It is said that the name “California” came from the Spanish after a Greek adopted legend about an island fortress populated by “beautiful Amazon women warriors whom were gifted in the use of golden tools and weapons.” Early European “explorers” described the place as having fog shrouded and rugged coastlines, vast mountains, deep valleys, desserts, and lakes. They dreamed and schemed about how to conquer the wilderness. Invasion and colonization of the west coast of the United States by Europeans began in earnest about 500 years ago. They did not know or care that they were preceded by at least 250 generations of people who were there first. People that had lived in relative harmony with the natural world and each other–Karok, Maidu, Cahuilleno, Mohave, Yo Semite, Paiute, Tule–were now put under the colonial guns. The wilderness that supported all life was on the road to evisceration.
There was once a vast waterbody, Lake Tulare, located in the Central Valley. It was the largest freshwater lake in North America outside of the Great Lakes. At one point, pre-contact with Europeans, it is thought that 70,000 human beings lived along this beautiful productive lake. Around this lake and stretching to the coast, vast groves of Giant Sequoia and Coastal Redwoods stood as sentinels that helped to balance the atmosphere and the ecosystem in ways that we are only just learning about in 2014.