There’s a new map showing the Shellmounds of Alameda.

It transposes the historic alameda shoreline onto the modern-day silohuette of the city. The map shows historic wetlands and tidal marshes, and the four Alameda Shellmounds.

Map of the
Shellmounds of Huchiun,
~Muwekma Ohlone Territory~
Showing the Area Now Known As The
City of Alameda

By: Gabriel Duncan

Description of The Map:

The base map is comprised of the present-day shoreline of the Alameda and Bay Farm area, indicated by a gray-hashed outline; with the land-mass filled in white. The overlay to this map shows the pre-1900 shoreline of Alameda as a solid black outline.

The Areas shaded in green comprise historical wetlands in the Alameda and Oakland Area. Alameda and Oakland were once connected. Alameda used to be a lush oak tree forest (Coast Live Oak), with verdant wetlands, and a thriving ecosystem. Alameda was also called la Bolsa de Encinal, or Encinal de San Antonio (a land grant reference.) First Peoples called this place Huchiun.

The green dots (or markers) indicate the approximate positions of historic Ohlone shellmounds present around 1908, and before. The shellmound locations indicated in this map were compiled from three different sources:

  1. N.C. Nelson’s “Shellmounds of the San Francisco Bay Region” [1909, University Press.]
  2. Imelda Merlin’s “Alameda: a Geological History”, [1977, Friends of the Alameda Free Library]
  3. Oakland Tribune [“Skull reveals mound”, Feb. 11, 1945]

What are Shellmounds?

Shellmounds are the resting place of the First Peoples of this area, Ohlone people. Ohlone people built these ancient structures over thousands of years. There are so many mussel shells in a shellmound they have a bluish tinge. Shells were deposited on land by birds, as well as humans, and the natural course of the circle of coastal life.

In the 1800’s until around 1980, Archaeologists and Historians thought that Ohlone people were extinct; and that these shellmounds were “trash heaps”. And they treated the mounds accordingly.

Americans used the shells and bones inside the mounds to make aggregate for concrete; landfill for levees; overspread to grade train tracks; and even fertilize plants. Grave robbers stole things from the Ohlone people buried inside the mound, and sold them to museums or collectors. The famous shellmound that Mound Street is named after (the “Sather Mound”) was used to pave Bay Farm Road on multiple occasions.

Shellmounds today are one of the most endangered historical sites in the Bay Area. But they still exist as a sacred resting place of the Ohlone ancestors. Alameda is the tribal homeland of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area, survivors of the Missions Fremont, Santa Clara, and Delores, and the Verona Band of Alameda County. For at least 10,000 years, Ohlone people have called this place home.

Get an 24×18-inch copy of this map:

Get this map as a thank-you gift for your donation of $25 or more to the Alameda Native History Project. 10% of your donation goes directly to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area.

References:

  1. Historic Wetlands; Gabriel Duncan 2023
  2. Historic Shoreline (1851-1877) Datasets produced by NOAA National Ocean Service
  3. Present-day Shoreline; City of San Francisco Department of Telecommunications and Information Services
  4. Tribal Regions; A Time of Little Choice: The Disintegration of Tribal Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area 1769-1810, Randall Milliken, Malki-Ballena Press, 1995
  5. Shellmounds of the San Francisco Bay Region, N.C. Nelson, University Press, 1909
  6. Alameda: A Geographical History, Imelda Merlin, Friends of the Alameda Free Library, 1977
  7. “Skull Reveals Mound”, Oakland Tribune, Feb. 11 1945
  8. Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area, Personal Interviews with Tribal Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh, Vice Chairwoman Monica Arellano, Tribal Member Joey Torres
  9. Muwekma History Presentation to Alameda City Council, Alan Leventhal, Dec. 5 2022
  10. Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area Website, http://muwekma.org, Accessed Aug. 10, 2023
  11. “Road Paved with Bones Grewsome [sic] Covering On Bay Island Thoroughfare”, Alameda Daily Argus, Apr. 23, 1901
  12. “Fixing the Streets”, Alameda Daily Star, Aug. 13 1908
  13. “Mayor Has Idea on Roadbuilding: Takes Exception to Old Mound Being Used for Dressing on New Road”, Oakland Tribune, Oct. 9 1908
  14. “Routine Ruled the Meeting”, Alameda Daily Times, Sep. 29 1908
  15. “End Hauling Dirt to Island From Mound”, Oakland Tribune, Nov. 22 1908

About the Cartographer

Gabriel Duncan is the founder and principal researcher of the Alameda Native History Project. He is a recognized descendant of the Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe. Gabriel was adopted at birth, and born and raised in the city of Alameda, California. ANHP is devoted to researching and documenting the Indigenous History of Alameda, fostering indigenous representation and awareness in Alameda, and educating Alamedans about their local (living) history in a modern, nuanced way.


NOTE: This map was updated on 08/17/2023 to show the “Pre-1900 Shoreline”, Historic Wetlands, and Present-Day Land-mass; which are layers 1-3 on the list of references, above. Subsequently, those references have also been updated to reflect this change.