WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County group in Russia exploring North Coast roots


A group of Fort Ross State Historic Park volunteers, Sonoma Coast Indians and government officials, including embattled Supervisor Efren Carrillo, arrived in Russia on Friday for a 14-day trip to trace the roots of early settlers on the North Coast.

Travelers to Russia gather for a photo in front of the bus that will take them to the airport for their trip September 6, 2012.

The trip is an outgrowth of the celebration this year of the 200th anniversary of the founding of Fort Ross by the Russians, said Sarah Sweedler, president and chief executive officer of the Fort Ross Conservancy, a nonprofit that supports the state park.

The tour is not an official delegation, and the cost — about $4,000 per person — is being shouldered by the participants themselves, she said.

“There are no public funds from state parks. It is a self-funded trip,” Sweedler said.

The 23-member group left San Francisco International Airport on Thursday and flew to St. Petersburg, where they were scheduled to view Kashaya Pomo Indian artifacts collected near Fort Ross in 1841 and visit the Hermitage museum.

Later, the group will travel by train to Moscow, visit with Russian government officials and meet up with state Sen. Noreen Evans, who is leaving for Russia on a separate trip Monday as part of an international delegation of legislators. Evans is paying for her own travel costs, an aide said.

Carrillo is also paying his own way. “No public funds will be used to pay for my travel expenses for this trip,” Carrillo said in an automatic out-of-office reply to email messages sent to his office.

The supervisor will not stay the entire 14 days, said his aide, Susan Upchurch. He is scheduled to return on Sept. 14, missing one Board of Supervisors meeting, she said.

“They invited him to go,” Upchurch said. “We waited until after the primary and accepted the invitation. It is good for us to have relations with them, it is part of goodwill.”

For the third straight day, Carrillo did not respond to requests for comment Friday about his arrest on a felony charge of battery following a fight in San Diego.

Carrillo has not spoken to the media since news of the Labor Day incident surfaced. He issued a statement that he was defending women friends when the 2:10 a.m. fight occurred.

His fellow travelers on the Russian trip supported Carrillo, who is free on bail.

“We read about it in the paper,” one member, Martina Morgan, said Thursday as she was preparing to depart. “I thought, ‘He’s human. Humans make mistakes.’”

For Morgan and the six other Kashaya Pomo Indians on the tour, the trip is the culmination of much planning and fundraising to visit ancestors of people who settled their native land.

“I’m very excited and nervous at the same time,” said Morgan, who lives on the tribe’s reservation near Stewart’s Point. “It’s going to be a historic trip.”

Another tribal member waiting for the airport bus in Petaluma on Thursday morning said her great-great-grandmother often talked about the Russian settlers.

Billy Rene Pinola of Windsor said some members of her tribe went to Russia in the 1840s and never returned. She was anxious to see tribal artifacts at the Kunstkamera Museum in St. Petersburg.

“I never thought I’d be the one in the tribe to go,” Pinola said. “It’s bittersweet.”

Organizers said they would spend five days in St. Petersburg before going to Moscow. There, they would visit the Duma, go sightseeing around Red Square, attend a conference with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Academy of Science.

Robin Wellman, an interpretive specialist for Fort Ross State Historic Park, said it was the first time the Kashayas will be welcomed by Russia. The trip corresponds to the bicentennial of the founding of Fort Ross in 1812.

16 Responses to “Sonoma County group in Russia exploring North Coast roots”

  1. Amy says:

    The P D didn’t even get the name of our trip coordinator right, Sarah Sweedly wasn’t even on this trip and the comments here border on paranoid.It was a wonderful trip and all kinds of people from the towns folk of Totma to the top official at the Ministry of foreign affairs want good will and peace between our two country, it’s all of you out there spreading paranoia and ugliness that prevent peace, not Efren or anyone else in this delegation. You are all so worried about where you precious taxes are going you haven’t noticed that your greed is destroying the whole world.

  2. Que Sera says:

    If we are lucky, maybe they will defect!

  3. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Angry taxpayer-Efren, as with all county employees, has vacation time on the books he can use. So yes, he got paid. But he would have been paid if he went fishing in the Adirondaks, or laying on the beach in Hawaii, or surfing in Australia.
    Trips like this are positive for politicians, especially for those who will climb the political ladder. It gives them knowledge of the world and helps them understand other cultures. The more political knowledge the better and more effective a politican can be in office.

  4. Concerned says:

    We will never get a straight answer from the county officials as to who reallly paid for this holiday in Moscow. But it should would be nice to know.

    I don’t think the participatants paid since when do tourists get an audience with Putin and the rest of the proletariat they will be meeting with. This is a propaganda tool for Russia and a paid vacation for some locals and an infamous politician.

    Like everything else in our so “tansparent” county government, this trip is a mystery wrapped in a riddle.

  5. angry taxpayer says:

    At minimum the public is paying Efren’s salary while he is in Russia. I doubt he is taking unpaid leave. In fact I doubt he is taking vacation. He will want to save those hours to get paid off when he leaves office. The press should ask for his timecard which is public information. While they are at it they should ask for copies of all Board and Executive travel for the past year or two. Those county issued credit cards probably have all sorts of similar trips paid for by the taxpayers.

  6. Tom Reynolds says:

    There is no particular benefit to anyone if the PD published a booking photo of Supervisor Carrillo, especially as he might never be charged with any crime. Remember, thus far he has only been arrest and released…which no one is disputing. Publishing his booking photo would only make a negative situation worse.

  7. No public funds? says:

    “There are no public funds from state parks. It is a self funded trip,” Sweedler said. Did the reporter follow up on the fact that she said no public funds from state parks, as opposed to simply saying no public funds? Makes me wonder whether there are public funds from elsewhere being used to subsidize this trip. How about the PD to some investigative reporting instead of regurgitating statements from interested parties?

  8. Steveguy says:

    The Rooskies did us a favor, no sea otters on the North Coast ! Therefore our abalone population.

  9. Why no booking photo of Efren? says:

    Why hasn’t the PD printed the booking photo from Efren’s arrest? Sometimes the photo can help you understand what condition the person was in at 2:10 am.

  10. Sarkyfish says:

    Fort Ross: a far flung outpost of ruthless, Russian exploitation that used native, Aleutian slaves to wipe out the sea otters. When the damage was done they sailed away. This excursion is a trip made for fools.

  11. Que Sera says:

    I am willing to bet there is public money being used in some manner! Lies from those in public is the norm not the exception!

  12. Joe Tomelleri says:

    Midnight in Moscow. I wonder how many Pomos still pow wow in Red Square? Who is really paying for this trip?

  13. R.B. Fish says:

    The people going on this tour are historians, academics, and people who are passionate about history. When you look at this specific history is’s very fascinating. Most citizens are ignorant of about American history. Politicans simple jump on the band wagon to simply see the world for little or no expense and hoepfully for a vote. Just look at Hillary Clinton!!Try to seperate those with passion for local history with politicans looking for a free ride.

    Briefly, Fort Ross was created in a response to the first economic activties in America, the beaver trade, then the sea otter and then buffalo hides on the plains. It has nothing to communism, socialism or anything negative. It’s an opportunity to learn about who we are and California’s heritage. Forget Efren!

  14. Rocky says:

    Seems appropriate as Sonoma County has adopted the Russian style of government where the KGB and government workers are the upper class (1%)at the expense of tax payers (™).

  15. Jim Bennett says:

    Yeah, they can teach ‘em about Soviet governence and oppression. When our leaders are learning from the Chinese and Russians, does that show you a…

    RED flag!

  16. J.R. Wirth says: