Early Picture of Squaw Rock and the Trail that has become Hwy 101*
The legends of an area reveal parts of the community’s soul and Ernie’s recent post, Betcha-didnt-know, scorns the legend that is attached to the California Historical site.
“This early landmark, also called Lover’s Leap, is associated with the purported legend of a 19th-century Sanel Indian maiden, Sotuka. Her faithless lover, Chief Cachow, married another, all three were killed when Sotuka, holding a great stone, jumped from the precipice upon the sleeping pair below.”
Could it be that the legend of Squaw Rock demonstrates our ugly habit of erasing Native American culture and substituting a Wonder Bread alternative?
But the tale told about the landmark is old.
The History of Mendocino County California – (Alley, Bowen & Co., San Francisco, 1880) relates how, in 1878, the 18 year old Miss Fannie Lamar reads a piece (probably written by her) at Mrs. Poston’s Seminary in Oakland that romantically details an elaboration of the same story. Fannie claims the tale came from a native woman, Miss Chatta Feliz, whom she says was reared near Squaw Rock.
However, though this is the oldest version of the legend I can find, I wonder how true to the native people this story is. Fannie was the daughter of the Hon. Joseph B. Lamar who was elected to the Legislature and “introduced the Bill organizing Mendocino County.”
Though Fannie was born and spent her early years near Ukiah, Mrs. Poston’s Seminary is in Oakland. And her father (and probably the rest of the family) served in the Legislature and spent a good deal of time in the Bay Area. Thus, she probably was not raised among the native Pomo.
Furthermore, Joseph B. Lamar was an apologist for the genocidal wars against the native people. He believed the Native People should be made into servants to the whites. He proposed, “The State should, then, adopt a general system of peonage or apprenticeship, for the proper disposition and distribution of the Indians by families among responsible citizens. General laws should be passed regulating the relations between the master and servant, and providing for the punishment of any meddlesome interference on the part of third parties. In this manner the whites might be provided with profitable and convenient servants, and the Indians with the best protection and all the necessaries of life in permanent and comfortable homes.”
It is hard, though not impossible, to conceive of his daughter being a sympathizer and recorder of actual Native American stories.
By contrast, Helen Carpenter, wife of the well known Mendocino photographer, A. O. Carpenter, arrived in the area around 1858 and, according to No Rooms of Their Own: Women Writers of Early California, “Almost as soon as she arrived, Helen went to work recording the lives and traditions of the Pomo people who lived in her area.” She eventually wrote a little piece for the Railroad that came North to Ukiah around 1889 that told the legend of two rocks below Squaw Rock which she says is known by the Pomos as Dah-nol-yo. Carpenter acknowledges that there are many “extant Indian Legends of Squaw Rock” but none which explain the visage at the top.
If such a romantic story as that told by Lamar had some threads of authenticity, I would think Carpenter would know and use that tale instead in her book designed to amuse the railroad customer. I’m inclined to think Ernie is right and the legend of the leaping Indian maiden is ridiculous but…. I wish I knew somewhere to check out what story the Pomo tell about this eyecatching landmark.
*Photo found on a wonderful Historical site about Healdsburg.