infobox ethnic group

caption = Map of the Costanoan languages and major villages.
group = Ohlone (Costanoan) People
poptime = 1770: "10,000-20,000" 1800: "3000" • 1852: "864-1000" • 2000: "1500-2000+"
popplace = California: San Francisco Peninsula, Santa Clara Valley, East Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey Bay, Salinas Valley
langs = Utian: Ohlone (Costanoan):
Awaswas, Chalon, Chochenyo, Karkin, Mutsun, Ramaytush, Rumsen, Tamyen
rels = Shamanism • Kuksu
related= "Ohlone Tribes & Villages"
The Ohlone people, also known as the Costanoan and as the Muwekma, are the indigenous people of Northern California who have lived in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas since the sixth century, spanning south into the Salinas Valley. They spoke diverse dialects of the Penutian (Utian) language and lived in over 50 distinct villages and groups. Before Spanish colonization, they did not view themselves as one unified group of people. The Ohlone once lived by hunting, fishing and gathering and their world view included shamanism. From 1769 to 1833, Spanish policies, including the Spanish missions in California, brought tremendous upheaval, hardship and decimation to the Ohlone people.

The Ohlone living today include members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as Rumsen and Mutsun Tribes, currently petitioning the federal government for tribal recognition.


The Ohlone inhabited fixed village locations, moving temporarily to gather seasonal foodstuffs like acorns and berries. The Ohlone people lived in Northern California from the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula in the north down to Big Sur in the south, and from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Diablo Range in the east. Their vast region included the San Francisco Peninsula, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey Bay area, as well as present-day Alameda County, Contra Costa County and Salinas Valley. Prior to Spanish contact, the Ohlone formed a complex association of approximately 50 different "nations or tribes" with about 50 to 500 members each, with an average of 200. Over 50 specific Ohlone tribes and villages have been recorded. The Ohlone villages interacted through trade, intermarriage and ceremonial events, as well as some conflict. Cultural arts included basket-weaving skills, seasonal ceremonial dancing events, female tattoos, ear and nose piercings, and other ornamentation. [For habitation region, Kroeber, 1925:462. For population and village count, Levy, 1978:485; also cited by Teixeira, 1997:1. Names of villages, Milliken, 1995:231-261, Appendix 1, "Encyclopedia of Tribal Groups." Intermarriages, internecine conflict and tribal trade, Milliken, 1995:23-24. Basket-weaving, body ornamentation and trade, Teixeira, 1997:2-3; also Milliken, 1995:18. Seasonal dancing ceremonies, Milliken, 1995:24.]

The Ohlone subsisted mainly as hunter-gatherers and in some ways harvesters. "A rough husbandry of the land was practiced, mainly by annually setting of fires to burn-off the old growth in order to get a better yield of seeds – or so the Ohlone told early explorers in San Mateo County." Their staple diet consisted of crushed acorns, nuts, grass seeds and berries, while other vegetation, hunted and trapped game, fish and seafood (including mussels and abalone from the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean), were also important to their diet. These food sources were abundant and maintained by careful work (and spiritual respect), and through some active management of all the natural resources at hand. [Controlled burning as harvesting, Brown 1973:3,4,25; Levy 1978:491; Stanger, 1969:94; Bean and Lawton, 1973:11,30,39 (Lewis). Quote, "A rough husbandry of the land," Brown 1973:4. Seafood, nuts and seeds, Levy 1978:491-492. Trapped small animals, Milliken, 1995:18. Food maintenance and natural resource management, Teixeira, 1997:2.]

Animals in their mild climate included the grizzly bear, elk "(cervus elaphus)", antelope, and deer. The streams held salmon, perch, and stickleback. Birds included plentiful ducks, geese, quail, great horned owls, red-shafted flickers, downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, and yellow-billed magpies. Waterfowl were the most important birds in the people's diet, which were captured with nets and decoys. The Chochenyo traditional narratives refer to ducks as food, and Juan Crespi observed in his journal that geese were stuffed and dried "to use as decoys in hunting others." [All the animals, except waterfowl and quail, Teixeira, 1997:2. Waterfowl and quail, Levy 1978:291. Quote from Crespi, Bean, 1994:15-16. Ducks in Chochenyo lore, Bean, 1994:106 & 119. ]

Along the ocean shore and bays, there were also otters, whales, and at one time thousands of sea lions. In fact, there were so many sea lions that to Crespi it "looked like a pavement" to the incoming Spanish. [Quote from Crespi, "sea lion pavement" Teixeira, 1997:2. ]

In general, along the bayshore and valleys, the Ohlone constructed dome-shaped houses of woven or bundled mats of tule rushes, 6 to 20 feet (1.8 to 6 m) in diameter. In hills where Redwood trees were accessible, they built conical houses made from Redwood bark attached to a frame of wood. Redwood houses were remembered in Monterey. One of the main village buildings, the sweat lodge was low into the ground, its walls made of earth and roof of earth and brush. They built boats of tule to navigate on the bays propelled by double-bladed paddles. [Tule rush houses, redwood houses and sweat lodges, Teixeira, 1997:2. Redwood houses in Monterey, Kroeber, 1925:468. Tule boats, Kroeber, 1925:468.]

Generally, men did not wear clothing in warm weather. In cold weather, they might don animal skin capes or feather capes. Women commonly wore deerskin aprons, tule rush skirts, or shredded bark skirts. On cool days, they also wore animal skin capes. Both wore ornamentation of necklaces, shell beads and abalone pendants, and bone wood earrings with shells and beads. The ornamentation often indicated status within their community. [Clothing and ornamentation, Teixeira, 1997:2.]


The pre-contact Ohlone world view included shamanism. They believed that spiritual doctors could heal and prevent illness, and they had a "probable belief in bear shamans." Their spiritual beliefs were not recorded in detail by missionaries. However, some of the villages probably learned and practiced Kuksu, a form of shamanism shared by many tribes of Central and Northern California (although there is some question if the Ohlone people learned Kuksu from other tribes while at the missions). Kuksu included elaborate acting and dancing ceremonies in traditional costume, an annual mourning ceremony, puberty rites of passage, shamanic intervention with the spirit world and an all-male society that met in subterranean dance rooms. [Bear Shamanism, Kroeber, 1925:472. Observation that Kuksu may have been learned at missions, Kroeber, 1925:470. Kuksu description and ceremony types, Kroeber, 1907b, online as " [http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/ca/ric The Religion of the Indians of California] "; See also: " [http://www.maidu.com/maidu/maiduculture/kuksu.html The Kuksu Cult - paraphrased from Kroeber] ".]

Kuksu was shared with other indigenous ethnic groups of Central California, such as their neighbors the Miwok and Esselen, also Maidu, Pomo, and northernmost Yokuts. However Kroeber observed less "specialized cosmogony" in the Ohlone, which he termed one of the "southern Kuksu-dancing groups", in comparison to the Maidu and groups in the Sacramento Valley; he noted "if, as seems probable, the southerly Kuksu tribes (the Miwok, Costanoans, Esselen, and northernmost Yokuts) had no real society in connection with their Kuksu ceremonies." [Kroeber, 1925:445.]

The Ohlone who joined the Spanish missions were forced to convert to Catholicism. The first baptisms and conversions to Catholicism were in 1777. However, Mission Era conversions to Catholicism were debatably incomplete and "external." Many returned to shamanism when the Mission Era ended. [Milliken, 1995:67, begins to discuss first baptisms and conversions to Catholicism in 1777; Bean, 1994:279-281 discusses their conversions to Catholicism as incomplete and external.]

Narratives and mythology

In Ohlone mythology and traditional legends, and folk tales, the Ohlone participated in the general cultural pattern of Central and Northern California. Specifically, Kroeber noted that they "seem also to lean in their mythology toward the Yokuts more than to the Sacramento Valley tribes." [general pattern, Kroeber, 1907b;quote Kroeber, 1925:445.]

Ohlone folklore and legend centered around the Californian culture heroes of the Coyote trickster spirit, as well as Eagle and Hummingbird (and in the Chochenyo region, a falcon-like being named Kaknu). Coyote spirit was clever, wily, lustful, greedy, and irresponsible. He often competed with Hummingbird, who despite his small size regularly got the better of him.Coyote, Eagle, and Hummingbird tales, Kroeber, 1907a:199-202, "Costanoan Rumsien", online as " [http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/ca/scc Indian Myths of South Central California] "; also Kroeber, 1925:472-473. Chochenyo Kaknu tales, Bean (Harrington), 1994:106.]

Ohlone mythology creation stories mention the world was covered entirely in water, apart from a single peak "Pico Blanco" near Big Sur (or Mount Diablo in the northern Ohlone's version) on which Coyote, Hummingbird, and Eagle stood. Humans were the descendants of Coyote.


Some archeologists and linguists hypothesize that these people migrated from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River system and arrived into the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas in about the 6th century AD, displacing or assimilating earlier Hokan-speaking populations of which the Esselen in the south represent a remnant. Datings of ancient shell mounds in Newark and Emeryville suggest the villages at those locations were established about 4000 BC. [For origin, arrival and displacement based on "linguistic evidence" in 500 AD per Levy, 1978:486, also Bean, 1994:xxi (cites Levy 1978). For Shell Mound dating, F.M. Stanger 1968:4.]

Through shell mound dating, scholars noted three periods of ancient Bay Area history, as described by F.M. Stanger in "La Peninsula": "Careful study of artifacts found in central California mounds has resulted in the discovery of three distinguishable epochs or cultural 'horizons' in their history. In terms of our time-counting system, the first or 'Early Horizon' extends from about 4000 BC to 1000 BC in the Bay Area and to about 2000 BC in the Central Valley. The second or Middle Horizon was from these dates to 700 AD, while the third or Late Horizon was from 700 AD to the coming of the Spaniards in the 1770s." [F.M. Stanger 1968:4.]

Mission Era (1769 – 1833)

The Ohlone culture was relatively static until 1769, when the first Spanish soldiers and missionaries arrived from Southern California with the double-purpose of Christianizing the Native Americans by building a series of missions and of facilitating Spanish colonization. The Rumsen were the first Ohlone people to be encountered and documented in Spanish records, in 1602, whenSebastian Vizcaíno who was surveying the Northern California coastline for Spain, and reached Monterey in December of that year. Spain claimed what is now California and began to build a network of religious outposts, arriving in Ohlone territory in 1769. The Franciscan mission chain was founded under the leadership and vision of Father Junípero Serra and the military control was led by Gaspar de Portolà. [For Spanish missionaries and colonization, Teixeira, 1997:3; Fink, 1972:29-30. For Sebastian Vizcaíno documenting Ohlone in 1602, Levy:486 (mentions "Rumsen were the first"); Teixeira, 1997:15; also Fink, 1972:20-22. For Mission Chain leaders Serra and Portolà arrival by foot in Monterey in 1769, see Fink, 1972:29-38.]

Spanish mission culture soon disrupted and undermined the Ohlone social structures and way of life. Under Father Serra's leadership, the Spanish Franciscans erected seven missions inside the Ohlone region and brought most of the Ohlone into these missions to live and work. The missions erected within the Ohlone region were: Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo (founded in 1770), Mission San Francisco de Asís (founded in 1776), Mission Santa Clara de Asís (founded in 1777), Mission Santa Cruz (founded in 1791), Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (founded in 1791), Mission San José (founded in 1797), and Mission San Juan Bautista (founded in 1797). The Ohlone that went to live at the missions were called Mission Indians, and also "." They were blended with other Native American ethnicities such as the Coast Miwok transported from the North Bay into the Mission San Francisco and Mission San José. [Mission name list only; dates from Wikipedia related article. Milliken 1995:69-70 discusses neophytes, mentions "first neophyte marriages" in 1778. For list of ethnicity at each mission: Levy, 1976:486. For Mission San Francisco details: Cook, 1976b:27-28. For detailed tribal migration records: Milliken, 1995:231-261, Appendix I, "Encyclopedia of Tribal Groups." ]

Spanish military presence was established at two Presidios, the Presidio of Monterey, and the Presidio of San Francisco, and mission outposts, such as San Pedro y San Pablo Asistencia founded in 1786. The Spanish soldiers traditionally escorted the Franciscans on missionary outreach daytrips but declined to camp overnight. So for the first twenty years the missions accepted a few converts at a time, slowly gaining population. Then in November 1794 through May 1795, a large wave of Bay Area Native Americans were baptized and moved into Mission Santa Clara and Mission San Francisco, including 360 people to Mission Santa Clara and the entire Huichun village populations of the East Bay to Mission San Francisco. In March 1795, this migration was followed almost immediately by the worst-seen epidemic, as well as food shortages, resulting in alarming statics of death and escapes from the missions. In pursuing the runaways, the Franciscans sent neophytes first and (as a last resort) soldiers to go round up the runaway "Christians" from their relatives, and bring them back to the missions. Thus illness spread inside and outside of the missions. [For events of 1795-1796, Milliken, 1995:129-134 ("Mass Migration in Winter of 1794-95"). For runaways, Milliken, 1995:97 (cites Fages, 1971).]

For 60 years in the missions, the Ohlone population suffered greatly from cultural shock and disease; they were vulnerable to foreign diseases to which they had little resistance, in the restricted and crowded living conditions inside the mission compounds. Almost all moved to the missions. The practice of "monjeria", which was "isolating unmarried women in a separate locked room at night," was strictly enforced. In the poor and crowded conditions the women picked up illnesses; their pregnancies ended in many stillborns and infant deaths. Syphilis has been identified, and it causes women who have it to miscarry fifty percent of the time, along with high infant mortality rates. One of the "worst epidemic(s) of the Spanish Era in California" was known to be the measles epidemic of 1806: "One quarter of the mission Indian population of the San Francisco Bay Area died of the measles or related complications between March and May of 1806." [Milliken, 1995:89 with quote from the same. For syphilis effects, Milliken, 1995:172–173. For measles epidemic and quote, Millikenm 1995:193.]

Land and property disputes

Under Spanish rule, the intent for the future of the mission properties is difficult to ascertain. Property disputes arose over who owned the mission (and adjacent) lands, between the Spanish crown, the Catholic Church, the Natives and the Spanish settlers of San Jose: There were "heated debates" between "the Spanish State and ecclestiastical bureaucracies" over the government authority of the missions. Setting the precedent, an interesting petition to the Governor in 1782, the Franciscan priests claimed the "Missions Indians" owned both land and cattle, and they represented the Natives in a petition against the San Jose settlers. The fathers mentioned the "Indians' crops" were being damaged by the San Jose settlers' livestock and also mentioned settlers "getting mixed up with the livestock belonging to the Indians from the mission." They also stated the Mission Indians had property and rights to defend it: "Indians are at liberty to slaughter such (San Jose pueblo) livestock as trespass unto their lands." "By law," the mission property was to pass to the Mission Indians after a period of about ten years, when they would become Spanish citizens. In the interim period, the Franciscans were mission administrators who held the land in trust for the Natives. [For "heated debates" between church and state, Milliken, 1995:2n. For petition of 1782, Indians vs. settlers of San Jose, with quotes, see Milliken, 1995:72-73 (quoting Murguia and Pena [1782] 1955:400). For law of Spanish citizenship, and Franciscans held the land in trust for "10 years", see Beebe, 2001:71; Bean, 1994:243; and Fink, 1972:63-64.]


In 1834, the Mexican government ordered all Californian missions to be secularized and all mission land and property (administered by the Franciscans) turned over to the government for redistribution. At this point, the Ohlone were supposed to receive land grants and property rights, but few did and most of the mission lands went to the secular administrators. In the end, even attempts by mission leaders to restore native lands were in vain. Before this time, 73 Spanish land grants had already been deeded in all of Alta California, but with the new régime most lands were turned into Mexican-owned rancherias. The Ohlone became the laborers and "vaqueros" (cowboys) of Mexican-owned rancherias. [Fink, 1972:64: "Land grants were scarce; In 1830 only 50 private ranches were held in Alta California, of which 7 were in the Monterey region." For number of land grants, see Cowan 1956:139-140. For Mission secularizarion to rancherias, Teixeira, 1997:3; Bean, 1994:234; Fink, 1972:63.]


The Ohlone eventually regathered in multi-ethnic rancherias, along with other Mission Indians such as the Coast Miwok, and northwest Yokuts and Patwin. Many of the remaining Ohlone went to work at "Alisal Rancheria" in Pleasanton, and "El Molino" in Niles. Communities also formed in Sunol, Monterey and San Juan Bautista. In the 1840s a wave of U.S. settlers encroached into the area, and California became annexed to the United States. The new settlers brought in new diseases to the Ohlone. [Teixeira, 1997:3-4, "Historical Overview."]

The Ohlone lost the vast majority of their population between 1780 and 1850, because of an abysmal birth rate, high infant mortality rate, diseases and social upheaval associated with European immigration into California. By all estimates, the Ohlone were decimated to less than ten percent of their original pre-mission era population. By 1852 the Ohlone population had diminished down to about 864-1,000 and continued to decline. By the early 1880s, the northern Ohlone were virtually extinct, and the southern Ohlone people severely impacted and largely displaced from their communal land grant in the Carmel Valley. To call attention to the plight of the California Indians, Indian Agent, reformer, and popular novelist Helen Hunt Jackson published accounts of her travels among the Mission Indians of California in 1883. [For population estimates, Cook, 1976a:183, 236-245. For decline and displacement, Cook, 1976a, all of California; Cook, 1976b all of California; Milliken, 1995 San Francisco Bay Area in detail. For Helen Hunt Jackson's account, Jackson, 1883.]

Considered the last fluent speaker of an Ohlone language, Rumsien-speaker "Isabel Meadows" died in 1939. Some of the people are attempting to revive Rumsen, Mutsun, and Chochenyo. [See the "External Links" section, "Revival" external links.]


Costanoan is an externally applied name (exonym). The Spanish explorers and settlers referred to the native groups of this region collectively as the "Costeños" (the "coastal people") circa 1769. Over time, the English-speaking settlers arriving later Anglicized the word "Costeños" into the name of "Costanoans." (The suffix "-an" is English). For many years, the people were called the Costanoans in English language and records.Teixeira, 1997:4, "The Term 'Costanoan/Ohlone'".]

Since the 1960s, the name of Ohlone has been used by some of the members and the popular media to replace the name "Costanoan." "Ohlone" might have originally derived from a Spanish rancho called "Oljon", and referred to a single band who inhabited the Pacific Coast near Pescadero Creek. The name "Ohlone" was traced by Teixeira through the mission records of Mission San Francisco, Bancroft's "Native Races", and Frederick Beechey's Journal regarding a visit to the Bay Area in 1826-27. "Oljone", "Olchones" and "Alchones" are spelling variations of "Ohlone" found in Mission San Francisco records. However, because of its tribal origin, Ohlone is not universally accepted by the native people, and some members prefer to either to continue to use the name Costanoan or to revitalize and be known as the "Muwekma". Teixeira maintains Ohlone is the common usage since 1960, which has been traced back to the Rancho Oljon on the Pescadero Creek. Teixeira states in part: "A tribe that once existed along the San Mateo County coast." Milliken states the name came from: "A tribe on the lower drainages of San Gregario Creek and Pescadero Creek on the Pacific Coast". [Opinions and quotes, Teixeira 1997:4; Milliken, 1995:249.] The popularity of the name Ohlone is largely because of the book, "The History of San Jose and Surroundings" by Frederic Hall (1871), he noted that: "The tribe of Indians which roamed over this great [Santa Clara] valley, from San Francisco to near San Juan Bautista Mission...were the Olhones or (Costanes)." [Hall, 1871:40; as reprinted by Bean, 1994:29-30.]

Two other names are growing in popularity and use by the tribes instead of Costanoan and Ohlone, notably Muwekma in the north, and Amah by the Mutsun. "Muwekma" is the native people's word for "the people" in the language of "Chochenyo" and "Tamyen". "Amah" is the native people's word for "the people" in "Mutsun". [Muwekma use and definition, Teixeira, 1997:4. Amah translation (spelled as "Ahmah"), Bean, 1994:351: "The Story of Indian Canyon" by Ann Marie Sayers. Amah in use Leventhal and all, 1993, and Amah-Mutsun web site, 2007.]


Linguists identified eight regional, linguistic divisions or subgroups of the Ohlone, listed below from north to south: [Levy, 1978:485-486; Teixeira, 1997:37-38, "Linguistics"; and Milliken, 1995:24-26, "Linguistic Landscape." The latter two both cite Levy 1978.]

*Karkin "(also called Carquin)" - The Karkin resided on the south side of the Carquinez Strait. The name of the Carquinez Strait derives from their name. Karkin was a dialect quite divergent from the rest of the family. [Beeler, 1961.]

*Chochenyo "(also called Chocheño, Chocenyo and East Bay Costanoan)" - The Chochenyo speaking tribal groups resided in the East Bay, primarily in the western portion of what is now Alameda County and Contra Costa County.

*Ramaytush "(also called San Francisco Costanoan)" - The Ramaytush resided between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific in the area which is now San Francisco and San Mateo Counties. The Yelamu grouping of the Ramaytush included the villages surrounding Mission Dolores, Sitlintac and Chutchui on Mission Creek, Amuctac and Tubsinte in Visitation Valley, Petlenuc from near the Presidio, and to the southwest, the villages of Timigtac on Calera Creek and Pruristac on San Pedro Creek in modern day Pacifica.

*Tamyen "(also called Tamien, Thamien, and Santa Clara Costanoan)" - The Tamyen resided on Coyote Creek and Calaveras Creek, and the language was spoken in the Santa Clara Valley. (Linguistically, Chochenyo, Tamyen and Ramaytush were very close, perhaps to the point of being dialects of a single language.) The Tamyen village was near the original site of the first Mission Santa Clara located on the Guadalupe River; Father Pena mentioned in a letter to Junípero Serra that the area around the mission was called Thamien by the Ohlone. [For language, see Forbes, 1968:184; also Milliken 2006 "Ethnohistory." For Father Pena letter, see Hylkema 1995:20; location indicated on a map by Kroeber 1925:465]

*Awaswas "(also called Santa Cruz Costanoan)" - The Awaswas resided on the Santa Cruz coast between Pescadero and the Pajaro Rivers (Davenport and Aptos).

*Mutsun "(also called Mutsen, San Juan Bautista Costanoan") - The Mutsun resided along San Benito River and San Felipe Creek.

*Rumsen "(also called Rumsien, Carmel or Carmeleno") - The Rumsen resided from the Pajaro River to Point Sur, and the lower courses of the Pajaro, as well as the lower Salinas, Sur and Carmel Rivers (San Carlos, Carmel, and Monterey Counties).
*Chalon "(also called Soledad)" - The Chalon resided on the middle course of the Salinas River.

"Language group designations are spelled as commonly found in English language publications... however many tribal, village and personal names which are not commonly found in literature present a problem. They were written by Spanish settlers who were trying to capture the sounds of languages foreign to them." [Milliken, 1995:xiv.]

Within the regions listed above, there were over 50 Ohlone tribes and villages who spoke the Ohlone-Costanoan languages in 1769, before being absorbed into the Spanish Missions by 1800. [Milliken, 1995:231-261 Appendix 1, "Encyclopedia of Tribal Groups."]

Present day

The Mutsun (of Hollister and Watsonville) and the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe (of the San Francisco Bay Area) are among the surviving groups of Ohlone today petitioning for tribal recognition. The Esselen Nation also describes itself as Ohlone/Costanoan, although they historically spoke both the southern Costanoan (Rumsen) and an entirely different Hokan language Esselen.

Federal recognition

Ohlone tribes with petitions for Federal Recognition pending with the Bureau of Indian Affairs are: [ [http://500nations.com/tribes/Tribes_Petitions.asp 500 Nations Web Site - Petitions for Federal Recognition] ; and [http://www.fourdir.com/costanoans.htm Costanoans by Four Directions Institute] quoting Sunderland, Larry, "Native American Historical Data Base (NAHDB)"]

*Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, San Francisco Bay Area: :With 397 enrolled members in 2000, the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe comprises "all of the known surviving Native American lineages aboriginal to the San Francisco Bay region who trace their ancestry through the Missions Dolores, Santa Clara and San Jose" and who descend from members of the historic Federally Recognized Verona Band of Alameda County. On September 21, 2006, they received a favorable opinion from the U.S. District in Washington, D.C., of their court case to expedite the reaffirmation of the tribe as a federally recognized tribe. [http://www.muwekma.org/news/index.html Muwekma Ohlone Indian Tribal Web site, Informational Background] .] The Advisory Council on California Indian Policy has assisted in their case.

* Amah-Mutsun Band of Ohlone/Costanoan Indians, Woodside::The Amah-Mutsun Band has over 500 enrolled members and comprises "various surviving lineages who spoke the Hoomontwash or Mutsun Ohlone language." The majority descend from the native people baptized at Mission San Juan Bautista. [Amah-Mutsun Tribe Website; Leventhal and all, 1993.]

*Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation, Monterey and San Benito Counties: :The Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation has approximately 500 enrolled members. Their tribal council claims enrolled membership is currently at approximately 500 people from thirteen core lineages that trace direct descendancy to the Missions San Carlos and Soledad. The tribe was formerly federally recognized as the "Monterey Band of Monterey County" (1906-1908). Approximately 60% reside in Monterey and San Benito Counties. [ [http://www.esselennation.com/OCENToday.html Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation Today] . File retrieved November 30, 2006.]

* Costanoan Band of Carmel Mission Indians, Monrovia.

* Costanoan Ohlone Rumsen-Mutsen Tribe, Watsonville.

* Costanoan-Rumsen Carmel Tribe, Chino.

* Indian Canyon Band of Costanoan, Mutsun Indians, near Hollister.


Published estimates of the pre-contact Ohlone population in 1769 range between 7,000 and 20,000. The historians differ widely in their opinions, as they do with the entire population of Native California. However, modern researchers think that American anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber's projection of 7,000 Ohlone "Costanoans" was much too low. Later researchers like Richard Levy estimated "10,000 or more" Ohlone.

The highest estimate comes from Sherburne F. Cook, who in later life concluded there were 26,000 Ohlone and Salinans in the "Northern Mission Area". Per Cook, the "Northern Mission Area" means "the region inhabited by the Costanoans and Salinans between San Francisco Bay and the headwaters of the Salinas River. To this may be added for convenience the local area under the jurisdiction of the San Luis Obispo even though there is an infringement of the Chumash." In this model, the Ohlone people's territory was one half of the "Northern Mission Area". It was however known to be more densely populated than the southern Salinan territory, per Cook: "The Costanoan density was nearly 1.8 persons per square mile with the maximum in the Bay region. The Esselen was approximately 1.3, the Salinan must have been still lower." We can estimate that Cook meant about 18,200 Ohlone based on his own statements (70% of "Northern Mission Area"), plus or minus a few thousand margin for error, but he does not give an exact number. [For definition of 'Northern Mission area", Cook, 1976b:20. For density of populatations, Cook, 1976a:187.]

The Ohlone population after contact in 1769 with the Spaniards spiralled downwards. Cook describes rapidly declining indigenous populations in California between 1769 and 1900, in his posthumously published book, "The Population of the California Indians, 1769-1970." Cook states in part: "Not until the population figures are examined does the extent of the havoc become evident." In fact, the population had dropped to about 10% of its original numbers by 1848. [For quote, see Cook, 1976b:200. For population in year 1848, see Cook, 1976a:105.]

The population after 1900 finally stabilized. There are at least 1,400 on tribal membership rolls by year 2005.


The Ohlone language family is commonly called "Costanoan", sometimes "Ohlone". Costanoan is a member of the Penutian language group, and the Utian subgroup, and comprises eight dialects per Milliken, or (maybe) separate languages per Levy: Awaswas, Chalon, Chochenyo (aka Chocheño), Karkin, Mutsun, Ramaytush, Rumsen, and Tamyen. These are roughly equivalent to the way languages of the Romance family have the same roots. Neighboring divisions however could understand and speak to each other, only having colloquial differences. [Utian and Penutian classification: Levy, 1978:485-486 (citing Kroeber), Milliken 1995:24-26. Names of dialects: Levy 1978:485; Teixeira 1997:33-34; Milliken 1995:24-26. For the assertion they are dialects of one language, refer to Milliken, 1995:24-26. Levy 1978:485 asserted they were distinct languages, but he contradicts himself on same page.] The Ohlone did not have a writing system.

The missions influenced the language divisions named above. The northern dialects, Ramaytush, Tamyen, Chochenyo and Karkin might have emerged as "distinctive linguistic Costanoan sub-groups within the Bay Area" from amalgamation of certain tribes within the missions. [Milliken, 1995:24-26.] The Costanoan language family is considered extinct, although today Mutsun, Chochenyo and Rumsen are being "revitalized" (relearned from saved records).

Native placenames

The native people belonged to one or more tribes, bands or villages, and/or to one of the eight linguistic group regions (as assigned by ethnolinguists). Native names listed in the mission records were, in some cases, clearly principal village names, in others the name assigned to the region of a "multifamily landholding group" (per Milliken). Although many native names have been written in historical records, the exact spelling and pronunciations were not entirely captured and standardized in modern English. Ethnohistorians have resorted to approximating their indigenous regional boundaries as well. For a very good source on Ohlone village and tribe and landholding group names, see Milliken. (The word that Kroeber coined to designate California tribes, bands and villages, "", has been published in many records but is advisably offensive and incorrect, per the Ohlone people.) [Milliken 1995:13n and Appendix I; Tribelet not correct per Bean 1994:299-300, article by Leventhal et al.]

Many of the known tribal and village names were recorded in the California mission records of baptism, marriage, and death. Some names have come from Spanish and Mexican settlers, some from early Anglo-European travelers, and some from the memories of Native American "informants". "Informants" were natives still alive that could remember their group's native language and details. [Village Names: Cook, 1976b, attributes a good village name list to Merriam's assistant. "Informant" interviews were made as early as 1890, and as late as the 1940s. Mainly from Bancroft (earliest), Kroeber and Merriam (published 1970s posthumously via R. F. Heizer and others).]

Some of the former tribe and village names were gleaned from the land maps ("") submitted by grantees in applying for Spanish and Mexican land grants or designs ("s") that were drawn up in Alta California prior to the Mexican-American War. [For example of a Diseño de terreno, see [http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/hb309nb0vn/ Diseño de terreno de la Misión Dolores] , 1854, from the Bancroft Library.] In this regard, a large untranscribed trove of material is available for research in the records of Clinton H. Merriam housed at the Bancroft Library, and more material continues to be published by local historical societies and associations. [Merriam, 1979, "Preface"; also Teixeira, 1997.]

Spelling and pronunciation

Correct pronunciations of native words are tenuous at best. Many of the original sounds were first heard and copied down by Spanish missionaries using Spanish as a reference language, subject to human error, later translated into English and Anglicized over time. Spelling errors crept in as different missionaries kept separate records over a long period of time, under various administrators. In spite of this, we have some clues. Ethnohistorians Kroeber, Merriam, and others interviewed Ohlone "informants" and were able to define some pronunciations on word lists. Ethnolinguists have used this to some advantage to create phonetic tables giving some semblance of languages, notably the "Selected Costanoan Words by Merriam". [Discussion of spelling, translation and mission record variances, Milliken, 1995. Phonetic tables: Merriam, 1979. ]

Native words

A partial table of words comes from "Indian Names for Plants and Animals Among California and other Western North American Tribes" by Clinton Merriam. This published list covers 400 Ohlone-Costanoan words. The interview for these words were accompanied by a picture to help ensure accuracy, although his curator Robert F. Heizer noted the system of interview was error-proned. The Ohlone words listed are by "phonetic English" pronunciations. Some special marks do not translate; they may require additional treatment by ethnolinguists. [Phonetic tables, Merriam, 1979. See also "C. Hart Merriam" biography and endorsement, Teixeira, 1997:33-34.]

Salvaging records

The chroniclers, ethnohistorians, and linguists of the Ohlone population began with: Alfred L. Kroeber who researched the California natives and authored a few publications on the Ohlone from 1904 to 1910, and C. Hart Merriam who researched the Ohlone in detail from 1902 to 1929. This was followed by John P. Harrington who researched the Ohlone languages from 1921 to 1939, and other aspects of Ohlone culture, leaving volumes of field notes at his death. Other research was added by Robert Cartier, Madison S. Beeler, and Sherburne F. Cook, to name a few. In many cases, the Ohlone names they used vary in spelling, translation and tribal boundaries, depending on the source. Each tried to chronicle and interpret this complex society and language(s) before the pieces vanished. [Historians and research years, Teixeira, 1997, biographical articles; notably page 34: "John Peabody Harrington." Variances in data and interpretation can be noted in main published references Kroeber, Merriam, Harrington, Cook.]

There was noticeable competition and some disagreement between the first scholars: Both Merriam and Harrington produced much in-depth Ohlone research in the shadow of the highly published Kroeber and competed in print with him. In the "Editor's Introduction" to "Merriam (1979)", Robert F. Heizer (as the protege of Kroeber and also the curator of Merriam's work) states "both men disliked A. L. Kroeber." Harrington, independently working for the Smithsonian Institution cornered most of the Ohlone research as his own specialty, was "not willing to share his findings with Kroeber...Kroeber and his students neglected the Chumash and Costanoans, but this was done because Harrington made it quite clear that he would resent Kroeber's 'muscling in.'" [Quote "both men disliked Kroeber" said by Heizer, in "Editor's Intro" of Merriam (1979). Quotes Harrington's "cornering research" and "Harrington...would resent Kroeber's 'muscling in'" said by Heizer 1975, in Bean:xxiii-xxiv.]

Recent Ohlone historians that have published new research are Lauren Teixeira, Randall Milliken and Lowell J. Bean. They all note the availability of mission records allow for continual research and understanding. [See books by Teixeira, Milliken and Bean.]

Notable Ohlone people

* 1777 – "Chamis" of the village Chutchui. On June 24, 1777 at age 20, he became the first neophyte to join the Mission San Francisco. [Milliken, 1995:68.]
* 1777 – "Xigmacse", A Yelamu chief, at the time of the establishment of the Mission San Francisco. [ [http://www.muwekma.org/history/history_04s.html Muwekma website - history] .]
* 1779 – "Charquín", given the baptismal name of Francisco in the same year, appears to have been the leader of the first band of runaways in 1789. Exiled to San Diego, he was mistakenly taken to Mexico City; final whereabouts are unknown. [Brown, 1974.]
* 1783 – "Mossués", captain of the village Pruristac, baptized in 1783 [Milliken, 1995:80-81m.]
* 1807 – "Hilarion" and "George" (their baptismal names) were two Ohlone men from the village Pruristac who served as "alcaldes" (mayors) of the Mission San Francisco in 1807. As such, they were at the beginning of a long line of Mayors of San Francisco. [Milliken, 1995:206-207.]
* 1823 – "Pomponío" was a famous "outlaw" leader, who, along with his band, raided the missions. Evading authorities, he was eventually captured in Marin County, before being executed in Monterey in 1823. A creek, road, and state beach on the San Mateo County coast are named after him. [Raiding, capture and execution, Brown, 1974. Name of creek and road, Brown 1975.]
* 1893 – "Pedro Evencio" is believed to be the last (Ramaytush) Native American of San Mateo. His son "José Evencio" lived at "Coyote Point" until World War II; final whereabouts are unknown. [Brown, 1974.]
* 1913 – "Barbara Solorsano" died 1913, Mutsun linguistic consultant to C. Hart Merriam 1902-04, from San Juan Bautista. [Teixeira, 1997:33, 40.]
* 1930 – "Ascencion Solorsano de Cervantes", died 1930, renowned Mutsun doctor, principal linguistic and cultural informant to J. P. Harrington. [Bean, 1994:133, 314.]
* 1934 – "Jose Guzman" died 1934, he was one of the principal Chochenyo linguistic and cultural consultants to J. P. Harrington. [Bean, 1994:101-107; Teixeira, 1997:35.]
* 1939 – "Isabel Meadows", died 1939, the last fluent speaker of Rumsen. On Isabel's BIA application of 1930, she listed her tribal origin as: "Mission Indian, Carmel Mission, Monterey County, California." [Escobar, Lorraine [http://hometown.aol.com/Inammec/Costpaper.html Understanding the Composition of Costanoan Indians] 1998.]
* 1950s – "Andrés Osorio", of Half Moon Bay, said to be "the area's last "Indian", possibly "Tulare" or "Mexican". [Brown, 1974.]



* Bean, Lowell John, editor, "The Ohlone: Past and Present Native Americans of the San Francisco Bay Region." Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press Publication, 1994. ISBN 0-87919-129-5. Includes Leventhal et al. "Ohlone Back from Extinction.".
* Bean, Lowell John and Lawton, Harry. "Some Explanations for the Rise of Cultural Complexity in Native California with Comments on Proto-Agriculture and Agriculture", in "Native Californians: A Theoretical Retrospective," 1976.
* Beebe, Rose Marie. "Lands of Promise and Despair: Chronicles of Early California, 1535-1846." 2001. ISBN 1-890771-48-1.
* Beeler, Madison S. "Northern Costanoan", in "International Journal of American Linguistics", 1961. 27: 191-197.
* Brown, Alan K. "Indians of San Mateo County", in "La Peninsula:Journal of the San Mateo County Historical Association", Vol. XVII No. 4, Winter 1973-1974.
* Brown, Alan K. "Place Names of San Mateo County", San Mateo County Historical Association, 1975.
* Cartier, Robert, "et al." "An Overview of Ohlone Culture." Cupertino, CA: De Anza College, 1991. Reprinted from a 1991 report titled "Ethnographic Background" as prepared with Laurie Crane, Cynthia Janes, Jon Reddington, and Allika Ruby, ed. [http://www.santacruzpl.org/history/spanish/ohlone.shtml]
* Cook, Sherburne F. 1976a. "The Conflict Between the California Indian and White Civilization." Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1976. ISBN 0-520-03143-1. Originally printed in "Ibero-Americana", 1940-1943.
* Cook, Sherburne F. 1976b. "The Population of the California Indians, 1769-1970." Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, June 1976. ISBN 0-520-02923-2.
* Cowan, Robert G. "Ranchos of California", 1956.
* Fink, Augusta. "Monterey, The Presence of the Past." San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 1972. ISBN 0877010723.
* Forbes, Jack. "Jack Forbes Native Americans of California and Nevada", 1968.
* Jackson, Helen Hunt. "Report on the Condition and Needs of the Mission Indians of California." Washington, DC: Govt. Printing Office, 1883. LCC 02021288]
* Hylkema, George. "Archaeological Investigations at the Third Location of Mission Santa Clara De Assis: The Murguia Mission 1781-1818", 1995. Caltrans Report (CA-SCL-30/H).
* Kroeber, Alfred L. 1907a, "Indian Myths of South Central California", in "University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology" 4:167-250. Berkeley (Six "Rumsien Costanoan" myths, pp. 199-202); online at [http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/ca/scc Sacred Texts Online] .
* Kroeber, Alfred L. 1907b, "The Religion of the Indians of California", in "University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology" 4:6. Berkeley, sections titled "Shamanism", "Public Ceremonies", "Ceremonial Structures and Paraphernalia", and "Mythology and Beliefs"; available at [http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/ca/ric Sacred Texts Online]
* Kroeber, Alfred L. 1925. "Handbook of the Indians of California". Washington, D.C: "Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin" No. 78.
* Levanthal, Alan (Tribal Ethnohistorian), Rosemary Cambra (Chairwoman, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe), Loretta Escobar-Wyer (Chairwoman, Esselen Nation), and Irene Zwierlein (Chairwoman, Amah Mutsun Costanoan/Ohlone Tribe). [http://www.native-net.org/archive/nl/9310/0054.html "Calif. Federal Recognition: A Request for Your Support"] , October 4, 1993. Data retrieved November 21, 2006.
* Levy, Richard. 1978. "Costanoan", in "Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 8 (California)". William C. Sturtevant, and Robert F. Heizer, eds. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978. ISBN 0-16-004578-9 / 0160045754, pages 485-495.
* Margolin, Malcolm. "The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area." Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, 1978. ISBN 0-930588-02-9.
* Merriam, Clinton Hart. "Indian Names for Plants and Animals among Californian and other Western North American Tribes." Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press Publication, 1979. ISBN 0-87919-085-X
* Milliken, Randall. "A Time of Little Choice: The Disintegration of Tribal Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area 1769-1910." Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press Publication, 1995. ISBN 0-87919-132-5 (alk. paper)
* Stanger, Frank M., Editor. "La Peninsula" Vol. XIV No. 4, March 1968.
* Stanger, Frank M. and Brown, Alan K. "Who Discovered the Golden Gate?: The Explorers' Own Accounts." San Mateo County Historical Association, 1969.
* Teixeira, Lauren. "The Costanoan/Ohlone Indians of the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area, A Research Guide." Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press Publication, 1997. ISBN 0-87919-141-4.

Further reading

* "The Ohlone, Past and Present: Native Americans of the San Francisco Bay Region", Compiled and edited by Lowell John Bean. Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press Publication, 1994. ISBN 0-87919-129-5
* "The Missions of California: A Legacy of Genocide", Editors Rupert Costo and Jeannette Henry Costo. Indian Historian Press, San Francisco, 1978.
* Costanoan. Pp. 485-495 in "Handbook of North American Indians", Volume 8. Robert F. Heizer, editor. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978.
* The Costanoans. Chapter 31. Pp. 462-473 in "Handbook of Indians of California". Kroeber, Alfred L. Editor. Also available as - Washington, D.C: "Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78", 1925.

External links

Tribal websites:
* [http://www.icimedia.com/costanoan/index.html Amah-Mutsun Tribe Website]
* [http://www.esselennation.com/ Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation Website]
* [http://www.indiancanyon.org/ Costanoan-Ohlone Indian Canyon Resource]
* [http://www.muwekma.org/index.html Muwekma Ohlone Tribe Website] Language:
* [http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/06/04_chocenyo.shtml Chochenyo revitalization - language at UCB "News" 2004]
* [ Chochenyo revitalization - language at UCB "Faith in Words" 2004]
* [http://linguistics.buffalo.edu/ssila/meetings/SSILA04/abstracts/arellano.htm Chochenyo revitalization - language]
* [http://www.mutsunlanguage.com/pages/944594/ Mutsun revitalization - language]
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/11081 "Grammar of Mutsun" by Arroyo de la Cuesta, Felipe] (1842) (in Spanish)

* [http://www.fourdir.com/costanoans.htm Costanoan Online Site Directory] by Four Directions Institute
* [http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/costanoan/costanoanindiantribe.htm Access Genealogy] Costanoan Indian Tribe
* [http://www.santacruzpl.org/history/spanish/ohlone.shtml An Overview of Ohlone Culture]
* [http://www.islaiscreek.org/ohlonehistorybackground.html Overview of Yelamu Ohlone]
* [http://www.spn.usace.army.mil/archaeology/rockremoval/4.0historicbkrd.htm Historic Background]
* [http://www.muwekma.org/news/Muwekma-opinion-092106.pdf Muwekma request for federal tribal recognition court opinion 9/21/06]
* [http://www.hallman.org/pacifica/life.html A Day in the Ohlone Life]

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