99% of Alameda Museum’s Ohlone Artifacts Were Stolen from Native American Graves

We’ve found a pattern of reckless and careless treatment of 100% of those stolen artifacts.

The Alameda Museum has roughly 186 Native American Artifacts. All of those artifacts were found in connection with Native American Graves, except for 2.

So, we can’t say ALL of the artifacts are grave goods. But we can say:

99.93% of Alameda Museum’s Indigenous Artifacts are Stolen Burial Goods from Native American Graves all over the place we now call “Alameda.”

Shellmounds are cemeteries, ancient structures, sacred sites, historical resources, and ancient structures built by the first inhabitants of this area, Ohlone people.

Shellmounds are made rows of burials stacked vertically and alternately; covered with the shell-laden soil found along the San Francisco Bay Region’s shorelines.

There were several excavations of the shellmounds of Alameda.

Artifacts saved from excavations attended by professional and amateur anthropologists/archeologists were donated to both the Alameda Library, and the U.C. Berkeley Museum. [Some artifacts were notably kept by a City Engineer by the name of I.N. Chapman.]

Alameda Free Library existed long before the historical Alameda Historical Society, or the Alameda Museum were ever founded.

The Two Alameda Historical Societies

To be clear about the two Alameda Historical Societies: one of these societies existed in the early 1900’s, and is mentioned in newspaper articles, as being interested in the early Alameda Free Library’s “Museum” in the Carnegie Library.

The second iteration of the Alameda Historical Society started in the 1940’s, and was instrumental in moving the Museum from the basement of the Alameda Free Library, into the old Alameda High School Auto Shop in the 1980’s. And then, into the storefront of the Masonic Building, on Alameda Avenue–where it remains [“lies in state”?] today.

Transfer of Artifacts & Records from Alameda Free Library to Alameda Museum

All of these artifacts taken from the mounds were transferred from the Alameda Library to the Alameda Museum when the Museum moved into the old Alameda High School Auto Shop.

Those artifacts weren’t the only things transferred to the Alameda Museum.

At it’s inception, the Alameda Museum was designated as the Official City Repository for City Records, and the Records of the City of Alameda’s Departments, including (but not limited to,) Alameda’s Fire and Police Departments.

I know this isn’t incredibly relevant, but it’s important to know this background information, especially when the Alameda Museum claims they don’t have stolen artifacts, or that the artifacts the museum displays aren’t Native American Grave Goods. You’ll know that 99.93% of artifacts in the Alameda Museum’s possession are Grave Goods because they were taken from the Alameda “mounds”, which are Native American Graves.

Out of the approximately 186 Ohlone Artifacts in the possession of Alameda Museum, only two of them are unrelated to Native American Graves.

The other 184 artifacts are directly attributed to the shellmounds of Alameda.

What’s more: the Alameda Museum’s pattern of wanton “inattention”, and reckless disregard for these burial goods are clearly stated in the museum’s own records:


Stone mortar and pestle found in one of Alameda’s mounds. The information on the pestle can be connected to a donation documented in the museum records: Subject: One Indian Mortar and Pestle. Date received: April 1954. Unfortunately, as a result of earlier inattention there is no further description, and as a result of later inattention during moves and minor catastrophes, it is not certain the mortar and pestles are together anymore, and the connection has been lost. Part of a collection of objects found in the largest Shellmound, also known as Sather’s Mound in Alameda, or smaller mounds. The excavations at Sather’s Mound were carried out in 1908 by Captain Clark, an amateur anthropologist. The items were donated to the Alameda Free Library, and passed on to the museum when the museum moved to a separate location. Date: April 1954 Mortar Acquired from: unknown Date: before 1991


Notes: 6/30/2020 MvL: The label has suffered water damage when a pipe in the museum burst. Any accession numbering of the mortars and pestles was lost and has been redone.

The above excerpt of an artifact’s description establishes the Alameda Museum’s pattern of careless disregard, and reckless neglect of Native American artifacts.

Grave goods belong in graves; not museums.

Mismanagement of Ohlone Artifacts by Alameda Museum:

  • Misidentified the tribe associated with these stolen Ohlone artifacts;
  • Mixed up mortars and pestles, (among other things) so they no longer match;
  • Lost records and identifying information about the stolen burial goods;
  • Carelessly and recklessly stored, handled, and moved Ohlone grave goods.

This mismanagement, and noncompliance with their Service Provider Agreement with the City of Alameda; with the standards and practice of commensurate professionals and institutions engaged in the conservation and preservation of historical records and artifacts; and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA); has resulted in damage to these priceless, irreplacable artifacts, which the Alameda Museum possesses without permission, or right of ownership.

This evidence of unreported and unclaimed, loss/damage to Ohlone grave goods; and the established pattern of careless and reckless neglect of Ohlone artifacts…

Should be reason enough for the Alameda Museum to concede it cannot adequately care for any of the 186 Ohlone artifacts it possesses; and return them to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area in the most expeditious way possible.