Who are and who are not
the original people of San Francisco
and of the San Francisco Peninsula?
by Jonathan Cordero, Ph.D. and Chairperson of the Association of Ramyatush Ohlone
Embrace the Truth
Honor Our Ohlone Ancestors
As Ohlone, we believe that honesty and respect should guide our claims to identity and territory. Our ancestors valued honesty in all aspects of life and demanded that others respect known territorial boundaries. In many cases, deliberate deceit and the violation of territorial boundaries were severely punished, sometimes by death. In addition, we should be vigilant about the veracity of the information we share because the dissemination of inaccurate information inevitably creates tension in the Ohlone community and leads to misinformation in the broader public.
So in the end it does matter that we tell the truth, that we make claims based on what we do know rather than on what we would like to be true. Our interests should be guided by Ohlone principles and goals, such as honoring all of our Ohlone ancestors, preserving Ohlone culture, and sharing an accurate account of our history. When we make false claims in order to garner attention, to acquire financial resources, or to assert one Ohlone group’s interests above others, then we serve our interests not the truth, not the public good, and certainly not the greater Ohlone community. So with truth and honor as guiding principles, and in order to be clear about the relationship between identity and territory, I present a short list of questions and answers.
Who were the original people of what is now San Francisco County?
The original people of what is now San Francisco County were called the Yelamu, which is a local tribe within Ramaytush Ohlone territory. The southern boundary of their tribal territory was fairly consistent with the current San Francisco/San Mateo county line. There are no known living descendants of the Yelamu. Only descendants of the Ramaytush Ohlone have ancestors who were born in what is now San Francisco County; however, our ancestral village of origin was located in Pacifica, in what is now San Mateo County.
Who were the original peoples of the San Francisco Peninsula?
The original peoples of the San Francisco Peninsula were and are referred to as Ramaytush, which is the Chochenyo word meaning "people of the west." The Ramaytush spoke a dialect of San Francisco Bay Costanoan language, which was one of three dialects, including Chochenyo and Tamyen. There were six Costanoan languages in total: Karkin, San Francisco Bay (Chochnyo, Tamyen, and Ramaytush), Awaswas, Mutsun, Rumsen, and Chalon.
Of the original, approximately 1500 people who inhabited the San Francisco Peninsula prior to the Portola Expedition in 1769, only one lineage is known to have survived. Their descendants comprise the four branches of the Ramaytush Ohlone peoples today.
Who are not the original people of San Francisco and of the San Francisco Peninsula?
There are no other known living descendants of the Ramaytush Ohlone peoples of the San Francisco Peninsula, including the area now encompassed by the City and County of San Francisco. All persons making such false claims dishonor our ancestors and disrespect living Ramaytush Ohlone people. Among many offenses, false claimants steal our voice by speaking on our behalf without our permission and potentially profit from a false identity. Persons and collectives that support these false claimants perpetuate the marginalization and colonization of native peoples and potentially become complicit in assisting false claimants in furthering their misrepresentation and fraud. Please cease from either making false claims to Ramaytush Ohlone territory or from supporting such false claims.