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History,Napa,Wine,Wine Business,Wine Country

This whole Indian casino in Napa Valley controversy, and the residents reeling in indignation just cracks me up…

[Image is borrowed from the Native Americans Website]

From their site: First People is a child friendly site about Native Americans and members of the First Nations. 1400+ legends, 400+ agreements and treaties, 10,000+ pictures, clipart, Native American Books, Posters, Seed Bead Earrings, Native American Jewelry, Possible Bags and more.

I’m an outsider to California, so I see things with a different pair of eyes, I’m betting…

When the Spanish came into Napa Valley, they saw natives and called them guapo… Spanish for handsome is “guapo.” Wappo stuck…

I got to do a lot of reading while I worked for Robert Mondavi Winery, the only job I ever had where reading on the job was highly encouraged. Our wine education and sharing what we were reading benefited everyone, as we used our “down time” this way. One of my favorite books was “Old Napa Valley, the History to 1900,” by Lin Weber. From the first paragraph in Chapter One (page 3) to the last page of the book (p. 260), there are references to the Wappo tribe.  So, basically, the entire book is about the natives and the intruders.

Several years ago, archaeologists exploring a dry, dusty dig at Borax Lake in Lake County, California, found traces of ancient hunters who may have made their home there as much as 12,000 years ago. (Yolande Beard, The Wappo-A Report, self published, St. Helena, CA 1977, p. 1, and page 1 of the Old Napa Valley…” book.) They left bits of hard evidence about their lives everywhere, including on the fertile alluvial plain that would one day be called the Napa Valley. (Old Napa Valley book continuing.) p. 1

All told there were probably about 1,650 in the Valley itself when the missionaries came in the 1830s and 4,600 in the general are, including both sides of Mount St. Helena.” p. 6

The native people of the Napa Valley walked wherever they went, and many of the roads in the Napa Valley follow old native footpaths… The Silverado Trail and Spring Mountain Road, for example, are ancient Wappo routes… as is Langtry Road on Spring Mountain in St. Helena. Butts Canyon Road north of Pope Valley, Hardin Road in the Chiles Valley are and Monticello Road in Napa all follow or parallel roads walked by the indigenous peoples of Napa County. p. 9

Old Napa Valley was Wappo territory… Then came the Spanish. Mariano Vallejo ~ a Mexican ~ was a particularly brutal brute; and, the gold diggers weren’t much better, taking away their land as squatters… (Whoever came up with the phase “Indian giver” should be ashamed of himself, considering it is we who were “Intruder takers.”)

It’s now just a couple hundred years later. Intruders took away their ability to live as peacefully as they were so doing, hunting, fishing, gathering… We, as a people, put Native Americans onto reservations, where they were kept in abject poverty… Then, one day something happened… they managed to get reparations, backed by a few supporters who saw what had happened for what it truly was, the stealing of their land/territories by intruders.

So now, the only way the Wappos can easily make money is to take advantage of the spirit of human beings… their ability to take risks. Las Vegas has been doing it for years, and nobody’s cared. It’s out in the desert and no really serious day-to-day mercantilism seems to happen there. It’s just people throwing their money away, for the most part, calling it entertainment.

Suddenly, along come the Wappos wanting to again take advantage of their land, the way intruders had done so many years ago, and the new “natives” are getting up in arms.

One person lamented in the Napa Valley Register, Letter to the Editor :

It is obvious that the Mishewal Wappo, if recognized as a tribe with sovereign rights in the Napa Valley, intend to build a casino.

The opening of a casino here would irreparably harm the integrity of our valley’s winemaking culture and economy. This culture and economy are integral to the livelihoods of local residents, and also to a range of incredibly good philanthropic works.

Any for the Wappo, I wonder…

I guess everyone’s going to have to just “get over it,” as the natives had to. Turn about fair play, ladies and gentlemen…

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8 Responses to “This whole Indian casino in Napa Valley controversy, and the residents reeling in indignation just cracks me up…”

  1. Rich says:

    Jo,

    Bravo! I completely agree – I wrote a comment to a certain local newspaper which seems to be taking sides – and they wouldn’t print it because they thought it was too inflammatory. And, with the caveat that I am part Native (albeit not Wappo nor “native” to California)…

    I mentioned something about the “Napa NIMBY’s” who support things that are liberal if they aren’t in their back yard… and I may have mentioned something about the “Republican Elite” being “the cowboys circling the wagons.” And I also mentioned that the people complaining now are akin to the folks who so vociferously complained about the “downtown Renaissance” of Napa town and who shouted loudest that “would irreparably harm the integrity of our valley’s winemaking culture and economy.” So, perhaps I went tongue in cheek overboard.

    Having said that, I do believe this is a “fear” issue – I won’t call it outright racism, but think it borders there. Native Americans are the only group of people in the US who have almost been eliminated through genocide. Most people who know history know of the plight of African Americans and slavery; or Irish Americans and the horrible treatment they received (when digging the Erie canal – Irish were hired because people didn’t want to use their slaves and harm them, and they believed the Irish were expendable); the treatment of Jewish Americans in the early part of their initial wave of immigration into the US; and even the plight of the Spanish Americans in California. But believe that very few people really know the history of Natives and their treatment in the US.

    I hope the Wappo open five casinos!

  2. Donn Rutkoff says:

    “the only way the Wappos can easily make money”

    1. Nobody has the right to easily make money. In the Declaration of Independence, it says all human on gods earth are created with right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Not easy pursuit, and not any particular outcome.

    2. The Wappos can make money the same way many other native Indians did as did immigrants from Russia, Italy, Vietnam, or other remote spots, even slaves from Africa: work hard in the land of liberty. learn science, engineering, math, medicine. And pursue it. Obama was born to a Kenyan father. He seems to have pursued diligently. Steve Jobs was an orphan whose company teetered on disolution on some of his mistakes. But he pursued.

    There is no reason why people born of races who reached this continent a few thousand years before the European, can’t join the melting pot of our culture which is based on principals that appeal to large numbers of people in every culture and nation on earth, and have worked to raise the standard of living for the entire human lot. Get a pair of pruning shears and work hard and maybe end up like Robledo, Ceja, or Madrigal.

  3. Jo Diaz says:

    Rich,

    First of all, you’ve made me really laugh out loud.

    Next, our history has so many back door creepy things that we’ve done to anyone not Anglo American that it’s horrible history swept under the carpets. You’ve touched on all of them; and, I’ve felt the pain of each as injustices that we – as a humanity – have inflicted on others.

    Thanks for bringing them up… all of them. You’re not off the mark.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    Donn,

    I hear all of your reasons, agreeing with all of them in essence.

    One at a time in addressing:

    YOU WROTE: 1. Nobody has the right to easily make money. In the Declaration of Independence, it says all human on gods earth are created with right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Not easy pursuit, and not any particular outcome.

    I’VE EXPERIENCED: My father inherited a trust fund of easy money, of which you spoke. Which, but the way, he spent with no trickledown effect. So, even though I was raised like we were really well off, the money ran out when it was time for post secondary education for me. So, I fit into “Not easy pursuit, and not any particular outcome.” I get it; however, I also – as a result – get being left behind and having to survive. Would I have survives so well if I were Native American? I honestly doubt it. As I just wrote to a friend – off the record, and in a private Email…

    “… I have one Native American friend who can’t even think of youth, because this person grew up in a cave in the Dakotas. This Native American doesn’t even want me to talk about youth… While I played on the streets of my own hometown as a kid, spent the summers on Sabattus (Indian name) Lake in Maine, and had two weeks in Boston each summer… My Native American friend grew up in a cave – with an earth floor – as a child.”

    What I didn’t tell my “off record friend” is that this native American has also served its country with three tours to Afghanistan and one to Iraq. This person is now – finally – realizing that PTSD is for real and it will be years before this person can rebuild a life… Yeah, opportunities abounds… NOT.

    YOU WROTE: The Wappos can make money the same way many other native Indians did as did immigrants from Russia, Italy, Vietnam, or other remote spots, even slaves from Africa: work hard in the land of liberty. learn science, engineering, math, medicine. And pursue it. Obama was born to a Kenyan father. He seems to have pursued diligently.

    I’VE EXPERIENCED: People who aren’t Native American don’t have the skill set to speak for Native Americans, unless they’re one? Have you ever been discriminated against? I have on lots of levels and many occasions, including having my life threatened. I’ll share off the record, but they’re too personal to share on my blog.

    YOU WROTE: There is no reason why people born of races who reached this continent a few thousand years before the European, can’t join the melting pot of our culture which is based on principals that appeal to large numbers of people in every culture and nation on earth,

    MY EXPERIENCE: Internment slows anyone’s process, who’s been in jail (really, internment is really another word for jail). One can only imagine self esteem issues, and beginning again with NO money… Melting pot be damned…

    I’m ashamed of what my Anglo ancestors have done to Native Americans… If others aren’t, that’s something I can’t solve… I cannot put empathy into anyone else’s heart.

    I just know when I came to California and started again, I had to dismiss all that I had done to create two scholarships per year for immigrants and refugees through the English as a Second Language program at the University of Southern Maine; and find a job as a housekeeper with a national franchise company until I could begin anew. Yes, I became the best damned housekeeper in the company. I cleaned behind a toilet bowl so well that you could have had dinner set up there… But, what about all of the Hispanic women that I left behind, because I was Anglo and the system was set up to treat me better?

    All of this has happened to me to I could see through the eyes I’ve inherited… And, they burn with empathy.

  5. Deborah Gray says:

    Great job, Jo, in both defining the issue and expanding on points raised.

    I tried to look objectively at both issues, but I confess to bristling a little at the idea that Native Americans were just like any other immigrant and should be subject to the same conditions. They were here thousands of years before anyone “discovered” it and laid claim to it in the name of their foreign nations. A claim that had no more right attached to it than the next one. Native Americans are the indigenous people of this land.

    As for discrimination, I’ve experienced my fair share as a woman, business owner, board member and in various lines of work. I’ve also had death threats, so you and I probably have some things to talk about!

    Just as my husband, empathetic as he is, can’t fully appreciate what I am subjected to as a woman, neither can I fully appreciate how this will impact the residents of Napa. However, to reduce it to an argument where Native Americans don’t have any rights, where the talk is all of how it will “impact” their (the white residents) culture, is in my mind to diminish the status of Native Americans in this country and the terrible injustice that was done to them. I would like to think we have evolved from the savages who landed in this country and my own (Australia) and decimated the indigenous people through murder, disease and forced relocation. Peaceful coexistence should be the goal of a more civilized people.

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Deborah,

    Thanks for your support. We DO have a lot in common!

    We have a really long way to go, as evidence of the objection raised here… Sad that some hearts are still so closed to humanity.

  7. Patrick W Fegan says:

    I read about the Wappos about 40 years ago, maybe more, and wondered when that tail would be wagged. Now that there’s a fairly high incidence of Gucci bag sightings in the area, I suppose the timing makes sense.

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    Too funny, Patrick…

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