Why Change the Name?
The tribes of Lake County, CA, have lived round Clear Lake for over 14,000 years. Each tribe was an independent nation, often named for its village, with its own language and elected chiefs, We are concerned here mostly with the Halanapo who lived near Kelsey Creek. For the sake of brevity the Clear Lake tribes, and their members, will be called "Pomo". The word "Indian" is used only in its historical context.
First contact with settlers was in about 1830.
In 1843 Salvador Vallejo came to Big Valley near Kelseyville with 80 soldiers, ranchers and vaqueros, bringing horses and cows, and building a corral. The Halanapo were willing to work for trade goods, and learned to ride horses. Men from other tribes were also recuited to build adobe houses in Sonoma. However, when the Pomo on Komdot island refused to stop their ceremonial dancing Vallejo burned down the roundhouse with them all inside. After that, nobody would work for him, so he moved most of his herd back to Sonoma. In 1847 he sold his remaining stock to a group of newcomers : Charles Stone and the Kelsey brothers Ben, Sam and Andy,
Andy Kelsey and Charles Stone moved to Clear lake. The Halanapo believed the cows had been left for them, but the Kelseys prevailed, and recruited them to build their adobe house and herd the cows,
The conditions of the Halanapo, deteriorated rapidly. Andy took a chief's wife as concubine and house keeper. They tricked the Halanapo into surrendering their hunting weapons.
Charles Stone and Andy Kelsey starved their workers. Working for trade-goods soon became effective slavery, as their hunting and fishing grounds were cut off, and they were issued meager rations and only an occasional cow.
When one boy begged for more wheat for his grandmother they shot him. They killed a boy who failed to keep the raccoons from the melons. For amusement they shot at workers in their fields, and made others dance by shooting at their feet. Mothers were whipped and strung from a tree if they didn't bring forth young girls to entertain their guests. "Indian Killer" Ben Kelsey had a man flogged for looking askance at his wife. He then shot him. Luckier transgressors were merely starved and tortured.
In 1848 the Halanapo rebelled, but a rescue party led by Ben Kelsey quelled it.
In early 1849 Ben Kelsey took 30 Pomo to the American River goldfields. Kelsey returned with gold, the men received a few trade goods. A larger expedition of 100 Halanapo ended in failure. Kelsey sold his supplies, and, catching Malaria, deserted the men. Only three made it back.
With many of their men lost, the Kelseys plotted to march all the "non-productive" Halanapo to Sacramento, and forced them to make their own ropes to bind them for the journey.
In late 1849 the Halanapo rebelled again, and executed Andy Kelsey and Charles Stone. "They deserved what they got", said an old-timer.
Revenge was swift. Ben and Sam Kelsey, with several volunteers and a detachment of dragoons rode to Kelsey Creek and buried the two men. All the Halanapo had fled, so Ben and Sam, with a posse of about 30 men, rampaged down Napa valley, killing every Pomo they met. At ranches they separated the local Indians and killed any from Clear Lake. They were eventually stopped by ranchers, and seven of them, including Sam, were arrested. Not for killing Indians as such, but for "destroying" the slave property of the ranchers. The "Sonoma Seven" were granted low bail by a friendly judge, and fled to Oregon, where they continued to kill Indians, to the dismay of the Oregonians.
Technically the direct involvement of the Kelseys was at an end. But their "murder" triggered an age of reprisals.
In May 1850 the first official reprisal came in the form of the cavalry. With orders to exterminate the offending tribe, they did just that, arriving with boats and cannon, massacring un-involved Pomo, mostly women and children, at Bonopoti, now known as Bloody Island. They called it a "battle".
California became a state in 1850, and honored many of the Mexican Land grants, but rejected Vallejo's claim
More settlers such as Gaddy started arriving and establishing small ranches.
But surveyors were striding north from Napa, "platting" farms and towns for homesteaders, who then poured in. In 1857 two men, Benham and German established the first store in Kelseyville, then known as "Kelsey's Place".
The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs belatedly made an attempt to rescue their Indian Tribes. They sent Reddick McKee to establish treaties, including one covering Clear Lake which was negotiated in 1851 - subject, of course, to ratification by the Big White Chief. This treaty gave the entire Northern half of Lake County - with the dividing line at Mount Konocti -- to the Clear Lake Tribes: West to the Mayacamas, North to Pillsbury, and East to Walker Ridge -- McKee regarded only 10,000 acres as "arable", unaware of the huge farmland the hills represented. The treaty lists the names of all the Clear Lake Tribes and their chiefs.
But Sacramento prevailed, and the treaty was not ratified. The homesteaders got that northern half, and the Pomo, decimated by the army and militia, starvation, and disease shrunk into ever-smaller Rancheros. As people who had fought "Battles" with the Army, they were probably disqualified from even claiming homesteads. Or were just ignorant of the process.
That wasn't enough for Sacramento, though. The 1850 Act for the Government and Protection of Indians allowed settlers to effectively seize Indian children, and hold them as indentured servants until they were 40 years old for men and 37 years old for women. An Indian "found loitering and strolling about" could be arrested on the word of any settler, and immediately put to work by the highest bidder. Between 1850 and 1861, the State of California paid out over a million dollars in militia expenses and bounty for Indian deaths, proven by severed heads, hands, scalps and vials of blood. Newspapers unashamedly reported on the best ways to kill "Injuns and such varmints".
These later atrocities are not, of course the direct actions of the Kelseys, but they were set in motion by their "murder", which is better described as an "execution", due to the crimes they committed.
And the Clear Lake Pomo have not forgotten it. One of our members is the grandson of Lucy, who hid underwater, breathing through tule straws at Bloody Island, as women and children were bayonetted. At one of our meetings a descendant of Chief Augustine said "The survivors are hurt and crying." His 83 year old grandmother was terrified by a prospective move to Kelseyville: "They are going to get wind of me" she cried.
Another said that the name is like "a wound infected for years" and that we must "heal it in order to move forward".
We are Citizens for Healing.