Pomo Native American Tule Reed Canoes

The blog started off when I found this pic on Lynn Catlett’s “You know you are from Mendocino if ……”:

Tule Reed Canoe on Clear Lake (Lake Co, CA.)

Something told me I knew more about a canoe on Clear Lake (in Lake County, CA). But what? A week or so after garnering the photo I was in the weed patch shovelling horse poop when it hit me.

Soon after we came to Fort Bragg in 2000 my sister Karen came to visit. By a collective decision (wife Sarah and the tribe of four kids) a trip to Lakeport was decided upon. It was ghastly hot so the  all but went pedaloing on the Lake. I toddled off to the Museum to see if they had any examples of obsidian arrow heads used by the Pomo Native Americans. And much to my gratification there was a superb collection of arrowheads and spear points – see below:

Pomo native American obsidian arrowheads and spear tips

I was very surprised to see a canoe there. At the time I never knew that the Pomo Native Americans built canoes. The canoe is still there …….

Pomo Native American Tule Reed Canoe in the Lakeport Museum

Pomo Native American Reed Canoe in the Lake Port Museum

Being one who wants to know the ins and outs of everything I learned that the reeds used were Tule reeds. I had heretofore always associated the word “Tule” with fog. Wrong again!

Tule (pronounced too-lee) is a plant that has been a part of California Indian culture for millennia. It is one of the most versatile plants in California, and multiple species grow in different environmental regions. Two major species in California are the common tule and California bulrush.

Bundle of Tule Reeds

Tule is related to papyrus, one of the most famous plants worldwide due to its use by the ancient Egyptians. Early surveyors to California lauded the potential of tule for paper products, due to its similarity to papyrus. The industry never took off, to the benefit of the plant, but those early accounts reveal the richness of the resource two centuries ago. Tule used to thrive all over California. Essentially, as long as there was a waterway, there was tule. Tule can grow in any type of freshwater—along rivers, lakes, and estuaries, both near the coast and inland. Huge tule fields spanned the state. There used to be a large tule field in the center of Santa Barbara, which the Schmuwich Chumash called Kaswa’ (place of the tule). Early photographs from the turn of the twentieth century reveal tule fields in Pomo Native American territory near Clear Lake; community members used those tules to build traditional dwellings. The Pomo tribes say the tule along Clear Lake is not doing very well.

Tule Reeds being cut by a Pomo Natibe American woman at Clear Lake

As a water-loving plant, tule has faced a multitude of threats due to drastic landscape changes over the past two centuries. For example, the former Tulare Lake in Central California, was named for the rows of tule plants that lined its shores. This lake used to be the largest freshwater body of water in California, home to tule elk (also named after the plant, one of the elk’s primary food sources), waterfowl, fish, and mussels. By the 1930s the lake had completely dried up, due to the conversion of land for agriculture and ranching in the Central Valley. The loss of Tulare Lake severely impacted the cultural traditions of the Yokuts peoples, who have lived in that area for thousands of years.

The health of the water also impacts tule. Although tule is mostly used as a building material, it is also a traditional food source. Native California peoples ate the white tuber portion of the root that goes down into the water. Today, the water that tule grows in is often stagnant and polluted.

Tule Reed canoe on the water

Tule Reed Canoe on the bank by Tule Reeds

Modern Tule Reed Canoe




Hendy State Park

As may be seen from the pages in this blog there is a lot I do not know about the locale in which I live. So, when a visitor to our club’s (G scale) – layout which tells the story of logging along the Mendocino Coast – asks me what I know about the history of Hendy Woods (State Park) and I say, “Not very much. ” I think it behoves me as the club’s historian to get my act together and go looking.

First things first – where is it? Here’s a topo map to give you a heads up [Click on the map to enlarge it]:

Topo map showing the location of Hendy Woods State Park

Topo map showing the location of Hendy Woods State Park

Hendy Woods State Park is a state park of California, located in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. It is named after Joshua Hendy, who owned the land and stipulated that it be protected; it passed through several owners after Hendy died without being logged, before becoming part of the California State Park system in 1958. It is the only large park within the Anderson Valley. It is about 20 miles from the coast, and because of the distance, it is noticeably warmer than California’s coast redwood forests. The park can be reached via the Philo–Greenwood Road, just off California State Route 128.

The park covers 816 acres of land and contains two groves of old-growth coast redwood: Big Hendy (80 acres) and Little Hendy (20 acres). Some of the trees are over 300 feet tall and may be nearly 1,000 years old. Other trees in the woods include madrone, Douglas fir, and California laurel. The park also contains 3.3 miles of property along the banks of the Navarro River and provides the only public access to the river within the Anderson Valley.

The Pomo people lived in what is now Hendy Woods for thousands of years, supporting themselves as hunter-gatherers. The first western settlers in the region were Russian fur traders who claimed the Pomo lands and forced the Pomo people into servitude; today, the remaining Pomo people are greatly reduced in number.

Joshua Hendy, after whom Hendy Woods was named, was an English-born blacksmith who moved from Texas to California in the California Gold Rush and built a large sawmill on the Navarro River. When Hendy died in 1891, he willed the property to his nephews with a stipulation that the coast redwood groves in it be protected. However, his nephew Samuel Hendy eventually ran out of money and sold the property to the Pacific Coast Lumber Company. It was sold again in turn to the Albion Lumber Company, in 1930 to the Southern Pacific Land Company, and in 1948 to the Masonite Corporation, together with the land stretching from what is now the park to the coast. 

Through these changes of ownership, Hendy Woods remained unlogged and was a popular location for family picnics. In 1938, Al Strowbridge visited the Anderson Valley Unity Club (a local women’s service organization) and spoke to them about the redwood forests of California; from that time forward the Unity Club worked to save the remaining groves of redwoods, and in 1958 the California State Park system bought approximately 600 acres of land with two miles of river frontage from Masonite for US$350,000. From 1979 to 1988, several additional purchases brought the park up to its present size of 816 acres. 

Redwood In Hendy Woods

Redwood In Hendy Woods

Have I been there? Yes, but before we moved here in 2000. I remember going because of the Redwoods. Alas, I cannot find the photos I know that I took.


Was called Squaw Rock now called Frog Woman Rock or in Pomo Native American Maatha kawao qhabe – 5 miles north of Cloverdale

This blog started when I found this pic:

Squaw Rock near Cloverdale

Squaw Rock near Cloverdale

I didn’t recognise the pic ‘cos to me it was the wrong way round. The next time wife Sarah and I went south I realised that the rock is opposite where the road construction is always taking place and where we look down to see how much water is in the river there. When I got home I looked at a map to see exactly where it might be. Here’s the best map that I found:

Map of Squaw Rock whereabouts

Map of Squaw Rock whereabouts

Click on the map to make it full size then look at Route 101. Hopland Elementary school is at the top. The other places shown on the map as being alongside Route 101 were news to me.

For reasons unknown I didn’t blog my “find.” Quite some time later this photo came into my possession:

Squaw Rock on the NWP line

Squaw Rock on the NWP line

I was sure it was Squaw Rock but there was no evidence of a road? And, if you look closely the rail line disappears into the rock. So I started scouring the web and I found a piece in the Press Democrat that tells what turns out to an interesting story ……..

A landmark rock formation towering over the Russian River and Highway 101 in southern Mendocino County is about to get a new — and more politically correct — name. The California State Historical Resource Commission today is expected to re-designate what for more than 50 years has been known as Squaw Rock. Henceforth, it officially will be known as Frog Woman Rock, reflecting a Pomo Native American legend of a man-eating creature, part frog and part woman, who lived in a cave in the face of the rock.

Squaw Rock from the east side of Route 101

Squaw Rock from the east side of Route 101

Squaw Rock is being jettisoned as the name of California Landmark No. 549 because of its questionable roots in local Indian lore and also to eliminate the word squaw, originally an East Coast Indian word that has taken on a derogatory connotation, said tribal representatives and state historians. Local tribes have lobbied to have the name changed since at least 1996. 

Mendocino County Board of Supervisors member John Pinches is among those unimpressed by the impending historical commission act. “It’s been Squaw Rock forever,” he said. “People are still going to be calling it Squaw Rock.” The moniker is believed to stem from a Lovers Leap tale cited in the 1880 “History of Mendocino County,” said William Burg, a state historian.

As that story goes, a young chief named Cachow from a Cloverdale tribe promised to marry Sotuka, daughter of the chief of the Sanel tribe in Hopland. But he instead married another woman. In anger and despair, Sotuka, holding a great stone, threw herself from the cliff, killing herself along with Cachow and his new wife, who were camping at the base of the cliff. At least two other stories have been cited to explain the name. One is that the stone face bore the likeness of an Indian man killed by his brother out of jealousy over a beautiful woman. Another tells of a band of women camping at the base of the rock after leaving their men in protest over threatened intertribal warfare.

State officials said further research by the Hopland Band of Pomo Native Americans and historians has determined that the Lover’s Leap account was never adequately verified as legitimate local Pomo lore and that an altogether different story is a better fit.

In central Pomo dialect, the name for the rock is Maatha kawao qhabe, which translates as frog woman rock, according to a study by linguist Victoria Patterson in 1985. And in local Pomo legend, the giant rock north of Cloverdale was home to Frog Woman, a mythological figure often portrayed as the clever and powerful wife of Coyote, who makes many appearances in Pomo lore as a trickster. She also makes appearances as the wife of Obsidian Man. Frog Woman had a beautiful human face and the body of a frog. She could jump 100 feet and snatch a man who she would devour after he gave her pleasure, according to the historians’ report.

The name change is on the commission’s consent calendar, indicating that no opposition is expected. By whatever name, the rock is situated on a 300-acre ranch owned by Robert and Jeanne Bradford. Jeanne Bradford said Thursday that she signed a document indicating she would not object to a name change. But she also said she would have preferred the Pomo name, followed by its English translation. Her husband, 88, was less than enthusiastic, she said. “He thought it was a ridiculous idea but he didn’t do anything about it,” she said.”

So much for the name. The piece that shed no light on the NWP rail line and tunnel? So, back to the books. The mother lode I found was on Wiki. It’s a bit long but well worth reading:

The Russian River canyon has long been a transportation corridor between the agricultural Ukiah Valley and seaports around San Francisco Bay. Northwestern Pacific Railroad tunnel number 8 was bored 1270 feet  through Frog Woman Rock in 1889 to bring the railroad up the west side of the canyon. Early wagon roads up the east side of the canyon were improved to form United States highway 101. The present highway alignment crosses Squaw Rock Slide on a bridge at milepost MEN 4.9. Early travelers through the canyon noted the upper portion of Frog Woman Rock resembles the profile of a head and face, with imaginatively humanoid or frog-like features. This profile can be most conveniently observed traveling southbound on highway 101 from mileposts MEN 6.4 to 6.2.”

That para provided info on the road and the NWP line. When I read on there was a rather different version of the Press Democrat story:

The European name Squaw Rock may have derived from the story of Lover’s Leap cited in the History of Mendocino County, California, published in 1880. The legend tells of a young chief named Cachow from the village in Cloverdale who promised to marry Sotuka, the daughter of the chief of the Sanel in Hopland. Cachow did not keep his promise and instead married another woman. The newlyweds were camped at the base of a large rock cliff along the Russian River. All three were killed when Sotuka, holding a great stone, jumped from the precipice onto the sleeping pair below.

The veracity of the above description has been debated. The 6th December 1891 Sunday Morning Star newspaper published a legend written by Dr. J.C. Tucker from the recollections of an elderly native American woman. This legend of Squaw Rock may have metamorphosed in retelling: A native American woman who died in the 1850s was said to have lived with a daughter, known as Pancha, fathered by one of the Russians stationed at Fort Ross. Pancha fell in love with a gold prospector identified as Archie Henderson. Henderson had broken his leg in a fall and was nursed through recovery by Pancha and her mother. Pancha became despondent after Henderson was later found dead. A man identified as Concho was believed responsible for Henderson’s death. Concho was expelled from his tribe and the bereaved Pancha jumped or fell to her death. When people observed rocks falling from the cliffs through the following years, some said Pancha’s spirit was casting stones down at some passing person she thought to be Concho.

In 1956, Squaw Rock was designated California Historical Landmark number 549, with a description based upon Palmer’s 1880 Mendocino County History: “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.”

Archival research at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah revealed specific ethnographic information relevant to the California Landmark. John Hudson [husband of Grace Hudson the famous painter of the Pomo Native Americans] was a medical doctor and ethnologist living in Mendocino County in the late 1800s. A vast amount of primary information concerning Pomo tribes is recorded in various journals, notebooks, sketches, paintings, photographs, maps, recordings, and collections of the Hudson family. The following extract is taken from John Hudson’s unpublished Pomo Linguistic Manuscript Ukiah 8 21,069 (circa 1892). The Pomo words identified in the Hudson notebook appear to be in the Northern Pomo language. The orthography (spelling of the words) is as it appears in Hudson’s notebook.

  • Ka-lo’ko-ko. Small flat opposite Squaw Rock. Trail to the west of the rock. The rock is avoided because of Bi-tsin’ ma-ca living there.
  • Bi-tsin’ ma-ca Ka-be’. (frog woman cliff) Squaw Rock. A bold headland near Pieta.
  • Bi-tsin’ ma-ca (frog woman) syn. (Ba-tak’ ma’ca) The white woman of beautiful face but body of a frog. Could jump a hundred feet and snatch a man who after administering to her pleasures was devoured. She had a den in the face of Squaw Rock.

Frog Woman is an important figure in Pomo traditional beliefs. She is generally portrayed as the clever and powerful wife of Coyote, the principal trickster character in many Pomo stories. In some of the stories, she is the mother of Obsidian Man. Frog Woman lived at the place that later became known as Squaw Rock. Pomo people avoided the rock for fear of being eaten by Frog Woman.

In 1985, as part of her doctoral dissertation, research linguist Victoria Patterson conducted ethnographic interviews with Frances Jack, one of the last fluent speakers of the Central Pomo language. Patterson documents that in the Central Pomo dialect “Squaw Rock” was called kawao maatha qhabe, Frog Woman Rock. Thus, there is cultural and ethnographic evidence from speakers of both the Northern Pomo and Central Pomo language that this location was, and still is, known by local Native Pomo as the dwelling of Frog Woman.”

So when you pass the Rock you can say, “I know all about that there Rock. and its name is Frog Woman Rock,”




Native American Petroglphs found near Yorkville

Yorkville is located 7.5 miles  southwest of Hopland. It is on Route 128 and you pass through it en route from Boonville to Hopland. The original townsite was about 3 miles northwest of the present site. The Yorkville post office opened in 1868 and moved to the new site with the town in 1937. “The Late Pomo or Ma-cu-maks of the present day Yorkville area spoke the central Pomo language.”

So now you know where Yorkville is to be found.

I was thumbing through this book …

Book - Anderson Valley - One of the Arcadia Series

Book – Anderson Valley – One of the Arcadia Series

… when I came across the following page. The Native American Pomo are widely thought to have no written language and to my knowledge nothing has been found in the way of rock or cave drawings/markings. So, I was dumbfounded to find, quite by accident, that Pomo and/or their predecessors did indeed leave “writings.”

[Click on the photo to read the text at the bottom of the page.]

Native American Petroglyphs in the Yorkville Area

Native American Petroglyphs in the Yorkville Area



Orr Hot Springs

Orr Hot Springs (also known as Orrs Springs, Orr’s Hot Sulphur Springs or Orrs) is located 15 miles almost directly north of  Boonville. it is also accessible from Ukiah or Mendocino by following Orr Springs Rd. The Orrs post office operated from 1889 to 1911 and from 1915 to 1933. The name honored Samuel Orr, an early settler. Orr’s son established a stage coach station and a resort there. The springs flourish on 27 acres at the headwaters of Big River.

Pomo Native Americans regularly passed through on trading expeditions and on annual treks to the Mendocino coast. Unfriendly tribes agreed to co-exist peacefully while stopping at the hot springs. In the late 1800s, “Orr Hot Sulphur Springs” became a resting spot on the Ukiah-Mendocino stagecoach line. It developed into a popular resort for city-dwellers who came seeking health and relaxation. The mineral waters were heralded as bringing great relief to arthritis and rheumatism, and to blood, kidney and liver disorders.

The original bathhouse at the springs, now a dormitory for guests, was built in the 1850’s. In the logging heyday of Mendocino County — the 1870’s to 1890’s — local lumberjacks came to Orr Hot Springs to bathe and socialize. In addition to a post office, saloon and a dance hall, a hotel catered to families that came to visit their husbands and fathers. When a daughter of the Orr family married a Weger (WAY-gur) in 1880, the ownership of the property changed names. The hotel burned down in the late 1930’s and was replaced by a lodge and eight bungalows, which are the main buildings today. In 1975, the Weger family sold the 26-acre hot springs to some hippies who turned it into a commune and grew food on the land. Leslie Williams, who lived at the Orr commune on and off for 18 years, became the sole owner in 1994.

I have known for several years that the hot springs were a stopping place for the Pomo. Alas that was all I knew. The above I have gleaned from several Internet sites and the following picture is the one and only I have so far collected of its early days.

Orr Hot Springs

Orr Hot Springs


Pomo Massacre near Kelseyville, Lake County, California May15th 1880

A lady at our train layout asked me what the relationship was like between the Pomo and the white man. I told her the white man exterminated the Pomo. She did not like what I told her. Here’s a ghastly piece of history taken from a site called http://www.chrisanddavid.com.


Clear Lake Massacre

or the Bloody Island Massacre

One of the first heroes of the Union cause during the Civil War, was General Nathaniel Lyon. On August 10th, 1861, in a daring attack on superior forces, Lyon would fall achieving his goal of securing Missouri for the Union. Today, one can visit the location of this battle and the spot where Lyon fell on the nationally protected Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in southwest Missouri. While the exact spot where he fell is not known, a marker stands today on a hilltop ridge to mark the area generally accepted. It is also unknown if this particular hill bore any name before the battle, but afterwards , it would be called Bloody Hill. Sadly, this would not be the only geographic location that would be changed by actions taken by Nathaniel Lyon. Far to the west, in Northern California, another historical marker tells of the name change attributed to his visit there – Bloody Island.

Bloody Island is today a small hill. But in 1850, it was completely surrounded by the waters of Clear Lake. Times were very different then. Indians did not enjoy the rights of the white man, or the black man, and were enslaved and/or killed at random. This same year, California passed the “Act for the Government and Protection of the Indians”. While sounding good, this act allowed white men to enslave any Indian they found without means of support. Since the Indian held no rights and could not testify in court, nearly every Indian in California suddenly became a candidate for slavery. For those who could afford it an editorial in the Marysville Advocate put the price tag of a young Indian fit for cooking and cleaning at $50-$60.

The public attitude of the time could best be summarized in this editorial from the Yreka Herald. “Now that general hostilities against the Indians have commenced we hope that the government will render such aid as will enable the citizens of the north to carry on a  war of extermination until the last redskin of these tribes has been killed. Extermination is no longer a question of time – the time has arrived, the work has commenced, and let the first man that says treaty or peace be regarded as a traitor”. In 1851, California would pass a law compensating groups for expenses incurred on Indian hunting trips.

Among the early pioneers to enter Northern California were two ranchers, Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone. Kelsey and Stone purchased a cattle operation from a Mexican, near what is today Kelseyville. While the former Mexican owner had hired Indians as ranch hands, Kelsey and Stone adopted the policy of enslavement. The treatment of these Indian slaves would go from bad to worse. In 1849, Kelsey took 50 Indian slaves with him to see if he could strike it rich in the gold rush. Unsuccessful, it is said Kelsey sold all the supplies meant to feed the Indians to other miners, and only two Indians made it back to the ranch alive, the others having starved to death. Starvation was a common problem among Kelsey and Stone’s slaves. Each Indian herder was paid 4 cups of wheat a day for their labor, which was inadequate to feed the families. The story is told of one Indian that sent her nephew to beg for a cup of wheat, and was killed by Stone. Whippings were a common punishment, and at least four Indian’s were beaten so bad they later died. Another way of punishing Indian’s was too tie their hands together and hang them from a tree for hours.

Among the numerous crimes committed against the Indians, rape of the Indian women and girls was common. A father who refused to bring his daughter to the house for sex with Kelsey or Stone when instructed to, would be whipped. In 1850, when Kelsey and Stone took the Chief’s wife, the Indians decided to react. During the night, the chieftain’s wife poured water into their muskets and the next morning, five braves attacked the house. Both were killed. The tribe, knowing there was no such thing as ‘justifiable homicide’ by an Indian, fled into the hills.

Word of the murder of these two men spread and word was sent to the Army of a Pomo Indian uprising. Captain Nathaniel Lyon was dispatched with a detachment to find and eliminate the Indians. From the National Park Service website – “Captain Lyon arrived at the lake (Clear Lake) in the spring of 1850 with a detachment of soldiers. Since he could not reach the Indians’ hiding place, he secured two whale boats and two small brass field cannons from the U.S. Army arsenal at Benicia. While waiting for the boats and field artillery, a party of local volunteers joined the expedition. Soldiers took the cannons aboard the whale boats, while the remaining body of mounted soldiers and volunteers proceeded to the west side of the lake. The two groups rendezvoused at Robinson Point, a little south of the island. The artillery was taken to the head of the lake in order to be as close as possible to the Indians. In the morning, soldiers fired shots from the front to attract the Indians’ attention while the remaining force lined up on the opposite side of the island. The soldiers then fired the cannon, which sent the Indians across the island where they met the rest of the detachment.”  

Bloody Island – courtesy NPS

In a time when chivalry, mutual respect and fair play was common on the battlefield, what happened next can only be described as an atrocity. The number of Indian’s killed on the island that day vary from 75 to near 200, but few survived. The fact that only two of Lyon’s force were wounded reflects the lack of resistance the Indians offered. The fact that no prisoners were taken, even among the women and children reflects the actions of the men under Lyon’s command. Many were killed as they attempted to swim off the island. Others were shot. Many of the women met their deaths by bayonet. But most horrific of all were the stories of the deaths of children. One Pomo historian later wrote “One lady told me she saw two white men coming, their guns up in the air and on their guns hung a little girl. They brought it to the creek and threw it in the water. And a little while later two more men came in the same manner. This time they had a little boy on the end of their guns and also threw it in the water….She said when they gathered the dead they found all the little ones were killed by being stabed<sic>”

After the destruction of the village, Lyon’s forces continued throughout the area, killing Indians they came into contact with. In coming months, hundreds of Indians of all tribes would be hunted down and killed. Nine years later, after the Gunther’s Island massacre near the Pacific coast, one young editor by the name of Bret Harte was so appalled he wrote in the Northern California “Indiscriminate Massacre of Indians: Women and Children Butchered”. Harte was then run out of town for daring to tell the truth.

For those who have studied the life of Nathaniel Lyon, what happened that day at Clear Lake is not unexpected. Lyon was a fanatical disciplinarian, who felt every situation was black or white, right or wrong. In this case the Indians were wrong and had to pay for their indiscretion. 11 years later, he would take a similar attitude into the Civil War. On May 10, 1861, forces under his command would take part in what would be called the St Louis Massacre (also called the Camp Jackson Massacre), where 28 civilians were killed. On August 10th of that same year, his actions would forever change the name of yet another landmark – Bloody Hill.

(Even in death, Nathaniel Lyon could not escape the stigma of massacre’s. On 11/29/64, Colonel John Covington left Fort Lyon in Colorado, named for the fallen Union General, and attacked and killed nearly 200 peaceful Indian’s encamped nearby. It would become known as the Sand Creek Massacre. )

Today, all there is to tell of this massacre is this marker:

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Sue Miller’s Basketry – inspired by the Pomo Indians

Our website section on the local Pomo Indians contains pictures of baskets woven by the Pomo. The baskets are unbelievably beautiful. Fortunately the weaving skills of the Pomo are not lost but are being practiced and taught.

I was very fortunate to attend one of Sue Miller’s basket weaving classes here in Fort Bragg (CA.). Just like the Pomo Sue collects her own materials including the dyes to make her baskets. Sue tried to teach me how to weave like the Pomo Indians. It turned out that an inept English born CPA and basket weaving were a bit of a mismatch. Sue and another student brought to the class a number of beautiful baskets. I tried but …..

Isn't this basket amazing

Isn’t this basket amazing

Another beautiful basket shown in Sue;s class

Another beautiful basket shown in Sue;s class

Just look at the symettry of the pattern

Just look at the symmetry of the pattern

As beautiful from above

As beautiful from above

As below

As below