Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Pomo and Pomoan refer to the Hokan family of seven California Indian languages and to their speakers. Early literature on the Pomo failed to distinguish the subgroups, lumping them all under the general rubric of "Pomo". Later researchers of the Pomo consider the seven language groups as distinct ethnic entities. The seven are often differentiated by placing a directional term before the word Pomo: Southwestern Pomo, Southern Pomo, Central Pomo, Northern Pomo, Northeastern Pomo, Eastern Pomo, and Southeastern Pomo. The Pomo were hunters and gatherers. The staple food for all the Pomo was the acorn. Most now work for wages and buy their food in a grocery, though many still like to gather old-time foods like acorns and seaweed.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Northwest Coast and California


United States

OWC Code


Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

As noted in the identification section of this summary, the terms "Pomo" and "Pomoan" refer to a family of seven California Indian languages and their speakers each differing enough from one another to make it possible to consider these groups as distinct ethnic entities. This file, however, considers all seven linguistic families as one cultural unit under the Outline of World Cultures (OWC) designation of NS18 Pomo. The major reason for this is that the early literature on this group failed to distinguish various subgroups, lumping them all under the general rubric of "Pomo". To preserve continuity with previous indexed material the present file considers all subgroups as being part of this major file unit. Where possible we have indicated the particular focal group. In general, the more recent works in the file have confined themselves to specific groups of Pomo. Kennedy(1955, no. 24) studied the Eastern and Southwestern Pomo, Kunkel (1974, no. 26) the Northern, McLendon (1977, 1978, nos. 27 & 31) the Eastern and Southeastern, Theodoratus (1971, no. 28) the Central and Western, and Bean and Theodoratus (1978, no. 30) the Eastern and Northeastern. A few of the earlier works identify specific groups of Pomo. Kniffen (1939, no. 25) describes the Eastern and Southwestern groups; Powers (1877, no. 14), the small bands of Pomo living in the Eel and Russian River area (the Kastel, Kai, Ka-to, Poam, Yokaia, Senel, Kabinapek, and Makhelchel); Aginsky (1939, no. 10), the Hopland Valley or Shanel Pomo of northern California; Kroeber (1917, no. 21) the Clear Lake Pomo; and Gifford (1926, no. 7) the village of Cigom in the Clear Lake region. Other earlier contributors to the file such as Kroeber (1953, 1911, nos. 1 & 19), Barrett (1917, 1917, 1908, 1908, 1936, 1952, nos. 4, 5, 6, 8, 20, 23), Loeb (1926, no. 3), Gifford (1923, 1922, nos. 18 & 22), Stewart (1943, no. 2), Aginsky (1935, 1939, 1940, nos. 9, 11, & 12), and Freeland (1923, no. 17), do not differentiate specific groups of Pomo and provide a more general coverage.

The Pomo file consists of thirty English language documents. The time coverage for the file ranges from the late nineteenth century to approximately 1976, with a major focus on the period of the 1870s to the 1930s during which the "classic" ethnographies of Kroeber, Stewart, Loeb, Barrett, Gifford, and Freeland were produced. Those works which provide the best general coverage on the traditional Pomo are: Kroeber (1953, no. 1), Loeb (1926, no. 3), and Barrett (1952, no. 23). Studies which provide information on specific ethnographic topics are: linguistics in Barrett (1908, no. 8), Kroeber (1911, no. 19), and McLendon (1978, no. 29); religion, shamanism and witchcraft in Barrett (1917, nos. 4 & 5); kinship and social organization in Aginsky (1935, no. 9), Gifford (1922, no. 22), Kunkel (1974, no. 26), and Kroeber (1917, no. 21); and culture change and acculturation in Theodoratus (1971, no. 28), and Bean and Theodoratus (1978, no. 30). For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article "Pomo" by Robert L. Oswalt in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 1, 1991. Timothy O'Leary and David Levinson, eds. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall and Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in December 1999.

Overview by

John Beierle

Bole-Maru cult -- categories 794, 769

business committee/community council -- category 473

confederation of villages (tribelets) -- category 619

cult leaders -- categories 793, 794

dreamers (YAMTA)/prophets -- category 793

fire tenders -- categories 372, 624

Ghost Dance -- categories 794, 769

Indian Emergency Conservation Work (IECW) -- category 746

Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) -- categories 657, 179, 671

rabbit-skin blankets -- categories 291, 281; weaving of, 286

ranch manager -- category 466

water breakers -- categories 824, 252

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

Close Box