List of Panels:

(individual panel pages coming soon)

  • panel 6 expanse
  • panel 7 immigration
  • panel 8 endurance
  • panel 9 truth

SECTION TWO represents our region as it changed drastically during the 1800s with colonization by Spain, then Mexico, and mass immigration after it became part of the United States.

panel 6 expanse

vaquero herding cattle represents the Spanish and then Mexican colonial period.
Spain claimed Alta California (a vast territory including California, Nevada, Utah and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico) from 1769 to 1822.

It was colonized by means of Franciscan missions, whose aim was to convert the natives to Catholicism, pass their land back to them and then have them as Spanish subjects.

Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1822 and California became a Mexican territory. Land grants were commonly given as payment to retired soldiers.

The only land grants in Mendocino County were:

  • Rancho Sanel in Hopland (1844) and
  • Rancho Yokaya in Ukiah (1845), given to Cayetano Juarez, who had been a soldier at the Presidio in San Francisco. The name “Ukiah” comes from Spanish interpretation of a Native term for “deep valley” or “southern valley” hence Rancho Yokaya, which extends from southern Ukiah up into Redwood Valley. 

Mexico preserved the Spanish idea of giving land back to the Indians in formal documents, but this was certainly not a reality on the ground. Still, neither Mexico nor Spain settled the territory with large populations.Vast ranchos and herds of cattle were cared for by small groups of people, primarily vaqueros, experts in a Spanish style of natural horsemanship marked by great skill. This is the origin of what is known as the “horse whisperer.” Some vaqueros were of Mexican and ultimately Spanish heritage and some were Native people.

The beautiful stallion near a design evoking Spanish decorative arts

In the lowest section of the panel I depict a scene with much meaning.

The jagged line represents rupture between the Native peoples’ life in a land of plenty and their new life under colonial pressure and the degradation of their shrinking food environment with new people and their cattle and claims to the land.

Included in the “land of plenty” side are blackberries, edible greens like Miners’ lettuce and flowering tubers roasted like potatoes, wild strawberries, clover, and a quail. On the harsh side of the divide are spiky succulents and a rattlesnake in a dry environment.

panel 7 immigration

A settler family on their homestead with their dogs not yet finished

The end of the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848) brought California into the United States. Almost immediately, European/American settlers come to California in great numbers following the 1849 Gold Rush.

This was the largest mass migration in American history.

The population explosion propelled California to statehood in 1850.

James H. Burke, came to California in 1853, and in 1857 he and his brother, J. W. Burke, purchased 974 acres of the Rancho Yokaya extending from Robinson Creek to Burke Hill, about two miles. Another early settler was Samuel Lowry who built a log cabin in 1856 (near current Perkins and N. Main St.) Lowery sold his claim to A.T. Perkins in the spring of 1857, who moved his wife and children into the valley, thereby becoming the first pioneer family of the township, followed by six more families that year.

The first US Post Office in Ukiah was built in 1858.

I included the animals settlers brought with them: dogs, chickens and hogs, who also ate much of the edible wild plants.

The lower half of “immigration” shows a settler playing a mandolin, which is a portrait of a real person! He is Richard Shoemaker, former member of the Ukiah City Council and the Board of Supervisors. There is another portrait in the panel… not the star thistle, but a canine Ukian who walks near the mural:

panel 8 endurance

The following latter that formed part of my proposal will help explain this panel and the next, “truth.”

Dear members of the Design Review Board, Planning Commission, Planning Department, and Ukiah City Council,

Prior to being selected by the arts committee, I worked intensely for weeks to refine my mural concept for review. The historical research was fascinating and I enjoyed figuring out how to represent complex events through imagery. When you look at my sketches I think you will be happy to see so many of Ukiah’s stories and businesses past and present represented on this big “canvas.”

While every subject in the mural has a rich background and some of the descriptions will probably surprise and delight you, the themes will be familiar. There is just one part of the story that requires me to explain my approach.

• Ukiah’s new Public Art Policy Section V. Non-Discrimination states: “The City recognizes that cultural and ethnic diversity is essential in programs sponsored by the City, and seeks to be inclusive in all aspects.” The policy goes on to prohibit discrimination against an artist or a donor.

Please allow me to describe how I feel it also relates to subject matter.

The stated purpose of this project is to express “pride in our unique and diverse community” and “a positive sense of the future,” as well as to feature the natural landscape around us.

My method of revealing our diverse community is to show our history and our accomplishments. Of course, this story is not just about us, the living.

The story of this place, this rich river valley in the coastal ranges along the Pacific Ocean, is a story that reaches back in time. It is a story of millennia and of the people who made that plentiful environment their home. They lived here for more than 10,000 years. Hispanic and Caucasian people have been here in numbers for less than 200 years. People of Asian and African descent have found this place, and now we are all together.
But the story of how this played out contains a grim reality that shouldn’t be ignored.

In 1800 there were some 15,000 native people of multiple tribes living in Mendocino County (and about 150,000 across the state.)

With the Gold Rush and California’s immigration explosion, settlers began to fill what wasn’t empty land. Sadly, those forests and streams, meadows and mountains were bought, staked out and stolen, leading to starvation and desperation. Native Americans, already laid low by European contagious disease, were now subject to the destruction of their villages and food stores, to kidnapping, slavery and murder. Their children were stolen and forced into servitude. Settlers and militia units accused them of theft, lied about their own losses, then exacted revenge indiscriminately upon any natives they could find.

Nor was this attack restricted to a few horrible events. It took place on a scale both large and small across California, including multiple occurrences in our county. In fact, the new state government’s official position during the 1850s was denial of rights and systematic extermination.

There were honorable people, like Lieutenant Edward Dillon whose US Army Infantry unit was sent to keep the peace in Round Valley, who testified that the settlers’ claims were mostly untrue, and whose men did try to protect the natives on the reservation. But the nature of genocide is that otherwise decent people can commit horrible acts if they don’t see their targets as people.

Within several decades, less than 20% of the native population remained. The survivors’ descendants are here now. We have mixed and married and aren’t as separate as before. We who are living are not responsible for these crimes. However, we are responsible for our silence.

If the mural is to tell our story and be inclusive, the tragedy must be represented. But how?

The mother and child sheltering under snowy branches. Her fire-starting kit is shown near their small smokeless fire.
She is roasting a quail she has managed to snare.

I tried to develop images that can be appreciated simply for their beauty and the values they represent, and that children, visitors, anyone can enjoy. I came up with the image of a Pomo mother and her young child sheltered under pine branches during the cold winter, with a tiny smokeless fire to escape detection. I call it “endurance,” honoring her strength, and the survival of her people.

panel 9 truth

The next panel shows a native woman and baby lying together. If you were viewing this with your 5-year-old, you could say she was sleeping, dreaming about her husband and son, who appear walking in the valley mist above her. The ground under her is the color of red ochre, which could be iron oxide found in the earth here, or it could be a stripe on her blanket, but it is also her blood, because she and her baby are dead, going to join the rest of her tribe in the afterworld.

In her darkest hour, she holds fast to her most precious things, her baby and the wedding bag gifted by her husband.
Her necklace is a love amulet identical to the one worn by her husband in the valley mist above her.
(You can’t see it in the photo above because I just added it.)

The word for this panel is “truth.”
Without truth you can’t have honor; without acknowledgement, there can never be healing.

This is just one part of the big, vibrant mural, but it’s an essential part, and I worked hard to present it in terms of the courage, strength and dignity of the native people, rather than the depravity of the acts. I ask each of you reading this to imagine that these things had befallen your family and your people. Perhaps they have. My intention is for truth to take us to honor and to that bright future we envision.

Thank you for thinking about this. Academics, native descendants and others have expressed that the state and the federal government should acknowledge the genocide that took place in California. The full story is best told in books, while the emotion of it may perhaps be processed through drama, music and ceremony. This all goes well beyond the scope of my project, but “Decency demands that even long after the deaths of the victims, we preserve the truth of what befell them, so that their memory can be honored…”*

And so we can “get to the mountaintop” together, with love.

Lauren Sinnott

*Quote from Benjamin Madley, assistant professor of history at UCLA and the author of An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873. In the Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2016.


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