please watch. a current ohlone struggle. we are still fighting.
dear ohlone college students,
when you tag your pseudo-artistic mugshots of yourself in the parking lot, cafes, and library at ohlone college maybe try #ohlonecollege, instead of #ohlone. i always get excited when i see new ohlone tags until i realize it’s just you again. this applies to tumblr, instagram, pintrest, and twitter.
do you realize that the term “ohlone” is more than simply the name of a college? do you realize that using the term ohlone with any acknowledgement annoys a lot of us who are ethnically ohlone?
im not that upset at you, as i know a lot of you are just plain ignorant, but hey… when you go to live on someones’ land, please make an earnest attempt to learn the history of the area, incuding the native people, who still exist. oh, you occupiers, you.
i love hash tags as much of the rest of you. they make me feel instantly more trendy. i like taking dumb pictures of myself too. but dont put your face associated with my culture. how would you feel if i took a picture of my cup of noodles at a cafeteria that might happen to have your culture’s name attached to it and hash tagged it #whitepeople. might not feel good huh?
it’s a simple solution! #ohlonecollege, #ohlonelibrary, #ohlonecafe… or so on. just not #ohlone
please and thank you.
one year. warep amahin.
wow. as i was going through my archives i noticed today is exactly one year i started this blog. honestly… i gotta admit, for better or worse, i feel pretty proud of it.
last april, one year ago from today, i started this blog because i wanted to document the first person ohlone experience from my own eyes. we are always being studied. anthrpologists want to study our culture, linguists want to study our language, archaeologists want to study our ancestors, naturalists want to study our plant usage, historians want to study our struggles… we are always being studied. sometimes it gets annoying. i started this blog to document my experience though an ohlone perspective, not one of non-indians making an earnest attempt to understand, but me using my own words to describe the beauty, the struggles, the confusion, the hardships, the pain, the joy of modern ohlone identity. of being connected to something so old. of living in ones’ homeland. of isolation. of being ignored. of persevering. of fighting. of cultural continuation. of hope. of survival.
what have i accomplished a year later? when i look back at this blog (which i am for self reflection and growth) i notice i have grown signficantly. and the most important shift is a year ago, i felt confused. i wanted to speak my language but i didnt know where to start and i knew a handful of words but nothing else. i wanted to be in ceremony. i wanted to feel unification. i wanted to grow. a year ago i struggled with a lot of these things. today, i realize all the tools i need are in front of me. with the help of my elders, my grandparents, and my parents i have strengthened my ohlone identity. with the help of my mentor andy, i have grown politically and through ceremony. through tireless dedication, and the help of tribal leaders like corrina gould, and linda yamane i have learned sufficient chochenyo to hold a coversation, something i didnt think i could do a year ago. with all the leaders in our community, i have witnessed true eldership, leadership. my ‘extinct’ brethren, how strong we are.
i throughly believe a shift is occuring right now, where creator kaknu is granting us the power to tell our own story. to sing our own song. to rise stronger than ever before. it has already begun. already we are speaking in our language again at home, we are at ceremony, we are dancing with flickerfeathers, we are singing ancient songs that havent been sung in generations, we are using ohlone placenames, we are weaving baskets, we are slapping clapper sticks against our palms, we are wearing abalone that jingles around our necks, we are paddling down the river in tule boats. we are thriving, thriving, thriving on the edge of the world like our ancetors did since the beginning of time.
through my blog, i am documenting this revitalization and i swear to myself every once in my being will be forever dedicated to my culture, my ancestors, and my people to make sure that the ohlone story will continue forever. we are forever strong.
what started as an experiement has become something bigger, i think. may it continue forever. ishmen ‘ewe makkiš.. ‘ičan tuuxi. sun shine on us. its a new day.
Changing perceptions @ Mission Dolores
A few pictures of the progress being made at working to change perceptions at Old Mission Dolores by telling the Ohlone story. A major shift from the Spanish-centered focus of the Mission a mere ten years ago. Guided by the mantra “the truth shall set us free,” we have been successfully striving to reclaim Mission Dolores as an Ohlone instituion, and have been telling a true story of the California Mission system; one that focuses on the oppression from the Spanish, adaptation of the Ohlone, cultural perseverance, and stories of resistance in the face of a changing world.
Today I saw where it all began. Where Grandfather and Kaknu led to our world being created. Where the world was full of fire, flooded, epic battles between the underworld ensued, and Ohlone were created.
All of this is real, sacred, intense. All of this reinforces that this is my home, where I belong… The place I can never leave. It is sad that we need permission to go to our most sacred of sacred sites, but it makes me proud these places are still here, ever strong… Kinda like our people.
The beauty, the woes of being Ohlone in the modern day. Knowing we will fight to protect all we have. We will never give up another inch.
Maj’itsum, but ak’we tak juwa kana tan nonwente..
While I can’t speak for all, I speak for myself — an Ohlone person living in the 21st century..
The one who is always fighting, who has never given up. The one who lashes out daily against misconceptions that his people are extinct, that his culture is gone. The one who makes an effort to scream, shout, cry out to this world of continued existence, continued presence, a story that has no end — that we alive. Knowing his ancestors chose not to leave the beloved homeland, but to fight and stay, to resist the occupation of land and spirit, to never lose the hope of a better day. Inxa.
The one who aches to know about his past, the one who sings the songs of ancients to himself just to keep them alive. Old wax cylinder recordings on the iPhone, listening to those old songs during commute… humming, shouting them, internally. The one who speaks his ancestral language in defiance to those who say that it is extinct, finally holding conversations in Chochenyo again with family against the odds. Nonwente.
The one who clinks, jingles with an abalone necklace in the middle of San Francisco, refusing to give up old traditions that abalone gives us protection, refusing to give up tradition passed down. He who cries out to Coyote, Hummingbird, and Kaknu — blending ancient beliefs of the old ones with the pain of the Missions, both Catholic and Ohlone, praying in four directions, and wearing eagle feathers in front of the alter his ancestors installed. Calling on two worlds — save me, Kaknu, save me. Rawi.
The one who calls modern cities by their ancient names: Ramajj, Tamien, Saclan, Huchiun in defiance to those who say that history started here with the European arrival. The one who lives a mile away from Jalquin, the ancient village his great-great-great-great-great-great Grandmother was born in before the invasion, and occupation of our land. The one who does not go far from his roots, but knowing many do not understand, or care. The one who knows this land is sacred, lent to us, alive.. Ximewiš.
The one who gazes at Mount Diablo from a crowded BART train during rush hour commute.. knowing the Creator created this mighty world from that peak. Looking around and seeing hundreds of people, knowing that he is alone— isolated in the homeland, screaming inside for a connection. Whispering a hymn, saying a few words in Chochenyo, hoping one of the ancients hears. Tuyshtak, Mountain of the World, protect me.
Oh Ohlone — beautiful, painful, strong, ignored, persevering — the clapper stick still beats against the palm, the abalone still clinks next to the Bay. It will never stop.
Makin mak sipte — we are strong.
An e-mail I received from a teacher after a fourth grade tour I gave today @ Mission Dolores. I will always do my best to tell the truth. I will always do my best to try to give my ancestors a voice.
Vincent, I cannot tell you how happy and excited I was today with the tour you led us on this morning. As I said, you were the first person and only person I have met in the mission system who spoke the truth of the effect the Spanish invasion of California had on the native tribes.
But the real marvel, is that you got to change a life today. We never know how our words will land in other’s ears, and your words made someone stop and really think.
Remember the tall caucasian man who was asking questions about the missions? Using the word “genocide” really shocked him, but in a good way. We had a long talk about the Spanish Conquistadors, and American treatment of the native tribes. On the way home on the BART train he could not stop talking to me about how shocked he was that he never knew or thought to ask what happened to the California natives who were caught up in the system. As he left, I challenged him to teach his daugher to ask ” For whose benefit and at whose cost?’ in her classes.
In the end, your words were a gift to him. He walked away with a new understanding of himself and his world. No matter where that goes for him and his kids, you opened a new door for him.
Thank you, and, wherever your path leads, I wish you well.
PS - Kudos too to the staff at the Mission for having the courage to begin to speak the truth.
On the plane to back to the homeland, California.
This trip has been something pretty special.
Tuesday I was on horseback, on the canyon floor marveling at ancient Pueblo ruins in Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation with my cousin, and Terrell, our Diné guide. This was the highlight of my trip to the Southwest.
While on my horse, named Winters, I got to see ancient petroglyphs, and majestic ruins built into the cliffs while looking up at a clear blue sky 1,000 feet up from a canyon floor covered in snow was. Everything we said echoed throughout the canyon, and Terrell told us some of the mythology of the place.
We got to the White House ruins, the most majestic of all the ruins within the canyon and there were some Diné artisans there selling their good. I bought a few necklaces from a woman who was raised within the canyon. Some of the jewelry she made was for protection. I was wearing an abalone necklace and I told her that for Ohlone people, we wear abalone for protection. She told me the Diné word for abalone, and I told her to Chochenyo Ohlone word. I said her word, and she said mine. It was a pretty cool interaction.
When we got back to the corral to return our horses, a Diné man working there asked my cousin “you guys Indian?” to which my cousin responded that we are Ohlone.
“Boloney?!” the Diné man says, “you guys part of that Oscar Meyer tribe?!!”
I couldn’t stop laughing. Who cares if he thought we were named after sliced lunch meat, at least he didn’t question if we existed or not.
Last night was my final night in the Southwest and a friend I met in Santa Fe named Hollis who is Pueblo, invited me out. He ran into some of his friends who were Diné. We exchanged stories, cultural differences and similarities, and how we resist a lot of the misinformation that is out there about us. We danced, had a few drinks, and it felt really good. Like despite being told we aren’t here, or that Indian people are extinct… Here we are, some twenty something year olds from different tribal groups sharing this bond. It kinda felt to me like we were defiantly telling the world “yeah, we are still here.”
It was a cool feeling, being in such an impressive place with such a strong Indian presence, but knowing that this is not my home. I told Hollis this, he paused and said “you know, my tribe uses a lot of abalone. It’s not native to this place. Our tribes might have traded in the past.”
Now I am on the plane, and my cousin sitting next to me points at the window “Monterey Bay, back in Ohlone territory.” The stewardess tells us to prepare to descend, and to put away electronics. We are almost home. And as much as I learned, as the old saying goes… there’s no place like home. I know more now than I did a week ago, but I also learned how we Indian people have more in common than I thought. We are very strong.
First night sleeping on the Navajo rez.. Things look tough here, but you don’t need a lot of money to live well and be a good person, as is evident with the people I’ve encountered so far here.
We stopped at A&W for dinner, because everything else was closed. “you guys Indians?” the guy behind the counter asks. “yeah, we are Ohlone… The natives of San Francisco, but we are not federally recognized,” my cousin says. “If you don’t have a reservation, then you can come to ours,” the guy behind the counter says with a smile.
“You know Johnny Depp was here on Friday in Chinle,” he says. “He’s playing Tonto in the new Lone Ranger over at Canyon de Chelly….”
We all kinda scoff. I’m a thousand miles away from home, but I feel connected in a really cool way. I see Indian people walk around me. I wish I could see this back home, but our history is a little different and we don’t have a reservation. Who knows, maybe someday it might be different.
Afterwards I got to see Canyon de Chelly at night looking down what seems like thousands feet from the Tseyi Overlook. Me, the Canyon, stars, moon. A pretty special moment.
You don’t need a lot to be a good person. You don’t need a lot of money to be kind. Cultural wealth is stronger than the material.
Muwekma Tribal Rejection and the need for an Ohlone federally recognized tribe
Us Ohlone, like all natives peoples across the stolen land throughout the western hemisphere, have suffered tremendously since the European invasion occurred. Ultimately, we have miraculously persevered, but a misconception in the American psyche is that American Indian peoples today aren’t suffering anymore. That American policies towards us have changed. That everything is better.
False, false, false…
Recently, the tribal organization I was born into, the Muwekma Ohlone (which is primarily composed of Chochenyo Ohlone people) was denied another attempt at federal recognition by the United States judicial system. Keep in mind that Chochenyo Ohlone people were once federally recognized. As recent as my great-grandmother, Chochenyo Ohlone people were enrolled in the Verona Band, an group of Mission Indians who successfully negotiated federal recognition with the American government, but were stripped of that recognition without cause, reason, or justification as the government and American populace turned a blind eye on our land being stolen and our people being deemed as “extinct.”
The main rationale of the court is that Chochenyo Ohlone people have supposedly not been organized well enough since the last time we were federally recognized.
How can a people fully organize themselves while they are battling multiple injustices concurrently? Racism, unfair and hateful laws targeting Indian peoples, lack of land base, and loss of federal recognition. It is a miracle we have an Ohlone identity and have persevered. Termination of the Verona Band occurred in 1927. Nearly 85 years since that happened we are still holding onto our Ohlone identity, despite those injustices, the misconceived notion that we are extinct, and our land stolen.
The court ruling ends with “Despite the Muwekma’s efforts to raise a smorgasbord of claims in an attempt to reverse the Department’s Final Determination, the Court finds that there exists no basis upon which it may overturn the agency’s findings. Accordingly, the Court must grant the Department’s cross- motion for summary judgment, and deny the Muwekma’s motion for summary judgment.”
This was only in September. A modern day Ohlone struggle. The government has not changed much.
Why is recognition so important?
It is essential that at least one Ohlone tribe obtain federal recognition as to preserve Ohlone culture, language, and protect our sovereignty. Imagine, a land base that belongs to us for ceremony. Funds to preserve the languages our ancestors spoke so that we can bring these languages into the 21st century, ensuring our children will speak these languages in the future. A powerful political presence as to be sure our sacred sites will be respected. Programs to ensure Ohlone arts will never be extinguished.
This land, this culture runs through the Ohlone psyche, Ohlone DNA. It is a part of who we are.
With, or without federal recognition we will fight, and we will thrive. However, it is essential to be aware that Ohlone people are still fighting. We will never give up.