Indigenous California peoples fight to save ancient burial mounds

Some 400 supporters joined Ohlone organizers and community Nov. 25 for the annual Shellmound Walk in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2005, Shellmound Walks are held the day after “Unthanksgiving” to raise awareness of the struggle of the Native California coastal nations to save the ruins of their ancient burial mounds. 

Credit: PHOTO: Perry Matlock

This year Ohlone community organizers and supporters gathered at the West Berkeley Shellmound, the site of the earliest known habitation in the Bay Area. The 5,000-year-old Ohlone village and burial site was recently desecrated with a parking lot. A rally was followed by a walk to the Emeryville Shellmound site in West Oakland.

Over 500 shellmounds, similar to the Egyptian pyramids in their great age, originally ringed the Bay Area. These sites marked villages and burial grounds, where Miwok, Coastal Me-Wauk, Bay Me-Wauk, Ohlone, Patwin, Wappo, Wintu, Yokut and other coastal nations gathered before colonialism.

The ancient shellmounds of the California Coast were depicted on the original U.S. Coast Guard maps as landmarks, due to their great size. The Emeryville Shellmound was constantly occupied from 500 BCE until Spanish soldiers and missionaries imprisoned the Ohlone people. This shellmound was devastated repeatedly since U.S. colonization, most recently by real estate developers for a shopping mall.

— caption by Stephanie Hedgecoke

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