Ohlone Park held its 50th anniversary celebration Saturday afternoon, featuring celebrations of Native Californian culture, dances and music performances, and a rededication of a mural to a local tribe.
The park, which was formally dedicated on June 7, 1979, was built on BART-owned property and now includes a stretch of green space, children’s playgrounds, a community garden and dog parks, among other things, according to the city of Berkeley website. Saturday’s event was filled with family activities and used all parts of the park for its various exhibits. It was sponsored by the city of Berkeley as well as several organizations, including the Friends of Ohlone Park, Berkeley Partners for Parks, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and the California Institute for Community, Art & Nature.
The event began with a rededication of a mural at the east end of the park. The mural, which covers a building-like structure next to a playground, depicts the ancestors of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area across many generations, according to Tribal Councilmember Gloria Arellano-Gomez. She said the mural is meaningful because it acknowledges the land and past of her tribe and will inspire the tribe’s young people.
“We’ve always been here,” Arellano-Gomez said. “We’ve never left, and we continue to thrive.”
According to Richard Lopez, who is a member of a different tribe in the San Juan Bautista region, the mural also honored members of other tribes, including his great-grandmother and grandmother.
Although Lopez’s female ancestors, known as his “spiritual weavers,” did not live in the Bay Area, they served as medicine women for the tribes in the region, according to Lopez. He added that the mural was especially meaningful for him because it was evidence of the large impact his ancestors had.
“You have to follow the history,” Lopez said while looking at the mural’s depiction of the Native ancestors and landscape. “We lost all this.”
The Berkeley Historical Society was also at the event to further share the history of the park and the region, specifically the activism that resulted in the founding of the park itself. The organization had an exhibit with information, including news clips and photos, and had many speakers, including Berkeley City College professor Charles Wollenberg.
In addition to the history exhibit, many Native Americans also participated in an exposition displaying their art and culture, much of which was on sale for the public. About 15 participants tabled, including the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, which used the event to spread awareness about its efforts to “Save the Berkeley Shellmound” and to prevent building development on Fourth Street, which the Ohlone tribe considers to be sacred ground, according to the organization’s website.
“Everything has to come back to the way you found it,” Lopez said. “This is tribal area.”