Friday, September 16, 2011

Frog Woman Rock (Squaw Rock)

Old road

Mendocino County, July 29, 2010

With 65 state landmarks yet to go in Los Angeles County and at least 800 more overall throughout the state, this might be a good time to throw a dart at the California map and drift over to where it lands for awhile. Looks like we’re headed up the coast to Mendocino County, where in 2010; seven out of eight landmarks were experienced from the confines of a white VW Beetle rental from Santa Rosa. So, we leave order and chronology behind and head to Squaw Rock and begin a counterclockwise loop around the county.

Heading up Highway 101, which at this point is following the old road, and before that, the old trail, and before that, the Native American path, we pass right by the first landmark six miles below the town of Hopland. It turns out that a lot had happened in the last year and Squaw Rock has become breaking news in California landmark-dom to not only be renamed, but its story and text removed and replaced as well. Folks, give a big howdy to Frog Woman Rock!

Imagining early miners and settlers on the trail and slowly passing this volcanic outcropping, you can also imagine them making up stories of a lover’s leap to tell the kids while in the rock’s shadow. What we know for sure is that since this landmark was dedicated, local First Nation people have been saying the story of a lover’s triangle between a maiden, a faithless chief, and the ancient equivalent of the cable guy, was complete BS.

The other thing that has disturbed local Native Americans is the term ‘Squaw’, which was not a term used by any tribe or nation in the west, and is considered demining. Nationwide, nearly a thousand place names have had the word ‘squaw’ removed and replaced by another, and nine states now have laws that will eliminate the term entirely. Squaw Valley’s days are numbered.

Not to worry though, there’s a local legend that’s as good or better.  Early southbound travelers when passing by noted the upper portion of the rock resembled the profile of a woman’s face. To the Pomo people that face was the precipice of a cave where a giant creature that was part woman and part frog lived and call it ‘maatha kawao qhabe’, which translates to Frog Woman Rock. She was the wife of Coyote, and could leap 100 feet and snatch a man whole and devour him. Another legend has her as the wife of Obsidian Man. Either way, the story is solid and any day now, the change to Frog Woman Rock will be official.  

Pomo dancers - 1928

Former plaque inscription (no plaque at site): NO. 549 (M) SQUAW ROCK - This early landmark, also called Lover's Leap, is associated with the purported legend of a 19th-century Sanel Indian maiden, Sotuka. Her faithless lover, Chief Cachow, married another, all three were killed when Sotuka, holding a great stone, jumped from the precipice upon the sleeping pair below.
Location: Approx 6 mi S of Hopland on Hwy 101 (P.M. 5.1)
GPS: 38.913643,-123.055791 

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