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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Bodega Miwok as Seen by Mikhail Tikhonovich Tikhanov in 1818


In 1818, a Russian scientific expedition, under the direction of Vasilii Golovnin, visited Bodega Bay (called Port Rumiantsev by the Russians). Apart from the written accounts of at least three members of the expedition concerning the native people there, the expedition artist, Mikhail Tikhonovich Tikhanov, produced five known paintings picturing the life of the people. These remarkable paintings are the only ones known of the Bodega Bay Miwok people near the time of early contact with Europeans. What makes the drawings even more valuable is that they were done by an artist specifically commissioned to render detailed ethnographic drawings of peoples encountered on the expedition. Because of their association with the Russians headquartered at Fort Ross, some authors have mistakenly identified the individuals pictured in Tikhanov's paintings as Pomo. Thanks to some contemporary Spanish accounts and mission records, we can piece together additional details of the individuals and what was going on at the time, especially the fact that the expedition was at Bodega Bay at the time of a shift in the leadership of the Bodega Miwok people due to the death of the old chief.

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