A picture of the staple in the Ohlone's diet. Taken from the location of the Belmont Senior Center. Indian relics were found before constuction took place of the current center in Twin Pines Park.
How and where the Ohlones lived
The Ohlone Indians were an Indian tribe that lived in the Bay Area before the Europeans arrived. Originally, the name "Ohlone" was the name of a small Indian tribe that lived on the coast near Pescadero.Now we use the name Ohlone to call all the Indians who live around San Francisco Bay.
Each tribelet had a major village site, but moved to various harvest areas as the seasons progressed. The Ohlone Indians were sedentary, but moved to different areas for things like an acorn harvest, which needed the whole tribe to help with. Even still, the area they moved around in was small. Wealth was not measured in the amount of possessions someone owned, but what you could share with others.
The Ohlones' lifestyle
Their homes were built of a willow frame covered with branches. They were designed to last for one season and only the willow frame might be reused when the tribe returned to the area for the next harvest. Sweat houses were usually built by excavating an area near the bank of a stream. They had low ceilings and a door so small that the men had to crawl into the sweathouse. They were used by men only for the purposes of cleanliness and had some religious significance.
The Ohlone boys and men wore no clothes in the summer and used capes or robes in the winter. They also wore shell necklaces, earrings, and nose rings. Their hair was braided or tied on the top of their head with a buckskin thong. The girls and women wore aprons with a different design on the front and back. When it was cold they wore capes tied under the chin made of rabbit or deer. They wore shell and feather necklaces, and had tattoos of lines and dots on their faces, and their hair was tied on top of their head with a buckskin thong. Both men and women plastered themselves in mud for warmth, and had animal skins for blankets.
The Ohlones' food supply
The food the Ohlone Indians ate were various berries, vegetables, and meat. The vegetables they ate, which the women collected, included wild onion, wild carrot, and mushrooms. The berries they collected included strawberries, wild grapes, and huckleberries, which also the women picked. The men hunted animals such as rabbit, deer, and antelope. Another major food staple that they ate were acorns. A whole family would pick acorns, which would be boiled to be used in a thick porridge or a bread. They also caught some seafood such as fish, shellfish, clams, and oysters.
The tools that the Ohlone Indians used were bows and arrows for hunting, which were made of yew, and the bowstrings were made of sinew or vegetable fiber. The arrows had three feathers attached to a hardwood shaft with asphalt. The arrowheads were made of chert, obsidian or bone. They also wove many baskets, which were made of iris, cattail, bulrushes, and willow. These were used to trap fish, to collect the harvest, sifting seeds, and boiling water. Other household tools included stone mortars to make acorn meal, soaproot brushes to prepare acorn meal, and animal bones for cleaning and scraping skin. Nets were used to hunt small animals, and tule balsas were used as water craft.
The Ohlones' culture
The Ohlones lived in a world of witchcraft and magic. A fear of sorceries may have been used as an ethical code. Offerings were made to the gods in the form of prayer sticks and pole offerings. The shamans(medicine men) were powerful, as they could cure disease. They led ceremonies that included singing and dancing to insure a good crop.
Ohlone pastimes included singing hunting or love charms. The Ohlones also enjoyed listening to musical instruments such as whistles and rattles. There were all kinds of dances for all occasions, including, religious ceremonies, a war victory, or a marriage. The games that they enjoyed playing were a ball race game where a wooden ball was kicked along a course; "Shinny", which was a game where a wooden puck was hit along a course; the hoop and pole game, where spears were thrown at a moving hoop; and a game where people tried to guess how many bones were hidden under a mat.
Trading was a business enterprise to the Ohlone Indians, as well as a form of entertainment. They traded salt, pine nuts, clam shells for obsidian, abalone shells, and beads.
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