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Supporters of Native American Group March, Protest in Piedmont

About 75 demonstrators walked from Lake Merritt to a Piedmont home Saturday to protest local resident John Nady's construction of a summer home on a Clear Lake island.

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/.

 

 

 

Lynn Dee December 18, 2011 at 08:08 PM
"Whatever we do there will make it no less sacred". That sort of says it all!!!
David Cohen December 18, 2011 at 11:24 PM
A good report on a disturbing subject, a controversy in Lake County shows up in Piedmont. Another report appears in the Piedmonter: http://www.contracostatimes.com/piedmonter/ci_19570657 Against the vast backdrop of Native American struggle to maintain a place and an identity, and the very real present example of Rattlesnake Island, we hear from Mr. and Mrs. Nady about the sacredness of their property rights. Sounds like manifest destiny and robber barons all over again. Disturbingly, this notion that bought property rights dominates all other considerations has been picked up by Piedmont teenagers, as mentioned both in this Patch article and the Piedmonter article. Seems to me that some deeper thinking should be going on.
Adrian Vance December 19, 2011 at 03:29 AM
The facts of the matter are that Rattlesnake Island is not big enough to support more than one "hunter-gatherer" stone-age pre-Columbian native. How do you call something "sacred" when you never had a religion? Where are their Bibles, codexes, carvings, memorials, artifacts? They have nothing! How do you have a "burial ground" if you never invented the shovel? The written record of observations made by the first white people here indicate that Elem-Pomo natives "left their dead for the coyotes," and recent DNA work on "copralites," feces fossils, indicates many of the western tribes dead were eaten. These people were starving when Columbus came. Our technology saved millions of them. The Browns want Lake County to buy the island for them so they can build a casino on it and get more free money of the kind that supports them now. It is just that simple.
David Cohen December 19, 2011 at 06:06 AM
Yikes, this guy Adrian Vance is a nutjob that probably would make even the Nady family cringe. Check out Mr. Vance: http://adrianvance.blogspot.com/ Here's another extensive treatment of the Rattlesnake Island controversy from Northern California: http://tinyurl.com/7bam9ol
Haji Warf December 19, 2011 at 06:12 AM
Adrian, Sacredness must not be defined by those looking in judgment from outside the culture. You would not allow others to do that to you.
Adrian Vance December 20, 2011 at 11:09 PM
David: Thanks for link to my blog. I think you will learn something. Rather than hurl insulting invectives my way why not take on an issue and prove me wrong if that is what you believe. You see, David, I have facts and you have fantasies that were put on you by a man who is trying to distract people from his crimes against his own people.
Tony Lukas December 21, 2011 at 04:36 AM
This was a powerful peaceful protest- I hope that Mr Nady listens to this, and stops destroying a site which has been sacred to the Elem Tribe for at least the last 6000 years. Some of the earliest evidence of human habitation in the region comes from the shores of Clear Lake. Points were discovered and dated to 14,000 years, on the same site where the Elem Tribe continues to inhabit. Mr Vance, what gives you the authority to decide whether something is sacred or not? Would you go to any other place, where people have prayed for thousands of years and question the sacredness of those places to the people who pray there?
Adrian Vance December 21, 2011 at 02:37 PM
I happen to be a legal Indian, 1/4 Mixtec (Aztec) of central Mexico as my grandmothers naturalization papers identify her as "an Indian woman," but more importantly I did extensive reading on Indian cultures as a young person and know that saying they held anything sacred is nonsense invented by white authors attributing nobility to stone age people who warring, killing and eating one another. Had I been alive at the time I would have applauded Columbus coming as he brought higher technology, tools and goods that would serve my people well. In this case we have a couple of Indian leaders now under investigation for the misappropriation of tribal funds who are trying to distract their people with the controversy and hopefully get the county to buy and give to them an island that cannot be developed or used for little more than a vacation retreat. That is the Nady's plan. Under their ownership it will be better cared for than it ever has been. If the Indian people had been smart they would have made Mr. Nady an honorary Chief and given him a big feathered headdress. He is very tall, cuts a good figure and gives very nice parties. It could have been a lot of fun for a lot of people, but the Brown brothers blew it for the tribe as a maneuver for their own purpose. It is just that simple.
Adrian Vance December 21, 2011 at 08:25 PM
Haji: What records, documents, carvings, codex, etc. exist to confirm any Elem-Pomos ever did anything on that island? There is nothing in the Lake County Museum on it. No monuments or evidence of any kind has ever been found on the island. It was well examined by Lake County officials. The Browns probably want to build a casino on it, but the Buckingham folks will stop that. I think it is diversion the Browns are stoking to divert attention from the investigation of their handling of tribal money happening right now.
Simon Gates December 21, 2011 at 09:56 PM
If anyone is interested in learning the facts about Rattlesnake Island, and something of its importance to the Elem Tribe there are some useful resources here: http://www.elemmodun.org and in the 'About' section. In particular, the nomination for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places provides detailed evidence of Rattlesnake Island's cultural and historic significance: http://www.wolfcreekarcheology.com/Nomination.htm. The island was determined to be eligible for inclusion on the list- and only Mr Nady's objections keep it from being on that list, although it is entitled to the same protections. I also recommend listening to 'The Struggle for Rattlesnake Island' which can be downloaded here: http://fsrn.org/audio/thanksgiving-struggle-rattlesnake-island/9478

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