLEY INDIAN TRIBES WALKED THE NOME CULT TRAIL, THROUGH THE MENDOCINO NATIONL FOREST FROM CHICO TO ROUND VALLEY TO COMMEMORATE THE 1863 FORCED RELOCATION OF SEVERAL NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES.
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AN ESTIMATED 50 ROUND VALLEY INDIANS AND THEIR SUPPORTERS MADE THE 6 DAY JOURNEY WALKING OVER 100 MILES ON THE NOME CULT TRAIL, THROUGH THE MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST. INDIANS AND SUPPORTS SAY THE JOURNEY IS TO HONOR HISTORY AND THEIR ANCESTORS.

“For my family, my ancestors. We’re from here. My mother, my grandparents, my great-grandparents were all from here. They did that walk. So in their memory my sister and my daughter and I walked…I think your support is there to say what happened was wrong and to see what it felt like, whether your ancestors were the ones pushing or being the ones walking I think it’s important to see that part of history and to know that happened.”

THE WALK IS TO COMMEMORATE WHEN OVER 400 NATIVE AMERICANS WERE FORCIBLY RELOCATED FROM THE SACRAMENTO VALLEY IN 1863 TO ROUND VALLEY. THEY HAD TO WALK 100 MILES ALONG THE NOME CULT TRAIL WITH WITH LITTLE FOOD AND WATER. NEARLY HALF OF THOSE WHO WERE RELOCATED DIED ON THE JOURNEY. GEORGINA WRIGHT-PETE IS A 65 YEARS OLD CONCOW, NOMLAKI AND WAILAKI INDIAN. THIS WAS HER 11TH YEAR WALKING THE NOME CULT TRAIL.

“I would call it a healing process. I walk for my ancestors. I walk for my relatives who started walking with us in this walk and are no longer, and for our people in general.”

AN ESTIMATED 7 DIFFERENT NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES WERE CORRALED AND DRIVEN TO AN AREA THAT IS NOW CALLED THE ROUND VALLEY RESERVATION. AFTER RELOCATING TO ROUND VALLEY, THE SURVIVORS EXPEREINCED A PROCESS OF CULTURAL EXTERMINATION THAT CONTINUED INTO THE 1940’S. ELDERS FROM ROUND VALLEY STILL RECALL THE HARSH TREATMENT THEY SUFFERED AND FEW WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. ELVIRA BILLY IS A 72 YEAR OLD NATIVE, WHO WAS denied her culture in the educational institutions at Round Valley, where learning mean forgetting. SHE POINTS AT THE VACANT BUILDING THAT WAS ONCE HER SCHOOL AND SHARES HER EXPEREINCE.

“We weren’t allowed to speak our language in school. Therefore, I didn’t retain it in my adulthood. Especially since I left and went to the mainstream of society.”


THE GREY CONCRETE BUILDING STANDS VACANT AND DESLOATE, NEAR THE CEREMONY FOR THE NOME CULT TRAIL WALKERS. WRIGHT-PETE’S SON KENNETH WRIGHT IS A TRIBAL COUNCIL MEMBER. HE SAYS THOUGH THE TRIBAL LANGUAGES ARE MOSTLY GONE, THE TRIBES HAVE WORKED TO PRESERVE THIER HERITAGE.

“The language is kind-of disapprearing. But we’ve tried to talk to our elders and before a lot of them have passed, recorded them and had them teach us.”

WRIGHT SAYS THE SCHOOL IS A HERITAGE SITE, A PART OF THE ROUND VALLEY HISTORY. BUT BILLY SAYS IT’S A DARK PART OF HISTORY SHE’D RATHER SEE TORN DOWN.

“It has too many bad memories for me…tear it down. Build a museum or something. We have things people have made.”

INSTEAD OF RECLAIMING A OLD BUILDING, THE ROUND VALLEY TRIBAL COUNCIL HAS FOCUSED ON BUILDING A NEW CASINO. WRIGHT SAYS AFTER THAT MAYBE THEN OFFICIALS WILL LOOK AT THE FUTURE OF THE OLD SCHOOL. UNTIL THEN IT STANDS AS ANOTHER REMINDER OF ROUND VALLEY TRIBE’S PLIGHT, LIKE THE NOME CULT TRAIL ANOTHER PILLAR IN HISTORY TO RECLAIM AND HONOR.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Cody Snodgrass
Wednesday Sep 10th, 2008 9:15 AM
My Grandparents and my uncle started doing this walk 3 years ago. They say it is a real enjoyable experience and you get to meet new people along the way. They have invited me to go on this walk but it comes the same time i am in school. I really enjoy listening to the stories that they have to share with us when they get back. Hope someday i will be able to do this walk of rememberance
by R. Peters
(rmpsjps [at] yahoo.com) Monday Jan 19th, 2009 2:00 PM
I have also been thinking about taking a trip and doing the walk, but I think it would be important to bring my kids to share the experience, but they both have school at that time. If anyone from my family would like to reach me, by the way, you can do so at this e-mail address. rmpsjps [at] yahoo.com
by Darrell Day
(darrell1973day [at] yahoo.ca) Saturday Oct 31st, 2009 9:54 PM
2001 was a very commemorative year for all of us in one way or another. I graduated from the University of Winnipeg that year. As soon as I was out of school, I went on a cross country journey to Vancouver and wound up becoming a writer at an all native magazine called Redwire. We all know, also, that that was the year the Twin Towers were brought down by terrorists.
Furthermore, it was the year I participated in the honor walk along the Trail of Tears. I was so excited and caught up in it all that I might have missed the whole healing perspective of it but, I did learn alot about myself and the rest of the natives in North America. It seems ironic to me now thinking back, 8 years later (almost 9 years later), that the towers were attacked by TERRORISTS at the same time WE were making this seemingly un-historic journey.
We were just some natives from around the continent trying to do some honor to other natives who suffered needlessly and terribly while the rest of the world was in chaos. It seemed so far away at the time. I didn't see any of the news footage for 2 weeks when I landed on the streets of San Francisco. I think what I am saying is that while the world was being hurt and hurting others, we were protected from it all just by being together.
I was watching the Sharing Circle on a Canadian television station (I'll leave unnamed) and it was about the birth of the White Bison. This birth comes w/a prophecy. The prophecy states that this world will begin to listen to the native people's teachings after it is born. Even the zodiac has similar sentiments. We are in the Age of Aquarius. Anyway, I was having a dream about natives coming together and forming some kind of sovereignty. When I woke up, that particular Sharing Circle program was on t.v. about the White Bison.
My brothers, my sisters, it is more than obvious that there is a terrible need for healing in the world. The war in the middle east is rampant. Pakistan, North Korea and Iran are nuclear powers, now. This is something that would never have been dreamed of even 15 years ago! Now, it is a frightening reality.
Drugs and alcohol are ruining us. I don't know how we got it into our heads that these things are cool or that things make us who we are. I don't know how to resolve a problem that seems to not want to be resolved. I worry for all my native brothers and sisters. I recently became a father 2 years ago. Now, I have always been concerned about native rights and all, but it seems explicitly more significant to me now to be interested and active. Peace.
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