Chief Solano, whose original native name is Sem-Yeto, means “brave or fierce hand”. He was born about 1800 in the Suisun Bay region of California. He was (possibly) christened at about age ten with the Spanish name Francisco Solano. The Mission San Francisco de Solano of Sonoma records that a “Francisco Solano” was one of the first natives baptized in the mission in 1823/24. Some say that was Sem-Yeto, but this is unconfirmed. Possibly, Sem-Yeto went through baptism at Sonoma as a sign to all his people to come be baptized and join him.
Sem-Yeto (Chief Solano) was a famous chief and leader of the Suisun tribe, a Patwin people of the Suisun Bay region of California. Chief Solano was described as tall, 6 feet 7 inches (200 cm), handsome and brave. He was a charismatic, notable Native American leader of many regional banded tribes . He remained an influential ally and friend of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo of Sonoma until the Mexican-Americans lost control of the state in 1846.
California Statehood 1846-1850s’s
In 1846, at the end of the Bear Flag Revolt when California became part of the United States, General Vallejo was taken prisoner by Americans at Sutter’s Fort and presumed dead. Chief Solano thought he had lost his closest ally; he fled north and found refuge with tribes as far north as Oregon, Washington and possibly Alaska. He returned to California in 1850 and died soon after of pneumonia at the old Yulyul village site in Rockville.
In a Fourth of July speech of 1876, General Vallejo describes a deep friendship and appreciation for Chief Solano. In this speech, he said the Chief should be called a prince. The speech was reprinted in The Sonoma-Index, Dec. 4, 1880.
A statue of Chief Solano was sculpted by Bill Huff in 1934. It was first mounted on a rock above Cordelia, later moved to a library in Fairfield.
Solano County is named directly after Chief (Sem-Yeto) Solano.