We would like to preface this by saying that this project has used existing literature about colonial forces in and around Sonoma County, California. We recognize that this website is a record of historic trauma, and that by not involving stakeholders from the Indian community we have engaged in further colonial erasure. In the future we would like to expand the scope of this research to include Native voices and acknowledge that by not doing so we have been able to present at best a deeply flawed narrative. As it stands, we did what we could in the time allotted in order to start this project that we know will take more time and care from an ethical standpoint to fully execute.
Founded in 1961, Sonoma State University sits on 269 acres at the southern end of the Santa Rosa Plain, near the foot of Sonoma Mountain. The campus is located in Rohnert Park, one of the early post-war planned communities; the town of Cotati is nearby. On a bench outside the local county library there is a depiction of three men: Chief Kotate, perhaps a Coast Miwok chief; Juan Castaneda, a soldier who held the first Mexican land grant in the area; and Fred Rohnert, the son of Waldo Emerson Rohnert who used the land as a seed farm. Of the three, one appears to be fictional, and it is neither Castaneda nor Rohnert.
For this project we have studied the history of land dispossession and colonial contact with native people in the area in an effort to understand Native land dispossession, erasure, and colonial contact where our University sits. We have tried to be sensitive to the nature of the story we are telling and whenever possible we have looked for native voices, as they are often erased in retellings. We believe this is a worthwhile project at this time, particularly in light of the nationalist rhetoric being used at the highest levels of our government to vilify the “other” which has been used with disastrous effects on marginalized people throughout history. We invite you to explore our resources and references page for links to organizations who are involved in centering Native voices and working in education, outreach, language revitalization, and others.