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 it is known locally, is partially bordered on the west and northwest by the Russian River.
Ya-Ka-Ama, which means “Our Land” in the Kashaya Pomo language, was reclaimed from the United States government in the 1970s by a group of Native activists, including Joe Holguin, Donald Stra, Frank Pinola, Reginald Pinola, Dave Smith, Delbert Pinola, Robert Lawson, John Trippo, Sydney Parrish and several others. The process to reclaim the land, which had been used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency during World War II, included a series of legal proceedings and physical occupation. 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’s mission is “to support traditional Native culture and values; to give Native People the tools to become contributing members of their communities; and to improve educational opportunities and resources for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.” The Ya-Ka-Ama Board of Directors are elected by and represent tribal members from Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, and Marin counties. They are responsible for the overall management and control of the non-profit affairs.
Although it is currently closed due to COVID-19, 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. Ya-Ka-Ama is also currently the site host to Sonoma Earth School, an outdoor school that helps students familiarize themselves and appreciate the history of the Ya-Ka-Ama Tribal Land.
Ya-Ka-Ama Indian Education and Development celebrated their 50th anniversary this year with a community celebration on The Land. The event included ceremonial dancing, vendor booths, raffles, children’s activities, and a campout. Tabling at the celebration amongst the many community organizations were the City of Santa Rosa’s Office of Community Engagement and Santa Rosa Police Department.