I grew up in Covelo, CA., though more specifically I grew up on the Round Valley Reservation. I, myself, do not belong to the ancestral tribes of this reservation. My dad’s side of the family lies in the Cree and Ojibwe tribes of Alberta, Canada. I came to live in Covelo at the age of 2 when my parents moved there from St. Maries, ID.. I, then, came to live on the reservation when I was 4 as my dad moved in with my soon to be step-mom.
Round Valley is home to the Yuki, Pomo, Pit River, Concow Maidu, Nomlaki, and Wailaki tribes. These strikingly different (and often warring) peoples were forced together in their own persecution akin to the “Trail of Tears”, as can be read in this historical account of the Round Valley Tribes.
You come down into Round Valley after a painstaking drive through the mountains on highway 62, along the path of the Eel River. As you crest the final peak, you’re rewarded with a beautiful view of the valley in its entirety.
In the springtime, such as this photo – everything is green, fresh, and vibrant. Deer, coyote, mountain lion, and other wildlife are commonly seen. As spring quickly heats into summer, the hillsides and untended lands are splashed with a brief and brilliant orange, white, and purple of wild poppies and lupins. After which, the landscape fades into golden brown hills dappled with the black and green of rocks and trees.
Descending into the valley, a long stretch of country road is bordered by hay fields, cattle ranches, and the homes of the farmers who tend this stretch of land. The majority of these farmers are not Natives, as simply as I can put it the white folk live in the outlying and east side of the valley, and us Aboriginals live(d) on the west side of the valley where the Reservation is, and then lightly peppered throughout the rest.
Finally approaching town you’re greeted by Covelo’s one and only hotel, volunteer fire department, and a cafe on one side – the other, a trailer park. Then, you’re in the trees again, don’t be fooled, that was just a bit of a teaser, shortly after you’re greeted by our grand grocery market. And yes, it’s the grocery market. This means our residents are charged nearly twice the going rate for their food, as their only other option is to drive for an hour to the next available town. Up the road and across the street is the gas station. I remember when it was built, I was 8 years old and it was 1990. We were all so excited to have our very own gas station: goodbye gas budgeting and hour long trips to Willits with all of our gas cans!
Just a wee bit further down, you enter into the downtown area. The majority of these buildings are vacant. They may be filled from time to time but it often doesn’t last.
Continuing down a block, lets turn left on Howard St. to head towards the schools and soon on in to the Reservation, I’ll even show you a picture of my house. Just as an FYI, just a bit past Howard is a shopping center on the right and an auto shop and parts store on the left. These, unlike the rest of downtown – are actually open and inhabited. At any rate, down Howard St. we go, and hello Post Office, Buckhorn (left), and empty building! The Buckhorn is the only bar in town, and 1 of 2 restaurants in town. Covelo also boasts a café, burger station, and small casino where you can also get food.
Down at the very end of Howard Street, where it meets Airport Rd. (left) and Foothill Blvd., you encounter the High School (left) and the Primary School (ahead/right).
Ok, ok. I know this blog is getting really boring, right? I promise you that the following blogs in this series will be more interesting. Before I delve into what it’s like to live on a Reservation, and all of the social, economic, and personal aspects that come with it. It’s important that I show you a small piece of the town, to set the scene and feel of everything. I promise I’m trying to keep this part as short as I see fit – I won’t even be showing you all of the town that I spent my life in, simply the entrance, downtown, my home, and the Reservation itself.
So let me skip all the way down Foothill Blvd, past the empty fields (dotted with shambled houses and inoperable vehicles) on the right, and the creek bed on the left. Lets turn right onto Concow Blvd., and there is my house right smack on the corner.
This last picture (above) of my house makes me sad. When I was growing up we had a paved driveway, a yard, a rose garden there in front, and the house was clean and nicely painted. You see, my dad was one of the few employed people on the Reservation, he worked as a truck driver for the local feed company. By today’s standard, we would have been lower-middle class. But back in the 80’s and 90’s in such an economically depressed areas, we were pretty well off. We had the nicest house and land on the Reservation. My dad passed away in 1996 when I was 14, and so this is what’s become of my step mom and step brother’s (still to this day) home.
Ok, for the rest of this blog (which will be soon wrapping up, I swear). I am only going to post pictures, no commentary. I want you to just observe and absorb the feel of the homes and the area, to keep in mind for the coming blogs.
I hope that you’ve bore with me through this laborious blog, trying to set the stage. If you continue on this journey with me, these will be the following blogs (much more interesting, I promise):
Part I – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Atmosphere
Part II – First of the Month; Got That Cheese: Economics
Part III – Bang, Bang! You’re Dead: Crime Elements
Part IV – The Wisdom of Our Elders, and Our Creator: Tradition
Part V – Indian Burns: My Experience
I’d like to thank Alexis Chateau for showing the interest and making the request for this blog. In struggling to find inspiration for something to write about (as historically is my problem with keeping a blog), you’ve given me something I can write volumes about.
For everyone else, if you’re not already following and/or reading Alexis’s blog, I would highly recommend it. Her pieces are engaging, thoughtful, interesting, thought provoking, and they always leave me wishing her post was longer, and/or excitedly waiting for the next one to come.