For as far back as Douglas Alan Duncan, 58, can trace, the maternal side of his family has been tied to the land in and around Robinson Rancheria: a federal Indian reservation near the sleepy Lake County, Northern California, town of Nice, a 107 acre parcel that resulted from the 1978 federal court case United States Government vs. Mabel Duncan (Doug’s grandmother). For thousands of years, the family was part of a thriving complex of cultures that white anthropologists dubbed “Eastern Pomo.”
On January 23, 2013, Duncan was in his full-time city of residence, Oakland, where he works in the construction field, when he received a call saying his son, Dwayne Duncan, daughter-in-law Monica Anderson, and eight-year-old grandson were being evicted from their home on Quail Top Drive on Robinson Rancheria.
The eviction was part of a broader purge of political rivals and rival families that the notoriously corrupt Robinson Rancheria tribal council has carried out in recent years, as I have described previously in the AVA and will also describe more below.
For at least two decades, Doug Duncan has been leading and participating in traditional ceremonial dances. Upon hearing that his family members were being cast out of their home, he gathered up his traditional dance items –- head dress adorned with flicker feathers, clapper stick, etc. -- and made the drive to Lake County, where he planned to lead a cleansing ceremony.
Upon arriving, Duncan handed the tribal officers who had served the eviction notice a copy of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, stating he was there to perform a religious ceremony to bless the house and the grounds. About 20 First Nations people – most of them family members – soon gathered in a circle to take part. Doug Duncan led the ceremony, singing and tapping his clapper stick. First, the ceremony proceeded inside of the house, then in the backyard.
At first, the tribal officers did not attempt to interfere with the ceremony.
What happens next is captured on a video by Terri Larsen of Lake County News, and will be the subject of multiple court proceedings in Lakeport in the next few months. The video is located at www.lakecomagazine.com.
Having lost patience with the ceremony, the two tribal officers called for back-up. By the time they made their move, Lake County Sheriffs Captain Chris Macedo, Undersheriff Patrick Turturici, and roughly a half-dozen other Sheriffs officers were flanking them. Remarkably, Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson even accompanied the cops to the scene of the eviction, though he remained outside of the property throughout.
The officers entered the living room, where the Pomos were singing and chanting their prayers, and walked into the center of the circle. They approached Dwayne Duncan and asked him to leave.
Dwayne Duncan asked for the cops’ approval to finish the song they were singing. They said no; it was time to go. They grabbed his arms and put a plastic tie wrap around his wrists. He stood there, arms dangling at his sides, offering no resistance, still singing.
Once the officers had the tie wraps on his wrists, they tried to remove him physically form the room. The prayer circle drew closer. The officers were surrounded, with Dwayne Duncan in handcuffs also tightly encircled by the praying First Nations people. The officers were unable to remove him from the circle.
The Sheriffs approached from the outside. They formed a column circle beyond the prayer circle, then started grabbing people by their shirts, pushing and pulling others – using physical force to try to break up the ceremony.
As Terri Larsen of Lake County Magazine, who shot the video and reported on the incident, described,
“They moved as one mass, swaying back and forth, Pomos, deputies and tribal police all in a flowing mob. Eventually they swerved towards where I was standing on the couch videotaping the entire event. They all fell forward, knocking me and the couch I was standing on backwards. This created a safety zone for me, as the bottom of the couch was now up in the air, protecting me from the ensuing chaos. By this time people are screaming, the one deputy was throwing people around the room, I saw him push a woman flat on her back.”
Doug Duncan continued singing and clapping. One of the Sheriffs, who may have been a Sgt. Chris Chwialkowski, punched Doug Duncan twice in the face. At the time, Duncan was unable to see, being that he was wearing his traditional headdress, which draped northern flicker feathers across his eyes.
At that point, Doug Duncan allegedly hit one of the officers with his clapper. Three officers responded by taking down Duncan, with one grabbing him in a choke hold on the floor. His traditional regalia became strewn across the living room floor.
By the time he was arrested, Duncan had several welts and bruises forming across his face. One of his eyes was soon swollen shut. Lt. Chwialkowski came out of the melee the cops had initiated with a welt and a scratch.
Screams permeated the room as the cops arrested the Pomo people one-by-one. Eight, including a pregnant woman, were arrested. Lakeport police officers and even a K-9 unit had been called to the scene by this point.
It was likely the largest mobilization of police officers against First Nations people in Lake County in nearly two decades. And all the Indians were doing was praying.
Based on the apparent principle that police officers in the United States of America have the right to wage an assault on unarmed First Nations people, then bring to bear the full weight of the legal-juridical apparatus upon those individuals if they resist in a manner whatsoever, Doug Duncan was charged with felony assault on a police officer, as well as two misdemeanors.
The other seven people arrested were also initially charged. Thanks in large part to Terri Larsen’s video, the charges against them were all dropped. Only Doug Duncan continues to face charges.
Duncan appears at Lakeport Superior Court for a pre-trial hearing this coming March 4th. While the felony charge has been dropped, he continues to face two misdemeanors. His trial is scheduled to take place in April. We will report on the trial here in the AVA.
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In October 2011, I published an AVA piece called “The Disenrollment of Clayton Duncan.” In recent years, more than 3,000 Native people in California have been banished from their tribes. They are commanded to leave their homes and stripped of their benefits, often despite having deep ancestral ties to those people and lands. As many traditional Native people have stated, tribal disenrollment is a consequence of more than 150 years of colonization and trauma, which have created deep divisions in these societies and disrupted traditional ways of resolving disputes. The governing systems the US federal government has imposed on Native people are set up to a significant extent to reward those tribal members who embrace the dominant system by seeking influence, power, economic profit or special status for themselves and their families.
Robinson Rancheria has been a particularly ugly epicenter of disenrollment in the North Coast region. In 2012, Tribal Council Chairperson Tracey Avila and the Robinson Rancheria Tribal Council disenrolled 67 members of the Quitiquit Family – including the family matriarch, who by that time had been dead a decade – saying they had been improperly added to the tribal rolls. Mildred Goforth, among the last fluent speakers of the traditional Eastern Pomo language, was disenrolled in 2010.
Doug Duncan’s brother, Clayton, an outspoken opponent of these purges. He received a disenrollment of his own in September 2012. The disenrollment was based on a paper-thin pretext. The tribal council claimed Duncan had misrepresented the fact that his children were also enrolled in the Navajo Nation in the early-1980s, at the same time they were enrolled in Robinson Rancheria. Thus, the tribal council claimed, Clayton Duncan, should be banished from the tribe.
Clearly, Clayton Duncan was actually being kicked for being outspoken in opposition to tribal corruption. Happily, the tribal council later withdrew its effort to disenroll Clayton, which Clayton credits in part to a story I published last year in the Anderson Valley Advertiser and on the Counterpunch online magazine entitled “The Disenrollment of Clayton Duncan.”
But the Avila administration also opted to evict Clayton’s daughter, Tanya, from her home in the reservation (a home she had inherited from her grandmother) in December 2012. The eviction of Dwayne Duncan and Monica Anderson took place the following month.
Doug and Clayton Duncan’s great grandfather, Solomon Moore, grew up in the Eastern Pomo village of Shigom, on the east side of Clear Lake. Their grandmother, Lucy Moore, hailed from the village of Danoha, situated along an eastern affluent of lower Scott Creek, near where Highway 29 curls around Clear Lake on its way to “Kelsyville,” so named for a notorious mid-19th century butcherer, enslaver, and rapist of Indians.
The Danoha village of Lucy Moore prefigured the location of the old Robinson Rancheria, where Duncan and his siblings grew up. It was also roughly the site of one of the most grisly episodes of genocidal violence that white invaders wrought on Northern California’s native populations during the Gold Rush era: the 1850 Bloody Island Massacre.
These are the barest details of that gruesome episode: A US Cavalry regiment under Lt. Nathaniel Lyon shot and butchered as many as 400 Pomo people in a retaliatory rampage after a group of Native people rose up and killed their brutal enslavers, ranchers Charles Stone and Andrew Kelsey. It was an incident in which the victims at Bloody Island had no involvement. The vast majority of those whose lives the US Army laid down were women and children.
Lucy Moore was present at Bloody Island on that day. She eluded a gruesome and utterly senseless death by hiding underwater, breathing for many hours through a tule reed. She was six years old at the time. Clayton and Doug Duncan conduct an annual ceremony at Bloody Island each May to mark the incident, which has been attended by a few thousands people across the years.
Ironically, the greatest struggles that First Nations people now face as they strive to maintain their cultural integrity are on and within their own Rancherias. For more background, see the piece I wrote in 2011 at https://www.theava.com/archives/17231.