About 75 demonstrators marched through Piedmont Saturday to protest the construction of a summer home on Rattlesnake Island, an islet in Clear Lake that they say is the traditional spiritual home of the Elem and other Pomo Indians.
The small island near Clearlake Oaks, a few hundred yards offshore from the Elem Indian Colony, is owned by Piedmont residents John and Toby Nady.
The Nadys, who bought the island about seven years ago for a reported $2.5 million, were issued a building permit after the Lake County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in September, 2011, not to require an environmental impact report for the project.
Protesters made their way from the Lakeview Branch Library in Oakland up Grand Avenue and Oakland Avenue to Piedmont Community Park, where they sang and chanted, "Stop the corporate violence, protect Rattlesnake Island." A small group of teenagers briefly tried to disrupt the protest, while a number of passing motorists honked and waved in support of the demonstration.
From the park, the march wound to the Nadys' home on Glen Alpine Road, where protesters chanted and spoke in opposition to the summer home construction. Piedmont police had barriers in place in front of the house.
Morning Star Gali, a Pit River Indian, read a statement from Jim Brown, a traditional leader of the Elem, who was not present. Brown has been prominent in the fight against construction on the island.
"I ask you for one thing for today, please show respect for all people," Brown's statement said in part.
Piedmont police escorted the demonstrators during the march and were on hand at Nadys' home, known as the Sweetland Mansion after it was built in 1929. Nady is the president of an Emeryville-based electronics firm and an early developer of wireless microphones for professional musicians.
According to earlier statements by Brown and other opponents of the summer home project, Rattlesnake Island traditionally served as a cermonial home and burial grounds for the Elem. They contend the island was illegally claimed in the 1800s by land speculators under the Homestead Act.
The island had been for sale for several years before it was purchased by the Nadys. It was the site of an earlier protest in the 1970s when it was owned by Boise-Cascade, which ultimately dropped plans to build luxury vacation homes there.
Demonstrators held a protest near Nagy's business headquarters in October, and the controversy was the subject of a radio documentary, The Struggle for Rattlesnake Island, that was broadcast on KPFA last month.
According to Gali, the Elem are considering legal action. A Lake County group, the Friends of Rattlesnake Island, filed suit in Lake County Superior Court Nov. 18, asking that an environmental impact report be required before construction proceeds.
Piedmont Patch was not able to contact the Nadys for comment.
However, in The Struggle for Rattlesnake Island, Nady told an interviewer, "The right of private property in the United States is considered sacred also."
Nady's wife, Toby, said on the same program, "We have absolute respect for that land, even though we are not of Elem ancestry. Whatever we do there will make it no less sacred."
More information on the Elem Tribe and the protest is available at the tribal website, http://elemmodun.org/.