Ohlones Seek to Save West Berkeley Shellmound

The Berkeley City Council chambers was standing room only filled supporters of the Ohlone Tribe.

Published May 31, 2018

BERKELEY, Calif. – Some of the supporters of the Ohlone Indians were turned away due to the fire code. On Tuesday evening, the Berkeley City Council heard from the ancestors of the original Berkeley population when a group showed up to oppose the construction of low-income housing on a parking lot that was constructed over the West Berkeley Shellmound. 

The West Berkeley Shellmound is the oldest site in the San Francisco Bay Area. The proposed construction project will be built on a 2-acre land. Berkeley now is home to a university, businesses and apartments on the land that the Ohlone used to have great celebrations, weddings and funerals. Of all Berkeley there is a 2 acre parking lot that was built on top of an Ohlone shellmound (burial site). This land was designated as a historical landmark (get dates) Even though the natural composition of the land has changed from natural dirt and shells, the Ohlone have been coming to this parking lot to pray and remember their ancestors for generations.

The Ohlone lived at a time when the people were in harmony with nature. Life was generous with plenty of food and nice weather. This paradise changed when the church tried to “kill the Indian, but save the man” and once gold was found the paradise was over.

Now whether the Ohlone can keep this 2-acre piece of California for prayer, or a developer using a new law SB35 and a limited definition of the word “structure” can dig up the land, is being decided by the courts.

”I think the meeting at City Council went well, I want to thank the hundreds of people that showed up and gave up their time, and the wonderful speakers that spoke. I want to thank our legal team, Michelle LaPenna and Tom Lippy for coming and explaining and sharing our legal strategy with the city council members, as well as their legal council and the city department manager,” says Corrina Gould. who is Lisjan/ Ohlone. “One of the things we want people to do, in order to make sure that the city of Berkeley does the right thing, is to send letters to the legal staff, the city planning department and the city manager asking them to do the right thing, to not qualify this project for sb-35 and to do it in a good way!”

Victoria Montano, Yaqui and Meshica, from Oakland let her thoughts be known. “I am at City Hall because I occupy Ohlone land, and it is very important to honor the land that you occupy. Corrina is like a second mom to me, she has always taken care of me, and so I am going to take care of her so for that I am here,” said Montano.

Shall the city of Berkeley grant the permit for 1900 4th Street?
PROS
CONS
Developer doesn’t sue the City
Ohlone people sue the city and win.
{The law is clear: SB 35 Sec. 3 – 65913.4}
Does not provide actual affordable housing.
Endless PR Disaster for destroying a Sacred Site and for prioritizing the monied interests of an out of town developer over the wishes of the Local Native people and residents.
Lose all credibility as “progressive” city
Cost in police overtime and city services for dealing with “Standing Rock” scale protest event/ demonstrations.
Bad Karma for being the “deciders” to desecrate human remains.
Cause irreversible harms to Ohlone people
Continue a legacy of genocide to California Native people, in the name of Berkeley

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