The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria will rebuild the roundhouse at Kule Loklo, the main structure at the Point Reyes National Seashore’s replica Coast Miwok village. Graton will fund the project, and the roundhouse will reopen for ceremonial and educational purposes, the tribe announced this week.
For four decades, the roundhouse was the site of the annual Big Time Festival and other ceremonies held by California Indians from the Coast Miwok and Pomo tribes. But in 2019, the park dismantled the structure, which was decaying and unsafe for visitors. Although Graton has cast doubt on the value of Kule Loklo, this week it expressed support for the site.
“It is important to have that roundhouse there, so that various Indian groups can have their ceremonies and dances there,” tribal chairman Greg Sarris said. “Let’s have something that lasts for everybody.”
Jason Deschler, a headman of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin, said his group was blindsided by the tribe’s announcement. The council, made up of Miwoks who are not enrolled in the federally recognized tribe, has deep connections to Kule Loklo. But Mr. Deschler said they have been left out of discussions with the park.
“We look at this as an opportunity for the park and for Graton to start opening up and start consulting with us,” he said. “They know the importance of the roundhouse. They know what it means to us.”
When Kule Loklo was first built by volunteers in 1976, Graton Rancheria was not a federally recognized tribe. After the park took down the structure two years ago, Mr. Sarris described Kule Loklo as a representation of Indigenous history created by non-Indians who “decided they wanted to play Indians or be Indians.”
Mr. Deschler disagrees. “It’s a village built by Indians,” he said. “It becomes sacred when we make it sacred.” When the structure was removed, he said it was done disrespectfully, without consulting his council. “If they’re worried about safety, they could have easily blocked it off,” he added.
Mr. Sarris told the Light this week that his comment about Kule Loklo’s origins “didn’t mean that it shouldn’t be there, or that it’s bad.” The roundhouse had become unsafe, he stressed, and the tribe and park had always planned to take it down and build a new one. The tribe will pay for engineers to survey the site and for other structural updates to prevent the roof from decaying again. He said the site could use some interpretive and educational updates to better reflect the present.
Seashore spokeswoman Christine Beekman wrote in an email that the park is “looking forward to working with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria on all future projects and activities, including the restoration of the roundhouse at Kule Loklo.” She did not elaborate on specific plans.
Dean Hoaglin, the chairman of the tribal council, led dances and ceremonies at Kule Loklo for years after Lanny Pinola, a Coast Miwok and Kashaya Pomo interpretive ranger at the park, encouraged him to carry on his role. Mr. Pinola and Bun Lucas, another Miwok and Pomo park ranger, were cultural and spiritual leaders who helped turn Kule Loklo into a ceremonial center.
Mr. Hoaglin was distressed when the park dismantled the roundhouse, which he said was done with Mr. Sarris’s approval. “It’s like opening up the womb of our mother,” he said. “I pray for forgiveness that any of my relatives would be a part of that.”