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Pomo Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Pomo tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Pomo website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Pomo pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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    Pomo Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Pomo"? What does it mean?
Pomo is pronounced just the way it looks, "poh-moh." This probably came from a place name meaning "red earth," although it also sounds similar to the word for "dweller" in their language.

Where do the Pomos live?
The Pomos are original people of Northern California. Most Pomo people still live there today.

How is the Pomo Indian nation organized?
In the past, each Pomo band had its own chief. There was no centralized Pomo government, only a loose coalition among village chiefs. Today, the Pomos live on more than twenty different rancherias, which are like tribal villages or small reservations under partial control of a tribe. Just as in the old days, each rancheria has its own government independent from the others. Not all Pomo people live on the rancherias, however. Some live in intertribal communities with members of other tribes, and others live in neighboring Northern California towns.

What language do the Pomos speak?
The Pomos speak English today. In the past, they spoke their native Pomo language. Some Pomo elders still remember words from this language, and there are younger people who are interested in learning to speak their traditional language again. If you'd like to learn an easy Pomo word, Chamay (pronounced chah-my) is a friendly greeting. Here is a Pomo picture glossary you can look at.

What was Pomo culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the Dry Creek Pomo Tribe's homepage. On their site you can find information about the Pomo people in the past and today.

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How do Pomo Indian children live? What games and toys do the Pomos have?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Pomo children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have toys and games. One Pomo game was the hand game. Players held marked sticks behind their backs and gambled as they guessed the location of each stick. Another Pomo game is tossle or shinny, which is an athletic sport similar to lacrosse and rugby. Traditionally, only men and boys played tossle or the stick game. Pomo girls often played with dolls. Like many California Indians, Pomo mothers traditionally carried their babies in baby baskets. Here is a website of baby basket pictures.

What were Pomo homes like in the past?
The Pomos lived in reed houses. These houses were made from a cone-shaped frame of wooden poles, sometimes placed over a basement-like hole dug into the ground. Then the frame would be covered with long rushes or with mats woven from tule reeds. Because they were partially underground, Pomo houses often appeared smaller than they really were. Here are some pictures of different types of Indian homes. Today, most Pomos live in modern houses and apartments, just like you.

What was Pomo clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Pomo people didn't wear much clothing. Pomo men generally went naked, and Pomo women wore only grass and deerskin skirts. In colder weather, men would wear leggings and women would wear shawls made of plant fiber. The Pomos wore deerskin moccasins on their feet while they were hunting or traveling, but usually went barefoot in their own villages. Here is a website with some about Native American clothing pictures.

The Pomos didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. For dances and ceremonies, Pomo men would wear special headbands made of flicker feathers, like this. The Pomos painted their faces for dances and other special occasions, but not for everyday life. Women also wore tribal tattoos on their faces. Both genders wore beaded necklaces, and Pomo men wore shell jewelry in their pierced noses as well.

Today, some Pomo people still wear moccasins or beaded jewelry, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of grass skirts.

What was Pomo transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No, the Pomo people did not often travel by boat, and when they did, they normally used rafts. A few Pomo bands did make an impressive type of reed boat from tule rushes. Today, of course, Pomo people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Pomo food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Pomos were hunter-gatherers. Pomo men hunted deer and small game, and depending on the band, sometimes caught fish. Pomo women gathered acorns and ground them into meal, as well as collecting berries, nuts, and other plants. Here is a website with more information about Native American foods.

What were Pomo weapons and tools like in the past?
Pomo hunters used bows and arrows. Pomo fishermen used spears, nets, and wooden fish traps. Pomo warriors usually fired arrows at their enemies, although sometimes they would duel each other hand-to-hand with war clubs. Here are pictures and information about the Native American bow and arrow and other traditional weapons.

What are Pomo arts and crafts like?
Pomo artists are known for their fine baskets. Here is a picture of some beautiful baskets by the Pomos and their neighbors.

What other Native Americans did the Pomo tribe interact with?
The most important Pomo allies, trading partners, and occasional enemies were other Pomo bands. Since there were many of them and they all had independent leadership, they interacted with one another often. The Pomos also traded frequently with the other tribes of California, even as far north as Oregon, and sometimes fought wars over territory with the Wintu and other neighbors.

What kinds of stories do the Pomos tell?
There are lots of traditional Pomo legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Pomo Indian culture. Here is a story about a girl who became a rattlesnake. Here's a website where you can read more about Pomo legends.

What about Pomo religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Pomo life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Pomo people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Pomo religious traditions or this site about Native American traditions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
If you want to know more about Pomo culture and history, two interesting sources are Pomo Indians of California and Their Neighbors and The Pomo Indians. Two good books for kids on California Indians in general are California Native Peoples and Native Ways; a more in-depth book for older readers is Tribes of California. You can also browse through our recommendations of American Indian history books in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Pomo Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Pomo Tribe

Pomo Indian Tribe
An overview of the Pomo tribe, their language and history.

Pomo Language Resources
Pomo Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Pomo Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Pomo Native Americans past and present.

Pomo Words
Pomo Indian vocabulary lists.

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