Tribal History

The Lisjan people have lived in the territory of Huchiun since the beginning of time.

For thousands of years, hundreds of generations, the Lisjan Ohlone people have lived on the land that is now known as the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area. We did not own the land, we belonged to it. Generation after generation, we cultivated reciprocal relationships with the plants and animals we shared this place with and developed beautiful and powerful cultural practices that kept us in balance.

The Confederated Villages of Lisjan is one of many Ohlone tribes, each with its own geography and history. Our tribes, cultures and languages are as diverse as the ecosystems we live within. When the Spanish invaded in the late 1700s, in their ignorance they called us Costanoan, people of the coast. In the 1960s and 70s, inspired by the Black Power and American Indian Movements, we organized and renamed ourselves Ohlone. But there are 8 different bands of Ohlone people, with connected but different territories and languages. The Lisjan speak the language Chochenyo.

The Lisjan are made up of the seven Tribes that were directly enslaved at Mission San Jose in Fremont, CA and Mission Dolores in San Francisco, CA: Lisjan (Ohlone), Karkin (Ohlone), Bay Miwok, Plains Miwok, Wappo, Delta Yokut and Napian (Patwin). Our territory includes 5 Bay Area counties; Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Napa and San Joaquin, and we are directly tied to the “Indian Town” census of the 1920’s and the Verona Band.

Villages of Lisjan Territory, Native American Heritage Commission

We have survived over two centuries of genocide and colonization during the Spanish, Mexican and American eras. Today, we continue to inhabit our ancestral homeland, fight for our sacred sites and revitalize our cultural practices.

“All of these things that the United States tries to do to squash us have not worked. It’s failed. We still know who we are. We still know how to pray in our own way. We still know where our sacred sites are. And we know how to bring back our language.”

—Corrina Gould, Spokesperson of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan
Ann Marie Sayers, Ruth Orta, Corrina Gould and Caleen Sisk at Living On Ohlone Land, Photo by Christopher McLeod

The colonization of this land began with the reign of terror inflicted by Spanish soldiers and missionaries who sought to convert all Indigenous people into Catholic subjects of Spain and steal their land. The Missions were plantations, built by slave labor and sustained through brutal physical violence and extractive land practices. The Spanish brought deadly diseases, invasive species and Christian ideology based on human dominion of the natural world with devastating consequences for the Lisjan people and all living beings they shared the land with.

After a brief but harrowing Mexican rancho period, Lisjan survivors faced extermination policies of the United States that aimed to eliminate California Indians entirely. In a climate of virulent racial discrimination and state-sponsored vigilante killings, most Lisjan families survived by isolating themselves and concealing their identities. Cultural and spiritual traditions were forced into dormancy or secrecy, and much knowledge perished with the passing of generations.

Despite these concerted efforts to erase our history and identity, the Lisjan community forms a diverse and vibrant constellation of tribes and families. Utilizing a wide array of survival strategies to navigate a profoundly altered 21st century world, we continue to revitalize our cultural practices and uphold our responsibilities to protect and care for our ancestral homeland.