Berkeley City Council to vote on holding cultural presentation with members of Ohlone community

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Berkeley City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to hold a special City Council meeting on Ohlone tribal history and culture, as well as to further discuss the placement of signs acknowledging the land of the Ohlone peoples.

Vice Mayor Sophie Hahn and Councilmember Cheryl Davila introduced the item to vote on scheduling a special meeting with members of the Ohlone community. They specified that the meeting should last at least one hour before a regular City Council meeting. They also proposed to discuss additional background information for the placement of signs stating “Welcome to the City of Berkeley Ohlone Territory,” which are currently located at the city’s entrances.

Prior to the incorporation of the city of Berkeley, the Ohlone community was one of the indigenous groups that inhabited the Bay Area. They established sacred sites and burial sites in Berkeley.

Corrina Gould, spokesperson for the Confederated Villages of Lisjan/Ohlone, said she believes it is important for the current residents of Berkeley and the Bay Area to learn about its history and the genocides that transpired.

The suggestion to change the signs at Berkeley’s city limits to recognize Ohlone territory was introduced in January 2018 by Davila. According to the agenda, an adopted measure was agreed to by the City Council in October 2018, referring to the city manager to implement the change.

According to Gould, the act of preserving the cultural importance of the West Berkeley Shellmound and Village site inspired the community members to petition the City Council for the sign change.

The objective of the referral settled in 2018 was to highlight and recognize the Ohlone peoples as the original residents of the land now called Berkeley, as well as to commemorate the city’s indigenous communities.

According to the agenda, the City Council expressed interest in learning opportunities to broaden the historical context, including a potential webpage to disclose historical and cultural information about the Ohlone peoples on the city’s website.

“The city of Berkeley has a proud history of recognition, inclusiveness and diversity,” the agenda states. “Learning about their history, ecological practices, and cultural values will provide important information about how Berkeley can be more resilient, reduce our climate and environmental impacts, and how we can all become better stewards of our community, our land, our water, and the planet.”

Contact Olivia González-Britt and Tarunika Kapoor at [email protected].