In the past year, I’ve been given a copy of a manuscript/paper written by local anthropologist Neill Bell in 1988.
It is titled “A Brief History of the Redwood Valley Rancheria” and was written for the Redwood Valley Little River Band of Pomo Indians.
In light of the fact this month has been declared National Native American Heritage month, I thought this would be a good time to share this.
A bit of background: I was given the paper by a friend of Melissa Johnson/granddaughter of Mary Snyder, both Redwood Valley residents. Melissa’s mother’s husband’s mother was anthropologist Ruth Boyer, and Melissa acquired it when cleaning out that estate.
Neill Bell passed in May 2020, and I’ve only been able to learn about his life from what I’ve gathered online. He was an anthropologist and was one of the first teachers at the newly formed Mendocino College in the 1970’s. He and his wife Susan Bell were community activists in Mendocino County and started Pegasus Bookstore which became a beloved community center. You can read about that in Susan’s obituary and newspaper article.
Susan Bell: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/ukiahdailyjournal/name/susan-bell-obituary?id=22101790
Ukiah Daily Journal article: https://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/2010/01/01/ukiah-community-center-founder-college-professor-dies/
They were well known and loved by many. I never had the privilege of meeting either, but I’m enjoying getting to know them both posthumously. Wish I could have met them both.
I have read this paper and can honestly say it has changed me. I pride myself on how much I know about the local history of Redwood Valley, and I think I know more than the average citizen about California indigenous peoples and cultures. But reading Neill’s historical account of what happened here in this valley I call home has fundamentally changed the way I view everything. His account brought it home for me. His account made it personal.
I feel very strongly this should be published and shared with our local community. I’ve shared it folks from our local native communities: Debra Ramirez of the Redwood Valley Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians https://www.rvrpomo.net/ and Michael Hunter, Tribal Chairman of Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians https://www.coyotevalleytribe.org/blank/ .