It is now believed that people first came to the North American continent some 24,000 years ago, and that they arrived here in the Valley of the Moon some time after that— perhaps 12,000 years or more ago.
Who they were is not certain either, but it is known that our region became in time the most densely populated place in the entire continent, and that many languages were spoken by widely diverse groups of people. Their landscape was likewise diverse, from the ocean on the west to the mountains and valleys to the east, and from the forests of the north to the wetlands of the south. It was a generous land as well, providing plentiful food for the gathering and a comfortable climate that required very little in the way of clothing or shelter.
The people who were here when the European colonists arrived in the 19th Century— just two hundred years ago— have been named for certain characteristics and the languages that they spoke. To the northeast were the Wappo— originally called by the Spanish guapo or brave, for their courageous struggle to survive. To the northwest were the Pomo— their own name for the red earth of their original village farther north. To the south were the Miwok— a word that simply means “the people” in their own language.
Although the boundaries of these peoples shifted over the centuries, they met and traded here with one another fairly frequently. Life was easy enough to allow a culture closely identified with the land and rich in celebration, reverence, and creativity to flourish. With colonization came the loss of their lands and the decimation of their population through disease and genocide; however, contemporary Native communities survived and are now revitalizing many of their cultural and religious practices.