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The struggle to preserve the sacred West Berkeley Shellmound

The struggle to preserve the sacred West Berkeley Shellmound

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BERKELEY, California – The struggle to protect and preserve the West Berkeley Shellmound has been going on for years. We take a first look at the vision for an Ohlone Cultural Park. Did you know that beneath this concrete lies 6,000 years of history?

“The West Berkeley Shellmound is the oldest known archaeological site or historical structure of any kind here in the Bay Area,” said Lucy Gill, Ph.D. in anthropology from UC Berkeley. Candidate.

Corrina Gould, tribal leader of the Lisjan Confederate Villages, has been fighting to preserve and protect the West Berkeley Shellmound for six years.

“But a private developer wants to own this land and build on it. As Ohlone people, as Lisjan people who have been here since the beginning of time, we also need housing for our own people,” Gould said. “But this is not the place for it. This place should be opened up for everyone in the Bay Area to learn about our people. This should be a place of prayer that has always existed.”

Kent Lightfoot is a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley who has researched the archaeological importance of the West Berkeley Shellmound.

According to Lightfoot, “The West Berkeley Shellmound was known to be one of the largest and earliest. It’s about 6,000 years old by our most recent radiocarbon dates and goes up to about 1,000. So it was used for at least 5,000 years.”

Gill notes that it contains knowledge of how the Ohlone people lived in the area.

Despite City Landmark status, the developer has been granted planning permission for this site.

Gill worked with Gould and the Confederated Villages of Lisjan to try to legally protect the site, as did the city of Berkeley.

“But we have a different vision for the best use of this land, a green space and a cultural park,” Gould said. “There’s no place in the Bay Area that speaks about Ohlone’s history and resilience and that this could be that place.” . Then why not the city of Berkeley? UC Berkeley has decimated our sacred sites and is home to 9,000 of our ancestral remains. Why don’t we put them back where they belong? Some of it is owned here in West Berkeley Shellmound. Children should be able to play in an open stream again like we did as children. A place where we can hold a ceremony like we’re supposed to. Not on asphalt, but on a green square where trees grow. And that’s not just good for us, it’s good for everyone who lives in the Bay Area.”

If you would like to get involved, you can visit shellmound.org to find ways you can help honor the Lisjan Ohlone and their sacred site.

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