Napa Valley First People's History
The Wappo (Onasatis) became known for beautiful fine-work baskets made of sedge with redbud and bulrush decorations. Feathers, clamshell and abalone beads decorated their gift and ceremonial baskets and the weaving was so precise that baskets were watertight. Women created the finer, more artistic baskets, while men traditionally made rough workbaskets for gathering and fishing from unpeeled willow.
1823A Spanish and Mexican expedition, led by Ensign Jose Sanches, is the initial contact with Napa Valley Native Americans; Father Altimura, a Jesuit priest, accompanies the expedition to establish a mission
1828Epidemic - first serious smallpox virus spreads throughout the region
1833-1835Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo is sent by Mexico to the Northern California territory, where he vigorously engages in "Indian campaigns" (wars against the Onasatis and Pomo).
1836General Vallejo and the Onasatis leader Satiyomi declare a truce after a yearlong war
1838-1839"Miramonte's Epidemic" of rapidly spreading smallpox Mid-1800'sThe Bureau of Indian Affairs begins a census process, and because it disregards the tribal names of Mayakmah, Mutistul, Mishewal, and Onasatis, the Wappo are declared nearly extinct 1851U.S. Cavalry march 250 Onasatis to Noyo on the north coast of California
1915Dry Creek Rancheria is established near Geyserville, forcing the blending of Pomo, Onasatis and Mishewal-Wappo tribes 1930Native Elders struggle to reinvest culture and language in young people, and cooperate with ethno-biographers to record Native history and recollections 1958Congress passes Public Law 671, known as the Termination Act, extinguishing the rights of the Wappo tribe and 41 other rancherias to federal assistance and land bases
1972Maidu-Pomo Elders Norma Knight and Jim Big Bear King establish the Suscol Indian Council to address archeological concerns in the Napa Valley Mid-1980s A Native American garden at Bothe Park in Calistoga is established in consultation with Wappo Elders 1987Senator Daniel Inouye, Chairman of Indian Affairs, spearheads Senate Bill 2144 to re-recognize "terminated tribes"
1990Laura Somersall, famous Wappo-Pomo basket maker, teacher, lecturer and linguist, dies
1992-1997Traditional Wappo-Pomo singers and dancers gather again in public sites throughout the Napa Valley
1994Wappo and Pomo Elders, the Suscol Council, and the Napa Valley College create a dedication garden to Napa Valley's First People in St. Helena
1996-1997Clint McKay promotes awareness of the Native American experience through his lecture series on the Onasatis-Wappo culture and traditions
1997-presentSuscol Council continues to promote cultural awareness through annual events: Pow-wow, art auction, and small venue lectures & films with the ultimate goal of helping to heal generations of colonial trauma. 2018 Suscol Intertribal Council deveops a workshop series to educate the public on the history and trauma of colonization on California Natives. The local high school removes its Indian mascot.
Ethnographic evidence suggests that the Wappo spoke a Yukian language with significant regional time depth. Moratto's California linguistic settlement history (1984: 543: et seq.) states that Yukian speakers controlled the north coast ranges as much as 8,000 years ago. Eventually, other Native groups moved into the Napa Valley, reducing the Yukian domain. Approximately 3,300 years ago, the Miwok gained a foothold in former Yukian territory. Later, Hokan speakers (the Pomo) expanded southward into Sonoma and Napa Counties. The Wappo re-established control of Napa Valley about 1,500 years ago, and their territory remained roughly the same until the 1800s.
After the Spanish and Mexican invasion in 1823, the tribes were nearly decimated by forced marches and smallpox. When forced to relocate to various missions for religious indoctrination, many fled to friendlier territory. In Alexander Valley, Clear Lake and Sonoma County, Wappos intermarried with other tribes, and blended with the European invaders. At present, Native Americans are reasserting the beauty and richness of their cultural traditions. California Native Americans have persevered and they have much to share with the dominant culture. One need only be still to hear.