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Indian Rancheria’s (Reservations) of Mendocino County


On April 22, 1850, the state legislature passed “An act for the Government and Protection of Indians” into law, providing indenture or apprenticeship of California Indians. This new law led to widespread kidnapping of Indian children. A new reservation was clearly essential. Not that other solutions hadn’t been tried; in his inaugural address to the legislature, California’s first governor called for a “war of extinction” against the Indians, and said their complete destruction was “the inevitable destiny of the race.” In that same year of 1850, California budgeted over a million dollars to reimburse Indian-hating whites who wanted to organize “private military forays.” In 1858, there were an estimated 10,000 Indians in the state. About 3,200 consented to live under the white man’s direction. The rest tried to continue their way of life. But the new white settlers built fences, and ran their cattle on areas where Indians hunted. When hunting was not possible, the Indians would kill some of the cattle for food. This brought great anger from the settlers and ranchers which would raid Indian villages, killing men, women and children. Any Indian even suspected of taking there cattle was killed. In 1860, the California Legislature created a Joint Special Committee on what was known as the Mendocino War to investigate incidents of Indian stealing and killing of the settler’s stock and alleged atrocities committed by the white settlers against the Indians. The Joint Special Committee traveled throughout Mendocino County taking depositions and testimony of prominent settlers in the region. Here is a link for more of the story of Mendocino War.

The Indian Reorganizaton Act of June 18, 1934, sometimes known as the Indian New Deal, was United States federal legislation that secured certain rights to Native Americans, including Alaskan Natives. The Act also restored to Indians the management of their assets (being mainly land) and included provisions intended to create a sound economic foundation for the inhabitants of Indian reservations.

At the time the Act passed, it was the United States policy to eliminate Indian reservations, dividing their territory and distributing it to individual Indians to own like any other person, in a process called “allotment”. Before allotment, reservation territory was not owned in the usual western sense, but was reserved for the benefit of the entire Indian tribes, with its benefits apportioned to tribe members according to tribal law and custom. Generally, Indians held the land in a communal fashion. It was not possible for any non-Indian to own land which limited the value of the process of allotment which started with the General Allotment Act of 1887 and by 1934, two thirds of Indian land was converted to traditional private ownership and most of that had been sold by its Indian allotee. The Indians who sold their land often did not get much value for it which left Indians as a class very poor.

The Act slowed the practice of allotting communal tribe lands to individual tribal members. It did not restore to Indians land that had already be given to individuals, but much land at the time was still unallotted or was allotted to an individual but still held in trust for that individual by the United States government. Because the Act did disturb existing private ownership of Indian reservation lands, it left reservations a checkerboard of tribal and free land, which remains the case today. 

In 1954, the United States Department of the interior began implementing the termination and relocation phases of the Act, which had been added by Congress and represented the continuing interest by some of having American Indians assimilate to the majority society. Among other effect, determination resulted in the legal dismantling of 61 tribal nations within the United States and ending their recognized relationships with the federal government. This also ended eligibility of the tribal nations and their members for various govenment programs to assist American Indians.

The California Rancheria Termination Act was passed in 1958. The Act called for the distribution of all 41 rancheria communal lands and assets to individual tribe members. It called for a plan “for distributing to individual Indians the assets of the reservation or Rancheria, including the assigned and the unassigned lands, or for selling such assets and distributing the proceeds of sale, or conveying such assets to a corporation or other legal entity organized or designed by the group, or for conveying such assets to the group, as tenants in common.” Before the land could be distributed, the act called for a government survey of land on the rancheria. The government was required to improve or construct all roads serving the rancheria, to install or rehabilitate irrigation, sanitation, and domestic water systems, and to exchange land held in trust for the rancheria. All Indians who received a portion of the assets were ineligible to receive any more federal services rendered to them based on their status as Indians.

In 1957–58, a State Senate Interim Committee investigation revealed that little had been done to prepare Indian reserves for termination. In 1958, the Rancheria Termination Act was enacted. In 1964, an amendment to the California Rancheria Termination Act was enacted, terminating additional rancheria lands.

On July 8, 1970, President Richard Nixon’s special message on Indian affairs “said Forced termination is wrong, in my judgment, for a number of reasons. First, the premises on which it rests are wrong…. The second reason for rejecting forced termination is that the practical results have been clearly harmful in the few instances in which termination actually has been tried…. The third argument I would make against forced termination concerns the effect it has had upon the overwhelming majority of tribes which still enjoy a special relationship with the Federal government…. The recommendations of this administration represent an historic step forward in Indian policy. We are proposing to break sharply with past approaches to Indian problems”.

Tillie Hardwick vs. The United States. In 1979 the Tillie Hardwick vs. The United States, was a class action suit that was decided in favor of the Native American tribes to regain federal recognition and restore their original reservation to trust status. 

What is the Tillie Hardwick Settlement About? (Notes on Indian Law) References from an excerpt of  A lawyer’s legal research blog

On July 10, 1979, distributees from thirty-four (34) Rancherias terminated under the CRA brought a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California against the United States and various government officials.  The Hardwick plaintiffs asserted that the United States violated the Rancheria Act in its effort to terminate federal supervision of the tribes.

Specifically, they claimed that the United States failed to inform the distributees properly of the legal consequences of termination, including the fact that the distributees’ lands would be subject to state and local taxation and regulation, and the fact that the distributees no longer would have access to federal progras and protections.   The class was certified to proceed to trial; however, it settled before that could happen.  The settlement was finalized on December 22, 1983.

The settlement divided the terminated Rancherias into three (3) sub-classes.  The first sub-class contain seventeen (17) Rancherias that were restored to federally recognized status: (1) Big Valley; (2) Blue Lake; (3) Buena Vista; (4) Chicken Ranch; (5) Cloverdale; (6) Elk Valley; (7) Greenville; (8) Mooretown; (9) North Fork; (10) Picayune; (11) Pinoleville; (12) Potter Valley; (13) Quartz Valley; (14) Redding; (15) Redwood Valley; (16) Rohnerville; (17) Smith River.

The second sub-class included twelve (12) Rancherias whose claims were dismissed without prejudice: (1) Graton; (2) Scotts Valley; (3) Guideville; (4) Strawberry Valley; (5) Cache Creek; (6) Paskenta; (7) Ruffeys; (8) Mark West; (9) Wilton; (10) El Dorado; (11) Chico; (12) Mission Creek.  They were dismissed because no class member from these Rancherias owned any property within the original Rancheria boundaries.  The property was either sold to non-Indians when the Rancheria was terminated and the proceeds of these sales distributed to Rancheria members in lieu of deeds to individual parcels of property or all of the property originally distributed was subsequently sold to non-Indians. In either case the federal defendants are unwilling to re-assume responsibility for any of these Rancherias without a final judicial determination of their obligation to do so.

The third subclass consists of a number of individuals, some of whom were members of Rancherias included in the second subclass, whose claims were dismissed with prejudice because of the res judicata effect of prior lawsuits.  (Res judicata is a legal term, also known as claim preclusion, which refers to a case in which there has been a final judgment and is no longer subject to appeal; and the legal doctrine meant to bar (or preclude) continued litigation of such cases between the same parties).

The date now is January 2014, and 160 years later, when the Mendocino War occurred, here is the updates on what is now happening with the Native Indians in Mendocino county. There is currently a total of 10 Indian Rancheria’s (reservations) in Mendocino county, which 6 of the Rancherias now have control of gaming casinos.

Coyote Valley Tribe was originally located a few miles to the southeast, at the Coyote Valley Rancheria which was flooded by the construction of the Coyote Dam, which created the recreation Lake Mendocino. Now the Coyote Valley Reservation is 70 acres located in Redwood Valley and is home to about 170 members of the Coyote Tribe of the Native American Pomo people who descend from the Shodakai Pomo. They were formerly known as the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California. They currently operate the Coyote Valley Casino located at 7751 North State Street, Redwood Valley, CA. 95470

Guidivelle Rancheria: During the Indian termination policy, the federal government unilaterally terminated the status of the Guidiville Rancheria in 1958 and they lost their lands and were sold to private owners. But in 1987, the tribe successfully sued the United States Government for wrongful termination and in 1991 the lawsuit was settled so the tribe could reorganize. So in 1992 The Pomo tribe which made up the Guidiville Rancheria now have a 44 acre parcel of land, located 2 miles to the east of Ukiah, California.

Hopland Rancheria is a federally recognized tribe of Pomo people which was established in 1907, 3 miles east of the town of Hopland. The Hopland Rancheria consist of 40 acres and has approximately 291 tribal members that live in the area and about 45 live on the reservation. The tribe owns and operate the Hopland Sho-Ka-Wah Casino, located east of Hopland. The Hopland Band of Pomo Indians has a tribal education program EPA office, health department, utility department, police department, court system and an economic development corporation.

Manchester-Point Arena Rancheria is situated near the towns of Manchester and Point Arena. The reservation is 364 acres and the population of the tribe is estimated at 873. The Manchester-Point Arena Pomos formed their current governmental system under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1935, and their constitution was ratified on March 11, 1936. The tribe currently operates the Garcia River Casino.

The Pinoleville Rancheria was originally terminated by the United States Government but it was restored in the 1980′s. The primary parcel of land is 99 acres and approximately 70 tribal members reside there. The Pinoleville Band of Pomo Indians lived in northern Ukiah Valley, but their ancestral land were overrun by non-native settlers like many that lived here in Mendocino county in the mid 19th century. Their reservation was established in 1911 by the United States  Federal Government, but was terminated in 1966 under the California Rancheria Act. Because of this action the tribe quickly lost 50% of their land. But in 1979 a class action suit was decided in favor of the tribe. The Pinoleville Pomo Indians were able to regain federal recognition and restore their original reservation to trust status. The tribe now conducts business from Ukiah, California.

The Potter Valley Tribe was previously known as the Little River Band of Pomo Indians and Potter Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California. Now the Potter Valley Tribe’s reservation is now the Potter Valley Rancheria, which consists of 10 acres and has 138 tribal members that live on the Rancheria and a total of 200 members make up the tribe. The Rancheria is located in the western slope of Potter Valley, just south of Centerville. In the early 20th century, the Rancheria was a village of 11 houses with about 50 residents. They came from all villages all over the Potter Valley, including the Yukian Huchnom band. The Methodist Episcopal Church maintained a school for the reservation. The tribe conducts business from Ukiah.

The Sherwood Valley Rancheria, located near Willits, in Mendocino county on Highway 101. It comprises a total of 356 acres and the lands on the reservation are called the old and new Rancheria. The historical community was called Kula Kai Pomo, and they traditionally lived along the upper course of the Eel River. Russians were the first non_Indians with whom they sustained contact. After the Russians left, they were replaced by increasing numbers of European-Americans in the mid 19th century  and they quickly outnumbered the Indians and wreaked havoc on their communities. Today the Sherwood Valley Rancheria has over 450 enrolled members with 179 of them living on the reservation. The tribe owns Sherwood Valley Rancheria Casino, in Willits on land purchased by the tribe in 1987.

The Redwood Valley Rancheria spans 177 acres on the northeastern side of the Russian River Valley. The terrain is forested and mountainous with some rivers and streams. With an average of 35 inches of rainfall per year, the area is in a mild and transitional climate between coastal and interior valleys. The reservation land was purchased by the United States government on July 19, 1909, but the rancheria was terminated on August 1, 1961, according to the California Act of 1958. However, the rancheria was reinstituted in 1983, and since then the tribe has formed a tribal government, acquired a land-base, and began an economic-development program. On June 20, 1987, The Redwood Valley of Pomo Indians was formed with a constitution and bylaws, according to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. The tribe now governs the Redwood Valley Rancheria by a General Council, who elects a 7 member Tribal Council.

The Cahto Rancheria is also known as the Laytonville Rancheria. The rancheria is 264 acres large, and located 3 miles west of Laytonville, in Mendocino county. It was founded in 1906. The reservation’s population is about 188. Cahto is a Northern word, meaning “people of the lake”. The Cahto Indian Tribe is run by a democratically-elected tribal council. The tribe operates its own housing authority, tribal police, and EPA office. Economic development comes from the tribe’s Red Fox Casino, located in Laytonville. In the early 18th century, the Cahto lived in approximately 50 village sites, occupying Cahto Valley and Long Valley, and in general the country south of Blue Rock and between the headwaters of the two main branches of the Eel River. This region comprises rolling hills and Oak savannas and is veined with streams, most which are almost dry during the dry summers but are torrential during the rainy winters.

Round Valley Indian Tribes of the Round Valley Reservation consists of the Covelo Indian Community which is an accumulation of small tribes; the Yuki, who were the original inhabitants of Round Valley, Concow, Little Lake and other Pomo, Nomlaki, Cahto, Wailaki, and Pit River peoples. They were forced onto the land formerly occupied by the Yuki tribe. The Round Valley Indian Reservation began in 1856 as the Nome Cult Farm. Indians came to Round Valley as they did to other reservations, by force. From years of intermarriage, a common lifestyle, and a shared land base, a unified community emerged. The Round Valley Indian Tribes, their heritage is a rich combination of different cultures with a common reservation experience and history. The Round Valley Tribal Council in 2007 opened The Hidden Oaks Casino which brings much needed employment to the citizens of the Round Valley Indian Tribes and neighboring town of Covelo. Since its inception, the Hidden Oaks Casino has contributed to youth programs, social services, education needs and more for the Round Valley community.

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