| On a day like today in the 1400’s...
The almost innumerable tribes and subtribes of the native Americans had as many religions, religious ceremonies, and secret societies as their European successors. These reflected, naturally enough, the particular concerns of their cultures: the seasonal processes of farming, hunting, fishing; the daily activities of basket weaving, clothing manufacture, or the fashioning of weapons; the special occurrences of birth, puberty, marriage, or death.
The Kuksu ceremony of the Pomo - one of the many small, but, compared to other Indians in more desolate regions, “rich” tribes of northern California - depicted here is not dissimilar from the Green Corn ceremony of the Southeastern nations. It, too, was designed to celebrate a benign harvest, perhaps a new year. However, unlike the Green Corn ceremony, the festival was dominated by members of the Kuksu Cult rather than being generally celebrated by the entire tribe. A secret society widespread throughout the northern California tribes, the Kuksu Cult called for its members to impersonate supernatural beings associated with the origin of the world. It required elaborate masks and disguises, ceremonial robes and ornaments. The celebration, which lasted for four days, is not unlike the Kachina dances practiced by the Indians of the Southwest; yet, although it is romantic to think of Pueblo Indians migrating westward, the evidence is not conclusive.
The Pomo Indians lived in relative isolation until the discovery of gold in California in 1848. The subsequent rush into the territory by the “forty-niners” - gold seekers who had little interest in the preservation of native cultures and ceremonies, such as this which Mr. Künstler has researched so thoroughly - marked the beginning of the disintegration of the northern California tribes. While still noted for their excellent basketry, the Pomo have largely assimilated into the white population.