Multicultural Roots Project: Stories from Santa Rosa's Black, Indigenous, People of Color

Engage with the Multicultural Roots Project

Help us expand this rich and important historical record of our community! Do you have ideas for past or current BIPOC community leaders that we should highlight? Would you like to share your own story with us? We'd love to hear from you. Check out our interactive Multicultural Roots Project site where you can share your stories, ideas and even use an interactive map to highlight places in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County that are important to our communities of color. VISIT INTERACTIVE SITE

Native American Heritage Month: Celebrating and Honoring Our Indigenous Communities

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“We are not an artifact. We are not dead. And we are very much alive.”   -Dr. Brenda Flyswithhawks  

November is National Native American Heritage Month. This month is dedicated to celebrating the rich, deep, and diverse histories and cultures of American Indigenous communities. There are approximately 14,000 Sonoma County residents claimed Native American heritage, including affiliation with at least six local tribes. Indigenous peoples continue to exist in Sonoma County, despite forced assimilation, cultural dismantling, and genocide that followed the colonization of this region. Indigenous people are not something of the past, but a community with vibrant cultures, traditions, and contributions that deserve to be celebrated, this month and every day. READ MORE

Fall 2021 Historical and Current Community Leader Spotlight

Reynalda Cruz: Leading With Love 

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Reynalda Cruz’s positive energy emanated through the computer screen as we sat down for our interview. With a wide smile spread across her face, she introduces herself saying you can call her Reyna or Rey, “whichever flows off your tongue,” she said with a chuckle. Her Lakota name is Tipi-Luta-Win, which translates to “Red Tipi Woman.” Rey is of the Pomo, Lakota, Sioux, and Mixteca tribes. In middle school, Rey and their family moved to Santa Rosa. Once in high school, Rey began to understand and embrace her cultural identity. Freshman year of high school, Rey started Native Club, a first of its kind at Santa Rosa High School. READ MORE. 

Our Land: The History and Cultural Significance of Ya-Ka-Ama 

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Ya-Ka-Ama Indian Education and Development is a 501(c)(3) inter-tribal non-profit organization founded in 1971 and is situated in a rural setting on 125 acres of agricultural land in western Sonoma County. Ya-Ka-Ama, which means “Our Land” in the Kashaya Pomo language, was reclaimed by a group of Native activists. Today, the land is a space for all Native Peoples, including the local Southern Pomo tribes, Mishewal Wappo, the Koi Nation, and Coast Miwok. Ya-Ka-Ama regularly offers General Education Degree (GED) and continuing education courses and regularly hosts community and cultural events, softball tournaments, ceremonies, gardening activities, parties, and more. READ MORE 

Laura Fish Somersal: The Last Wappo Speaker 

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Laura Fish Somersal was the daughter of Mary John Eli of the Wappo tribe of Geyserville and Bill Fish of the Southern Pomo tribe of Cloverdale. Laura began basket-making at eight years old. Her talent grew with age and as an elder she was referred to as one of the most talented basket weavers to ever live, holding such an esteemed title alongside her good friend Elsie Allen. Laura was also known as the last Wappo speaker, having learned the language from her mother. With the ability to speak Wappo, Laura became a well sought after consultant, teacher, and demonstrator to help preserve the ancient language. READ MORE  

 

Remembering Detective Marylou Armer

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Marylou was born on Oct. 26, 1976, in San Diego, CA. While in high school, she joined the National City Police Department Explorer Program and from there, her interest grew to pursue a career in law enforcement. A few years after graduating, Marylou applied for an opening as a Field and Evidence Technician at the Santa Rosa Police Department and was excited when she was offered the job. A few years later, Marylou wanted to become a police officer and enrolled in the Santa Rosa Police Academy. READ MORE

 Margie Talaugon: Finding Happiness in Community  

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On a chilly winter day on a small farm near Guadalupe, California, Margie Talaugon entered the world. Margie faced many struggles growing up. As a daughter of immigrants, she witnessed the racism and discrimination her parents endured as laws prevented Filipinos from voting, buying land, having interracial marriages, and owning businesses. These hardships led her to develop a lot of anger and hostility towards the world. But she soon realized that no one could grant her happiness but herself. She found her happiness in helping her community. In the two and a half decades she lived in Sonoma County, she became a well-known community leader.  READ MORE 

Gone but not Forgotten: Inocencio and Felisa Asuelo

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Inocencio Asuelo was born on July 29, 1909, in the Philippines. Fondly known as Sonny, Inocencio immigrated to the US in the early 1930s to work for another local historical figure, Mr. Frank P. Doyle, President of the Exchange Bank and “Father of the Golden Gate Bridge”. He worked for the Doyle family as a chauffeur and gardener. That same year, Inocencio saved enough money to return to the Philippines and bring his bride and childhood sweetheart, Felisa, to the United States. With Inocencio’s support and sponsorship from Mr. Doyle, Felisa became the first Filipina to live in Santa Rosa and the greater Sonoma County area.  READ MORE

Previously Featured Stories

  1. Our Land: The History and Cultural Significance of Ya-Ka-Ama

    Ya-Ka-Ama Indian Education and Development is a 501(c)(3) inter-tribal non-profit organization founded in 1971 and is situated in a rural setting on 125 acres of agricultural land in western Sonoma County near Forestville. “The Land”, as...

  2. Reynalda Cruz: Leading with Love

    “I really did carry that [feeling] of ‘they don’t know me, I’m scared to show them,’ when I was little and now I’ve turned it into, ‘they need to know me’.” Reynalda Cruz’s positive energy...

  3. Laura Fish Somersal: The Last Wappo Speaker

    “Laura Somersal [was] a living link to the past.” — Jeff Dorset, Healdsburg Tribune It was December 10, 1892, a chilly winter day on Geyserville's rural John Stone Ranch, when Laura Fish entered the world. The daughter of Mary...

  4. Native American Heritage Month: Celebrating and Honoring Our Indigenous Communities

    “We are not an artifact. We are not dead. And we are very much alive.” - Dr. Brenda Flyswithhawks November is National Native American Heritage Month. This month is dedicated to celebrating the rich, deep, and diverse histories and...

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What is the Multicultural Roots Project?

"This project is important to me because I grew up thinking my community was diverse only because of the people I saw. I didn't know the history was so rich and included leaders and social justice pioneers from BIPOC communities." - Monse Salas, AmeriCorp VISTA and Youth Intern at Latino Service Providers

The Multicultural Roots Project was created to increase visibility for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in Sonoma County, with a particular focus on Santa Rosa; and to recognize, through historical stories from BIPOC, contributions and impacts that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. Working with local historians and community partners, Community Engagement staff gather stories and facts about local BIPOC leaders, as well as historical events and places that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County into what it is today. Each month, we will share five of these stories with the public through multiple communication channels, including the City’s website, social media and this newsletter.

Selection Process

Stories are selected using a variety of sources including local historical books such as Glimpses by Rev. Ann Gray-Byrd, Santa Rosa: A 19th Century Town by Gaye LaBaron, et. al.; Sonoma State digital archives; Sonoma County Library resources; and articles from local media such as the Press Democrat. The Community Engagement Office's AmeriCorp VISTAs select stories to focus on and conduct research on six (6) historical leaders or events and four (4) current community leaders. These ten (10) stories are then given to the Project Advisory Group for review and selection of five final stories. The City's Community Advisory Board provides assistance with the Project by brainstorming current and historical leaders and by assisting with disseminating the stories.

Project Advisory Team

  • Ariana Diaz de León, Community Member
  • David Escobar, Sonoma County Lowrider Council 
  • Kristi Gray, Community Member
  • Felecia Ford, Community Member 
  • Evette Minor, Community Member
  • Guadalupe Navarro, Latino Service Providers
  • Shawntel Reece, Community Member
  • Evan Phillips, Community Member
  • Alicia Sanchez, Community Member