Big Valley Tribal members are descendants of the Xa-Ben-Na-Po Band of Pomo Indians that historically have inhabited the Clear Lake area for over 11,800 years.
For many generations, the various Pomo Bands enjoyed unfettered use of the lands and waters of Lake County, California.
In 1851, our leaders met with a representative of the President of the United States and all agreed upon a treaty that would allow us to live in peace and harmony with the new settlers coming to the area. This treaty established a reservation with a habitable area of approximately 72 square miles on the South side of Clear Lake which encompassed Mt. Konocti east of Kelsey Creek. The area also included significant water front property just west of an exclusive area known as Buckingham. On July 8, 1852 the United States Senate, in executive session, refused to ratify this and 17 other California Treaties and ordered them filed under an injunction of secrecy which was not removed until January 18, 1905 (53 years later). At the same time Congress passed the Land Claims Act of 1851 which provided that claims to all lands in California be presented within two years of the date of the act. Our leaders were unaware of the need to present their claims and failed to meet the statutory deadline. Deprived of protected legal title to their lands by treaty or formal claim, our ancestors became landless.
Years later, the various Pomo Bands around the lake were given small parcels of land called Rancheria’s. Our Rancheria site was initially established as a Catholic Mission in 1877. In 1914 the U.S. Department of Interior purchased the land for our tribe and in 1936, under the Indian Reorganization Act, we were federally recognized. Then in 1963 the Tribe was illegally terminated under the California Rancheria Act of 1959. The tribe was subsequently re-established by court order as a federally recognized tribal entity in 1983 under Tillie-Hardwick. During that 20-year period approximately half of the original Rancheria land had been re-sold to non-Indians. In 1986 we began the process of reconstituting our rights of self-determination by re-forming our government through the guidance of our 1936 Constitution. We also began the task of buying our land back.