The Ohlone Way, a book by Malcolm Margolin tells us there were about 10,000 California Indians consisting of 40 groups who lived in the coastal area between Point Sur and the San Francisco Bay each controlling enough land to feed its population. The Coast Miwok in Marin County; Patwin around Suisun Marsh; and Plains Miwok, Bay Miwok, and Yokuts in the delta. While each of these groups varied from one another in language and customs, today they are collectively known as the Ohlone Indians.
Back then, the ecological diversity
of the Bay Area was enormous. Over many
centuries totaling four or five thousand years, the Ohlone Indians around the
estuary lived meaningful, complex lives that were self-sustaining. They were not apart from the natural world,
and never considered themselves to be the top of the food chain, simply a part
The Ohlones were hunters and
gatherers—they fished, painted their bodies and danced. They married, raised children, buried their
dead and prayed to their gods—in short not so different from you and me. They shared joy, laughter, suffering and
They did not value freedom or
individualism. This is so vastly
different from the pioneer spirit and the California way that exists
today. Every Ohlone from birth to death,
was bound to family and clan. To break these bonds and achieve freedom was to
be weakened, damaged, and dangerously vulnerable. Strength, joy, fulfillment, a person’s very
identity were to be found in belonging.