(main text updated June 4 2018)
We, the undersigned members of the San Francisco, North Bay, and East Bay (and international) Reclaiming communities of Witches support Ohlone families and allies working to #SaveTheWestBerkeleyShellmound. Despite genocidal violence by the Spanish and later U.S. colonial governments, Ohlone people are still here. We acknowledge the Ohlone and neighboring California Indian tribes and nations, including the Pomo, Miwok, Patwin, Yokuts, Salinan, and Esselen peoples as the past, present, and future care-takers of the lands on which we reside.
The Reclaiming Tradition began in the 1980s when members the original collective were involved in demonstrations against the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. The origins of our spiritual practice include modern interpretations of earth-based ceremonial traditions of pre-Christian Europe. Our commitment to feminism, ecology, and justice in all its forms compels us to support Ohlone peoples. We do so with the awareness that as a community which has developed in the San Francisco Bay Area, our spiritual tradition was largely founded on occupied Ohlone territories.
In 1909, archeologist Nels Nelson created a map of the over 425 shellmound burial sites that ring the Bay Area. Many have been destroyed as a result of settler intrusion. One of the largest is buried below the Bay Street Mall in Emeryville. Today, the oldest shellmound and village site located at 1900 Fourth Street in Berkeley is threatened. Despite being named a historic landmark by the Berkeley Landmarks Commission and its ceremonial importance for Ohlone peoples, West Berkeley Investors has aggressively sought to build apartments, restaurants, and a parking garage on top of this site. We affirm East Bay Ohlone families whose statement says: “We oppose any desecration of our sacred site. Our sacred sites are not for sale. We will not allow our ancestors to be disturbed. This sacred site represents more than 5,000 years of our history and it also currently represents our living culture. We will not permit the desecration of a site that is sacred to our families, our culture, and our ancestors.”
We recognize the role of Ohlone women on the front lines of sacred sites protection, Indigenous rights, and cultural survival. This is especially important to mention in light of the rising epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirits across Turtle Island (North America). We also acknowledge the struggle to protect the West Berkeley Shellmound is related to larger Indigenous movements to defend sacred places against the forces of commodification, extraction, and pollution including efforts to protect Oakflat (Apache), defend Mauna Kea (Kānaka Maoli/Native Hawaiians), and resist the numerous oil pipelines through Indigenous territories.
Acting in solidarity includes following the lead of Ohlone elders, showing up when asked, contacting local officials, donating what we can, and working in our own communities to disrupt settler-colonialism and white supremacy. We commit to doing our part to support Ohlone peoples to protect the West Berkeley Shellmound and other sites for the generations of Ohlone peoples yet unborn.
Calls to Action
*Contact the City of Berkeley and tell them why saving the Shellmound is a priority for you. Email the city planner: [firstname.lastname@example.org]. E-mail the city attorney [email@example.com].
Call and e-mail the City Manager Dee Williams Ridley at 510-981-7000 or firstname.lastname@example.org [email@example.com] Within the next 36-48 hours.
*Donate to our legal fund https://shellmound.org/take-action/
*Learn more at https://shellmound.org
*Stay connected through social media:
West Berkeley Shellmound group on Facebook (https://tinyurl.com/hwe3696)