We start with a recognition that Stanford sits on the ancestral land of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. This land is of great importance to the Ohlone people, and has been since time immemorial. Consistent with our values of community and diversity, we have a responsibility to acknowledge, honor and make visible the university’s relationship to Native peoples.
History of Muwekma Ohlone in the Bay Area
In the pre-Spanish Colonial period, Native peoples lived here in multicultural communities of a few hundred. At least five languages were spoken in the Bay Area. The ancestors of the Muwekma Ohlone traded, traveled and intermarried throughout the Bay Area and Central California, where anthropologists believe there were dozens of political units.
When the three missions in the Bay Area were established – Mission Dolores in San Francisco, Mission San Jose and Mission Santa Clara – a different kind of community emerged. People still traveled and married between those missions, but the relationships were controlled by the missionaries. Members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe today trace their genealogical descent to these three missions.
During the American period, Native Californians were again assaulted by colonialism and they sought safe haven on the lands of Mexican land grantees who were more sympathetic than American settlers. A community of Ohlone people formed in Pleasanton, drawing people from all over Central California. There are today multiple descendant communities in the Bay Area, but the Muwekma Ohlone are the only one with a tribal government dating back to the 1800s.
The Stanfords were several generations of owners away from the dispossession of the land where the university is located. They bought their land from Americans who had bought it from Mexican land grantees, and the nearest Native American families were living in upper Portola Valley and Woodside.
Today, the Muwekma Ohlone remain strong partners on many levels with the university, participating, for instance, in the ceremonial renaming of two buildings bearing Serra’s name. Two other buildings on campus, Muwekma-Ta-Ruk and Puichon, recognize the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, and the university continues to collaborate with tribal leadership on additional programs to bring their story forward.