Muwekma Ohlone Garden at Monta Loma Elementary

When I first heard about the Castro Mound in the Monta Loma neighborhood and its subsequent destruction, I was further saddened to learn that there’s no marker acknowledging it. Now there is a memorial though, in the form of a garden, the new Living Classroom Muwekma Ohlone Garden at Monta Loma Elementary. I was happy to get to join the audience for the dedication ceremony last Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Representative Gloria Arellano-Gomez cuts the ribbon along with Superintendent Rudolph, surrounded by others involved in the project.
Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Representative Gloria Arellano-Gomez cuts the ribbon along with Superintendent Rudolph. Downloaded from Supt news headers. Also see this Facebook post from the school district.

The ceremony began with a land acknowledgment from Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Representative Gloria Arellano-Gomez. This was my first time hearing an Ohlone language spoken in person. (Videos of other land acknowledgments including Arellano-Gomez speaking in Chochenyo: for The Muralist, for Stanford. Article on the revival of Chochenyo. (Archive.))

I was very impressed by the children in the audience. All listened patiently, pretty much.

I was also impressed by the dedication of the volunteer who drove the project. I believe she said it took four years to bring it fully to fruition. I believe she said that she was inspired to think about the project on hearing about the Castro Mound.

I was too shy to take my own photos of the actual event, but I did capture some of the signs and plants.

Part of the text of the sign talks about the mound:

Just a few blocks from Monta Loma Elementary School, there was an ancient burial mound, known as the Castro Mound, that measured 400 feet long, 300 feet wide, and 10 feet high in the center. It was a sacred Ohlone burial site, a place of prayer of connection with the ancestors… In 1947, the mound was leveled and sold as “Indian Mound Topsoil.” In 1989, Stanford returned the human remains they had collected at Castro Mound to the Muwekma Ohlone tribe for reburial.

In 1925, a UC Berkeley anthropologist wrote that the Ohlone were extinct. Many of them had died from disease and hard labor in the Spanish Missions since the 1700s. But the Ohlone Indian people are not extinct. They are alive and thriving in the Bay Area to this day.

The Muwekma Ohlone use plants for food, tools, building materials, boats, baskets, medicines, musical instruments, games, and more. This garden features 30 of the many plants they steward. As you walk around the garden, look for signs that tell you more about the plants and how they continue to be used.

From a sign in the Muwekma Ohlone Garden at Monta Loma Elementary

A few of the plants. Some of them are missing the Chochenyo name, I guess because the old one is lost and a new one hasn’t been assigned yet?

One thing I learned from visiting the garden: rawwen, soap plant, can grow to be big. From seeing it growing along various trails, I had the impression it stays pretty short.

I walked to the garden, a little over 7 miles round trip. I’ll hope to visit again sometime to see how it develops over time. (Not sure if it’s accessible during non-school hours… I’ll ask first before walking.)

One thing I learned doing research for this: there’s also a Muwekma Ohlone garden at Stanford.


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