Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Food For Thought Part 2-Visit to the Ohlone Cemetery

 I believe it was our first day out on the field when we were visited by Andy Galvan. He is a direct Ohlone descendant and the representative or contact for human burial sites encountered in the Ohlone (Fremont) Area. Andy gave us a basic overview and discussed several of the surrounding sites in which ancestral remains have been found and identified along with other Ohlone artifacts. He introduced the efforts of Native American activism and how we now have a humanitarian approach when recovering human remains, with greater cultural awareness. Whether it is in archaeology or construction/development there has to be a respectful, guided and systematic approach.
During Andy’s visit a student commented on the personalized license plate of his vehicle which was something like ALA-2(don’t quote me on this!) Anyhow Andy replied that it was the location of the Ohlone Cemetery located down the road on Washington Blvd. This immediately caught my interest as I use to work at a pre-school on Washington which was located right next to the cemetery . I was taking the bus at this time and walked in front of the cemetery everyday on my way to work. I always said my respects in passing and often use to wonder about the peaceful little bluff overlooking the Blvd, and stretching along Paseo Padre. So after some research this is what I was able to dig up (virtually of course!).
“The mission cemetery is to the side of the church where many pioneers of Mission San José are buried. During the archeological (reconstruction) dig, the marble grave marker of Robert Livermore was located in the original tile floor of the church. It was carefully repaired and replaced in the reconstructed church. Many prominent Spaniards are buried in the floor of the mission church but only Livermore's grave is marked. Thousands of Ohlones are resting in the Ohlone cemetery located about a quarter of a mile down Washington Blvd. from the mission.”

Ohlone Cemetery Event Timeline
1806 Measles epidemic
1809 22 April: Dedication of Mission Churchs
1811 January: Ohlones Cemetery dedicated
1954-1955 - A. L. Kroeber and Berkeley Anthropologists side with the California Indians during Claims Hearings held in San Francisco and Berkeley. Kroeber identifies the Mission San Jose Indians as example of survivorship in 1955
1962 - Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Members begin to save and protect their Ohlone Indian Cemetery from destruction.
When I read that the Pioneers and other Spanish barons were put to rest in the mission’s cemetery and a separate cemetery was allocated for the Ohlones, I experienced mixed emotions. At first I assumed maybe this was a clear indication of the separation in classes between the Spaniards or other European settlers and the natives.  I thought about possible scenarios where the native population was decimated so drastically there would not have even been time, or space for a Christian style burial. On the other hand I also pondered the idea that maybe the Indians themselves actually preferred a separate burial ground for their people to be laid to rest in a more traditional manner, free from the mission’s domain. Also, the single monument/headstone at the Ohlone Cemetery indicates four thousand are laid to rest here, from my initial survey of the area it seems impossible to have accommodated this large number of burials in such a small area, which causes me to question the original cemetery boundaries. Nevertheless, on one of our more sunny work days I passed by the cemetery during lunch and wanted to share some images.

Here Sleep Four Thousand of the Ohlone Tribe Who Helped the Padres Build This Mission San Jose De Guadelupe Sacred be Their Memory

Is it just me or does that look like a young Andy on the right?


  1. Wow- what a nice touch! I'm really glad that someone got to venture over that way. It is interesting that the missionaries and Ohlone were buried separately. I hope I get a chance to wander down there myself! 4000 does seem like a very large number. I think you are right to question the original boundaries of the cemetery.

  2. Very nicely done. I found this an enlightening post. Cheers! David P.

  3. Thank you for sharing this information. I have always found old cemetaries to be very interesting. I think that it is good for the Ohlone to have their own cemetary, especially since it is most likely the Spanish and Pioneer's fault that so many Ohlone died. I think that I might go and see the cemetary.


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