Who are “The Lisjan Ohlone”?

This article will introduce you to where Lisjan is; who “Lisjan Ohlone” are, what what “Viva Lisjanes” means.

Where is Lisjan?

  • Lisjan is the big valley that spans the area from Pleasanton, to the Altamont Range (Amador and Livermore Valleys) which were also rancherias Alisal, Bernal, Del Mocho, and more.
  • Lisjan homeland of Jose Guzman, who is a Muwekma Ohlone Ancestor and Captain of the Verona Band of Indians of Alameda County.
  • Lisjan is a Nisenan (Maidu) name for the area now known as Pleasanton, California.

Why does it seem like Ohlone people are only in the South Bay?

Because the Spanish Missions in the Bay Area were in San Francisco and the South Bay.

  • Mission San Jose is in Fremont
  • Mission Santa Clara is in San Jose
  • Mission Delores is in San Francisco

The present-day Muwekma Ohlone Tribe is comprised of all of the known surviving American Indian lineages aboriginal to the San Francisco Bay region who trace their ancestry through the Missions Dolores, Santa Clara, and San Jose; and who were also members of the historic Federally Recognized Verona Band of Alameda County.

Secularization and Mission Abandonment

When the Missions were abandoned, secularized (in 1833), or destroyed, indigenous people continued to live on Mission Land, in what was most definitely their tribal homeland.

“Mission Indians” who continued to live on their homeland after secularization were not “squatters”; as the California (Military) Governor proclaimed in 1847.

They were simply continuing to live and survive on their land, through the rise and fall of the California Mission System—which only lasted 64 year, yet had a profound and cataclysmic effect on all Indigenous people within their spheres of influence.

Many indigenous people stayed in this area, and blended in with Spanish, and Mexican work forces to avoid the American treatment of Indigenous People–which was well-known by the mid-1850’s to be sadistic and unpredictable. It was in the interest of survival that people blended in, and kept a low profile.

Verona Band of Alameda County

The “Verona Band” was an administrative name used to refer to a group of indigenous people who lived around the area where a train station named “Verona” was built by William Hearst in 1901. This is the Niles Canyon/Sunol Region of the Bay Area. Relatively close to the Mission San Jose.

Yo Soy Lisjanes

In 1921, a linguist interviewed a member of the Verona Band known as Jose Guzman. Guzman was considered an “Indian captain” and shared much of his language and life stories with John P. Harrington—the linguist. (Jose Guzman was not the only person Harrington interviewed.)

So where/who is Lisjan?

One of the things Jose Guzman said was, “Yo soy Lisjanes.”

As in: I’m Lisjanes, I am from Lisjan.

He was saying he’s from the area North of Verona: valleys now known as Amador and Livermore–but which had been split into many different rancherias by Spanish and Mexican colonizers, including Alisal, Bernal, and Del Mocho, among others.

One of the reasons that Guzman may have referred to the area around present-day Pleasanton by its Nisenan name could be that Jose Guzman’s parents were both from Maidu Territory, farther north, in a region where people spoke Nisenan.

Indigenous people are polyglottal by nature.

What does Chochenyo Mean?

Jose Guzman was the last fluent Chochenyo Speaker. Chochenyo is an Ohlone Language spoken in the East Bay.

When Jose Guzman passed, in 1934, some people thought Chochenyo would never be spoken again. But, his words and phrases from 1921 make it possible for the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe to reawaken the Chochenyo langauge today.

It all started when Jose Guzman said, “Yo soy Lisjanes”.

So when you recognize “The Lisjan Ohlone”; you’re recognizing Jose Guzman.

You’re recognizing the historic Verona Band of Indians of Alameda County. The present-day Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Viva Lisjanes!

Jose Guzman (1854-1934)