Happy Columbus Day?

I’d bet that Rick Reboca of Fremont didn’t celebrate Columbus Day today. Again.
”We Indians don’t believe in Columbus Day,” the member of the Pomo tribe told me a few years ago when I asked him how he celebrated the holiday. “This Christopher Columbus, he didn’t discover America. There were people on the shore when he set foot on land.”
Leonard Valles, who said he has Shawnee blood, agreed: “Yeah, it’s been downhill ever since.  There went the neighborhood.” Both were barbers at Rick’s Sundale Barber Shop on Stevenson Boulevard.
Reboca’s and Valles’ descendants lived here before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. Ever since then, people like Reboca and Valles have been called Indians even though they claim no relationship or connection whatsoever with the people of India.
It’s like some guy looking for Milpitas, finding Fremont instead, and calling the people here “Milpitians.” As the newspapers keep telling us, Americans are not good at geography. Neither was Columbus.
”Columbus was lost,” said Reboca, one of about 200,000 “Indians” living in the state. The last census showed that there are more than 60 tribes in the Bay Area alone. None of them are from India as far as we know.
When Columbus set foot in what was to become the Americas, the Pomo people lived between today’s San Jose and Oregon.
”They came here a long time before that,” Reboca said. “I think they came from Asia over the Bering Straits. You know, a lot of Indians look Asian.”
Like many of California’s ancient people, Reboca keeps in touch with his roots, traveling back to his home reservation, Robinson Rancheria near Clear Lake, whenever he can.
The Pomos today live mostly in Northern California north of San Francisco and south of Humboldt County.
In the 18th century, the Pomos were laborers for Russian settlers. Some settlers married Pomo women and took them home to Russia. The local tie with Russia stays alive in the Pomo language that contains several Russian words.
Reboca said he left the reservation when he was 18 and went to San Francisco, where the Bureau of Indian Affairs paid his tuition to barber college. After graduation, he  opened his barber shop in Fremont.
Some day, the 41-year-old Reboca said, he plans to give up cutting hair and head back into Indian country.
”I’m going to go up there to relax and, maybe, help my father-in-law with his cattle,” he said. “But mostly, I think I’ll just fish and hunt.”
Footnote: Happy Columbus Day, everyone. And maybe old Chris got it right after all. Some years ago, the Los Angeles Times reported that ancient bones found on an island off the California coast revealed that the woman’s ancestors came from as far away as South Asia — where India is today.


About drockstroh

See http://newsaigonsanjose.blogspot.com/e
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