Alson, Aptos, Carquin, Huchiun, Oljon, Tamien, Matsun, Rumsen, Yelamu ? these are jst a few of the 50 or so Indian tribes that populated the coastal area from Carquinez Strait to south of Monterey Bay. For at least 10,000 years prior to European settlement, native peoples made this land their home. Each of these small tribes, consisting of 3 to 10 villages, had it sown leader and occupied its own established territory. Although the tribes were politically independent, they were related by similar languages and cultural traditions. Today these native people are collectively referred to as "Ohlone." But they have also been called "Costanoan."
This north end of the San Francisco peninsula was Yelamu territory. From their permanent village sites farther inland, the Yelamu traveled to Lands End year after year, to camp above the Pacific. They pried mussels from the rocks, and gathered birds' eggs or favorite plant foods. They hunted seals for meat and skins. A fresh water spring, which still flows beneath the shrubbery on the slope, provided drinking water and fed a marsh below.
There was much more to life than just work. Games, songs, stories and dance - although some were serious - also made for plenty of fun and laughter. Through oral traditions, especially story and song, mythology and history were passed from generation to generation. Necklaces of abalone shell and elaborate dance regalia of feather capes, headdresses and feather "ropes," among other adornments, enriched and beautified daily life.
Imagine the cove below you without the Sutro Baths ruins, as in Yelamu times. Can you see the rocks and beach crowded with sea lions? Can you hear those hundreds of noisy se lion voices being carried up the cliff by the wind? In the distance, Yelamu men paddle canoe-shaped boats made of bundled tule reeds. From these boats, they can hunt sea mamals or cast their fishing nets. Rich natural resources from land and sea have attracted people to this area throughout the ages. Think of the many men, women and children who have come before us and stood in this very special place.
Tule reeds, which in the past would have grown in marshy areas such as the cove below, are the perfect boat building material. Why? Each stem is filled with tiny air pockets making it buoyant in water.
Thanks to the members of the Ohlone community who developed the text and images for this exhibit. Illustrations - Linda Yamane (Rumsien Ohlone)
Photo, lower right:
Today, Ohlone people continue to live in the Bay Area, carrying on their native culture, and sharing it with us. In 2001, members of the Ohlone community constructed a small tule house in the park at Crissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco.