Sunday, January 29, 2023

‘Chemli-bida’: The Mysterious Origins of the Pomo Peoples’ Name for the Noyo River

The following is a write-up republished with permission of the Friends of the Noyo River Conservation Research Center:


[All photographs by Judy Valadao taken on the Noyo River]

The Original Pomo Name of the Noyo River is Chemli-bida, [tce’mli-bida, or Chendi-bida]  

According to various resources, the Pomo to English translation is unknown at this time. We have posed the question to a few different Pomo people throughout the area, and we are hoping a translation will soon surface. 

Without any basic understanding of the Pomo language, the name could be any of a myriad of different common descriptions that may have been used by the Pomo people which became known over a long period as the name of the river! 

The thought that the river was given a sacred name could be one possibility such as “Spirit River” or perhaps it was something that describes the natural geography, climate, or biology of the land itself such as “Wolf River”; or something more complex and there are simply no English words that can be attached to it. 

We welcome input on this subject from anyone, especially local Pomo people who would like to contribute information about the translation. We would also like to read comments on what the Noyo (Chemli-bida) River means to you in your own words. 

See footnotes for more information:

‘California Place Name Origins’ published 1916 

[“Noyo River, in Mendocino County, is named after the former Northern Pomo village at the mouth of Pudding Creek. Barrett, Pomo. 134, says that this creek was named after the village (which is general Indian custom), but that “after the coming of the whites the name was transferred” (i.e., by them) “to the larger stream south of Fort Bragg, which now bears the name of Noyo River. The Indian name of Noyo River is tce’mli-bida” (i.e., Chendi-bida). The mean-ing of Noyo is unknown.”]

See “Noyo River” on Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noyo_River 

Friends of the Noyo River Conservation Research Center contact information:

Executive Director, Joel Russell Thompson 
Website: linktr.ee/friendsofthenoyoriver
Email: friendsofthenoyoriver@gmail.com 
Tel. 17074721302

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
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