Alameda Native History Project’s map of the Shellmounds of the San Francisco Bay Area is available now.
This map is based on N.C. Nelson’s “Map of the San Francisco Bay Region Showing Distribution of Shellheaps”, which was published in 1909. This map, represents the first-hand observations of shellmounds during N.C. Nelson’s survey of the San Francisco Bay Area. taken between 1907-1908.
Each marker on the SF Bay Area Shellmound Map represents a shellmound which Nelson marked as “present”. These mounds appear as solid dots in his map. Nelson also noted mounds which were partially present, as well as shellmounds he was told used to exist in the past.
It’s important to note that–in Nelson’s paper, “Shellmounds of the San Francisco Bay Region”, and similarly in many other publications of the time–archaeologists were engaged in what they considered “Salvage Archaeology“.
During the time that these scientists were ignoring the California Genocide, and Indian Wars, archaeologist, anthropologists, linguists, and ethnologists all decided that Native Americans were extinct; and that graves and other Native American Cultural Resources should effectively be raided, before they were destroyed by the encroaching colonizers, or gluttony of their civilization.
Notable shellmounds, like the Emeryville Shellmounds, Alameda Shellmounds (near Mound Street), and the Drake’s Bay Shellmounds were being studied during their destruction.
The Bay Area had over 425 shellmounds. Though many of them were already gone by the time Nelson conducted his survey of the SF Bay Area.
The Alameda Native History Project’s “Map of the Shellmounds of the San Francisco Bay Region” features 315 shellmounds, and unparalleled specificity within 100 feet.
This map is offered to the public in an effort to:
- Educate the public about the prevalence of shellmounds in the San Francisco Bay Area;
- Present “Native Land”, and “Indigenous Land” as something tangible, and literally all around us;
- Help illustrate colonization’s impact on Indigenous Landscapes, and Native American Cultural Resources, such as Sacred Sites, and Shellmounds–which are actually cemeteries;
Most of all, this map is made available to provide actionable information which the public can use to help “Save the Shellmounds”, and advocate for Sacred Lands which have been shrouded in secrecy since the passage of NAGPRA.
The Native American Graves Protection Repatriation Act was supposed to help protect land, by providing a Notification and Consultation process to Tribal Nations.
But the law effectively prevents the public from being told about the true scope, nature, and importance of Tribal Cultural Resources.
NAGPRA also allows development to continue under any circumstances, as long as a mitigation plan is presented and approved, according to the CEQA process.
However, when one actually reads the CEQA filings related to projects on Sacred Lands, you can’t help but notice the majority of these projects are approved without any input from Tribal Nations, at all.
Because there is no legal avenue for protecting land if you are not the Most Likely Descendant, as determined by the California Native American Heritage Commission….
And, because the public is barred from learning about the Nature, Scope, Location, Use, or any other information regarding Tribal Cultural Sites, Items, Graves, etc. it is virtually impossible for the public to advocate for the conservation, and preservation of Sacred Lands. Much less learn why these sacred sites are important, and should be preserved.
The blackout on this information also affects the ability of cities to participate in goodwill building, like re-zoning areas for open space to be returned to Tribes; or educating their citizens about the first inhabitants of this area, and the importance of preserving these heritage sites.