Did You Know: Ohlone Hunting and Gathering Traditions?
The Ohlone people in San Francisco originally lived in most of modern San Francisco. After the arrival of the Spanish, Ohlone population greatly declined. This was in part due to the fact that natives had no tolerance of new diseases. More importantly, the sudden loss of their economic way of living (hunting and gathering) made it impossible for them to obtain food.
The Ohlone - Past and Present by Lowell John Bean
Their diet was extremely diverse and relied on access to all the available resources. Ohlones ate acorns in almost every single meal. In contrast to other plant food, acorns didn’t need to be eaten or processed right away. They could be stored and preserved for long periods of time.
The acorn harvest was a huge event every year. During the acorn harvest festival, there would be dancing, trading, gambling, and ballgames. Families would have the rare opportunity to see daughters who had been married off to nearby villages. The celebration would go on for two weeks, and sometimes longer. In addition to acorns, the Ohlone gathered nuts, grasses, seeds, berries, and much more.
Their carnivorous diet relied on an enormous variety of wildlife: salmon, perch, stickleback, sea lions, ducks, insects, lizards, snakes, moles, mice, gophers, ground squirrels, wood rats, quail, doves, song birds, rabbits, raccoons, foxes, deer, elk, and antelopes. In today’s world, individuals might find some staples of their diet to be strange, however this diet was very normal—and highly nutritious! Only in recent times have global modern diets narrowed down to only certain species of domesticated animals like cows, goats, chicken, and pigs.
Hunters had an interesting strategy to hunt deer. The Ohlone hunter would camouflage himself and infiltrate the deer herd. The disguise was so good that the hunter would essentially become part of the herd. He would wait for the correct moment to strike down the deer with his weapon (usually a bow and arrow).
After the death of the deer, the task was not yet done. There were certain rituals that needed to be followed. The butchering and distribution of the meat was done according to ancient tradition: the skin was given to the hunter's wife, the brain was given to the elderly, while the bones and antlers were used to make tools and weapons. The hunter would rarely consume any of the deer he killed because it was considered bad manners and caused a dangerous imbalance in the spirit world.
The Ohlone possessed vast knowledge of the species and landscapes surrounding them, and developed various methods to hunt and collect their food. Hunters were experts in animal behavior, while the gatherers were in tune with the motions of the seasons. When San Francisco was formally settled by the Spanish, the Ohlone people's hunting and gathering practices were controlled and ultimately lost. Only recently have we begun to realize the depth of knowledge these people had about this area and its precious resources.
-By Sam Jain
About Last Week...
We worked twice as hard at our Thursday program since we knew our Saturday program was canceled. Our small but hardworking and extremely enthusiastic group went on an exploration tour to fetch all the remaining narrow leaf ice plants near Battery Crosby. Break time was education time when Eric gave a quick but informative talk on coastal dune scrub plants. With delicious snacks in our stomachs and plants on our minds, we battled it out with radish in the second half of the program!
More Stewardship Opportunities
Can't make it out to Lands End or the Bluffs or looking for something a little different? We have a wide range of volunteer opportunities in San Francisco. You can help restore other sites with the Presidio Park Stewards and Presidio Plant Patrol, or help propagate and grow native plants in one of our nurseries—Fort Funston or the Presidio Native Plant Nursery. This week, programs from our stewardship partners include:
Friday, August 30
1–4 pm - Presidio Plant Patrol at the Mountain Lake
Saturday, August 31
9 am–Noon - Presidio Park Stewards at Inspiration Point
Sunday, September 1
10 am–1 pm - Presidio Park Stewards at TBD
Wednesday, September 4
9 am–Noon - Presidio Park Stewards at Lobos
Our friends with the Presidio Park Stewards also send out a regular newsletter. Check out the archive or sign up via their website.
We offer regional newsletters for San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin. If you would like to subscribe to a specific regional newsletter, visit the Park Stewardship homepage.
The Conservancy offers great enrichment classes. To see a full schedule, visit the website.
Program Meeting Locations
Presidio Coastal Bluffs
We meet at the triangle-shaped parking lot on the southeast side of the intersection of Lincoln Boulevard with Storey Avenue and Merchant Road. This is adjacent to the Fort Scott baseball field. View a map of this location.
We meet at the trailhead in the Merrie Way parking lot off of Point Lobos Avenue (near Louis' restaurant). Get directions to the Lands End Trailhead.
Our work sites are easily accessed by public transportation. Use the trip planner on transit511 for more information.
Check out our volunteer page for the meeting locations for other programs in San Francisco.
See you in the field!
Eric, Yakuta, and Drew