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Indigenous Peoples Resources: Ohlone

Introduction

 

Before EuropeOhlone Mapan contact in the second half of the 18th century, there were an estimated 300,000 native peoples living in California. In the San Francisco Bay Area there is evidence of aboriginal habitation for at least 10,000 years previous to the current day. The group of Native Americans generally defined as Ohlone inhabited most of the San Francisco Bay Area down to Monterey, excluding the North Bay, although recent opinion argues that people of Monterey/Mission Carmel (Rumsen) and San Jaun Bautista/Santa Cruz (Amah Mutsun) are politically distinctive enough to be differentiated from Ohlone. The Muwekma Ohlone subgroup is the largest politically cohesive modern group of Ohlone. They are centered around the SF Bay Area and their name means "people." People who identify as Ohlone trace their ancestry through the Missions Santa Clara, San Jose, and Dolores in San Francisco. The Ohlone have also been historically identified by the term Costanoan (a term considered offensive by many) and the term Tamien/Tamyen/Thámien. Costanoan comes from the Spanish "Costaño" (meaning people who live on the coast) and is a term that refers to their language as studied by the anthropologist John Peabody Harrington and has since fallen out of favor. Meanwhile, Tamien/Tamyen/Thámien Ohlone is a geographical term that most probably refers both to the triblet or band of Ohlone nearest to SCU and the name this triblet or band originally gave their land pre-contact. This is the region around the San Jose Airport. The VTA light rail station called Tamien Station honors this namesake. 

In 21st century California, Ohlone work, live, and worship in modern day Silicon Valley and the surrounding region. While they have not received tribal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and do not have a reservation or land to call their own, individuals who identify as Ohlone subsist in the Bay Area and throughout the state of California—they are not extinct and were not eradicated by colonialism. Members host pow-wows and other events to reclaim and keep their culture alive.

Tamien Nation

The Tamien Nation identifies itself as the tribe most directly indigenous to Santa Clara County.  The use of the name Tamien is on record as early as 1777, it comes from the Ohlone name for the location of the first Mission Santa Clara (Mission Santa Clara de Thamien) on the Guadalupe River.

Peninsula Open Space Trust

Online Resources