Shellmound

California has a rich history of Native American culture. For thousands of years before colonization, the Ohlone people inhabited what we know today as the Bay Area. The Ohlone constructed shell mounds as sacred burial sites made out of primarily oyster shells. In 1876, the top of the mound was flattened out and turned in to a dance pavilion. By this time the Ohlone people were long gone and “civilization” was thriving but the remains of their ancestors in this sacred burial ground were literally being danced upon by those simply looking for a fun night out. In the 1920’s the dance pavilion was replace by a paint factory, once again covering up and building over the burial of sacred remains from a culture that was once rich not only in size but in linguistics. In 1999 when the paint factory was shut down it was quickly replaced by Emeryville Bay Street for shopping and entertainment. Despite protest from Native people and their allies, the sacred burial ground was covered up for the 3rd time. Hundreds of Ohlone remains were discovered in the construction of the Bay Street shopping center. About 300 bodies were reburied in an unmarked site in the shopping center and another 100 were removed. One archaeologist of Ohlone decent, Kathy Perez, when uncovering remains, immediately reburied it while pleading for forgiveness.
The beautiful, fun shopping and entertainment center is actually the site of a sacred Ohlone burial ground. A blatant representation of capitalism sits atop the remains of Ohlone ancestors.

Cite this Page:

Ashlyn Warny, “Shellmound,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed October 16, 2018, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/180.

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