Who are the people who inhabited the area now known as the City of Alameda?

A Frequently Asked Question about Ohlone People, the First Alamedans, and the Tribe Fighting for Federal Re-Recognition.

This is one such reply.

Hello […],

Thanks for reaching out.  To the best of our knowledge, the East Bay Tribal Government is the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area has documented ties to this area going back to the 1800’s.  The Muwekma Ohlone Tribe was once a Federally Recognized Tribe, promised a “land base” by congress, until their errant removal from the Recognized Tribes list.  This article by Charlene Nijmeh has more information about the history of Muwekma, as well as a Call to Action to help advocate for the re-recognition of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Muwekma have also been known as Ohlone, Chochenyo, Costanoan, the Verona Band, and “Lisjanes”.

Ohlone: was the name of a tribal group a little north of Half Moon Bay, which was encountered by the Spanish “first”, and therefore attributed to the people north of Santa Cruz(?), in the San Francisco Bay Region.  [Oljon, Milliken “A Time of Little Choice”.]

Chochenyo: is the Ohlone Language that was chiefly spoken in the East Bay.  [Harrington 1921]

Costanoan: was a Spanish term that needs no translation other than to point out this is someone who lives on the coast.

Verona Band: 

Although the Muwekma were known by many names, the Indian agency labeled us “Verona Band,” after a railroad station. And although Verona Band was included on the list of tribes eligible for receiving land in 1914, 1923 and 1927, Dorrington reported that the tribe was not in need of land. Verona Band was then removed from the list along with 134 other California Indian bands…. The two departmental actions of mislabeling the tribe and failing to secure for us the land base which had been mandated by Congress marked the beginning of our political erasure.

Charlene Nijmeh, Chairwoman of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lisjan: is a word that Jose Guzman [a famous Muwekma ancestor] used in a language interview with J.P. Harrington, in 1921.  It’s unclear how extensively the word was used, or what it even means.  But Jose Guzman considered himself Lisjan [“Yo soy Lisjan”], and another Harrington interviewee, Angela Colos, thought the northern boundary of the name “Lisjan” was around where present-day Hayward is.  However, the actual boundaries of Lisjan were never explicitly enumerated, and the northern boundary mentioned here is not even mentioned with confidence by Angela Colos.

To make the issue of Lisjan more confusing:
  • “Lisjan” is a place name for Pleasanton, California in a different language, called Nisenan.  (Spoken by a tribe whose capital is in Nevada City, California, 100 miles away from Pleasanton.) [1967 Nisenan Dictionary & Text, Uldall and Shipley.]
  • Lisjan does not appear in any Spanish-Period Mission Records.  [Milliken]
  • “Lisjanes” does appear on Richard Levy’s map of Bay Area Tribal Groups in 1967, [in Robert Heizer’s Handbook of North American Indians (Vol. 8 California).] Levy’s contribution to Heizer’s handbook cites Harrington’s work, only; but does not mention “Lisjanes” anywhere in the text, itself. [Milliken]
  • A group claiming to be the “Confederated Villages of Lisjan” appeared in 2017, headed by Corrina Gould, who claims to be directly related to Jose Guzman.  But these claims have never been proven; Gould has never been acknowledged as a Muwekma “Descendant” (a real form of acknowledgment for un-enrolled members of a tribe.)  Currently, the Confederated Villages of Lisjan, INC. is barred from doing business in California by the Franchise Tax Board.

The Chairwoman of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area, Charlene Nijmeh recently put out a Call to Action.  She asked us to contact our congressional representatives to demand the Federal Re-Recognition of the Muwekma Tribe by an action of congress.

If the Muwekma Tribe were re-recognized, our Ohlone neighbors would be granted a “Land Base” by Congress; a Federal Land Trust would be created to hold land for future generations; and the Muwekma Tribe would finally have legal standing to petition to block development which threatens to harm or destroy cultural and sacred Ohlone sites.  This would actually make Sogorea Te Land Trust superfluous, because hundreds of acres of Eastern San Francisco Bay Area land would be effectively “rematriated” by the recognition of Ohlone Tribal Government, the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hope this helps answer your question.