The story goes that once upon a time, all plants and animals were people. One of them was Coyote, who created the world from the top of Sonoma Mountain. His village elders became the redwoods – crimson colored to remind everyone that we are all of the same blood. One only had to look west to the coast redwoods to remember.
Greg Sarris, the longtime chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (Southern Pomo and Coast Miwok), recounts this tale in The Ancient Ones – part of a collection of essays in a new book, The Once and Future Forest: California’s Iconic Redwoods, published to commemorate the centennial year of Save the Redwoods League and available for purchase. Evoking the folklore of his ancestors, he traces the stark parallels between the enslavement and genocide of indigenous peoples of central and northern California and commercial logging of the redwood forests with which they coexisted for millennia.
“The landscape was our sacred text, and we listened to what it told us. Everywhere you looked there were stories.”
Photo credit: Victoria Palacios