Post-settlement landscape transformation and dietary change among the Potter Valley Pomo, California

Date and Time: 
Friday, 6 May, 2011 - 21:10 to 21:30
WELCH, James R. - Fundação Oswaldo Cruz

Historical documents suggest that major landscape transformations occurred in Mendocino County, California, soon after the arrival of the first non-indigenous settlers in the early 1850s. In Potter Valley the wholesale appropriation of land for agricultural activities interrupted indigenous environmental management practices and decreased access to food resources. In this paper, I present how these historical processes impacted Potter Valley Pomo foodways, drawing on unpublished ethnobotanical research conducted by homeopathic doctor and amateur anthropologist John W. Hudson (1857-1936). I highlight how food security was compromised by modification and circumscription of specific vegetation types, such as foothill woodlands. I also discuss the historical adoption of non-native plants as important dietary items. By the 1870s, starvation, disease, slavery, massacres, and migration significantly reduced the valley’s indigenous population. Nevertheless, the Potter Valley Pomo maintained a rich and dynamic knowledge of wild plant foods into the first decades of the twentieth century.