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Profiles of Ohlone and Supporters

Tony Cerda, Chief

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vimeo Video- Tony Cerda, By The Ohlone Profiles Project

In 2006 Catherine Herrera introduced me to Tony Cerda. I have supported Ohlone organizers since 1993. I had no idea that 2,000 Ohlone live in Pamona California, or that their Chief is such an interesting, open, supportive, and powerful leader. For the last two years he has been performing ceremony to heal the San Francisco Bay at Coyote Hills. Last weekend, in Pomona, some of the tribe performed a play he has written to tell the story of how they fled San Francisco in 1856, making their way down to the Los Angeles River, and surviving there among the largely Mexican communities during the later part of the 19th century when so many California natives were massacred. – Neil MacLean

Ann Marie Sayers, Chair

Ann Marie’s Dream by The Ohlone Profiles Project.

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vimeo Video- Ann Marie's Dream by The Ohlone Profiles Project

Photo by Robin Morgan

Ann Marie Sayers - Photo by Robin Morgan

Ann Marie Sayers is the Tribal Chair of Costanoan Indian Canyon. She is the only Ohlone that has succeeded in obtaining title to her ancestors’ land. They survived by hiding in the remote canyon. She continues to serve them by hosting Ohlone and Native community events such as the annual “California Indian Story Telling Days,” an event she initiated, now in its 14th year, that brings over 200 people to celebrate Ohlone culture and the canyon that protected it.

Ann Marie is the most frequently called on Ohlone leader to dedicate new buildings or murals, or to open exhibits in San Francisco. Increasingly, as natives from around the world are invited to showcase their work in San Francisco, they ask to be welcomed by our original people. Ann Marie is called on in part because she has the connection, through the canyon, to the time when everyone knew this was Ohlone Territory.

Ann Marie has also hosted the Ohlone Profiles Project’s key events, our planning meetings, our broadcasts, and our networking meetings.

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YouTube Video- 2006 Profile of Ann Marie by Mel Van Dusen, Mark Taylor KMVT "Ohlone Indian Ann Marie Sayers talks about the importance of respecting the Earth, sacred ceremony, Indian history and life at Indian Canyon. Includes a beautiful song performed by Canyon Sayers"
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YouTube Video- KTVU, Channel 2 News Berkeley’s Bones, Native American Remains still reside in lockers, Ann-Marie is a voice in trying to re-enter her ancestors remains back to Mother Earth

Charlene Sul

Charlene Sul 09/09

Charlene Sul was born and raised in San Jose, California.  Her mother was born in San Francisco, her grandmother was born near Morgan Hill.  Members of her family have lived within this 50 mile radius for hundreds, yes, hundreds of years.  Her career and artwork is a reflection of a strong tie to this region of California, and incorporates both native Ohlone and Mexican cultural influences.  Today, Sul is an accomplished textile artist and acrylic painter.  She is considered an Activist in the sense that she not only serves as a spokesperson for her tribe, but she uses her artwork to influence others and her ideas to help others through self-actualization, discovery of purpose and self-inspiration. Charlene is founder of the Confederation of Ohlone People.  This mission of this organization is to organize Ohlone people and supporters of Ohlone people.  She invites readers to visit the site and register as a member.

Simultaneously, Charlene serves as the CEO for Sul and Associates, providing technical assistance with organizational analysis, program evaluation and program development strategies.  The firm focuses on helping organizations function to their fullest capacity.  She is truly interested in empowering others to serve their own communities, thus creating a better society.  Sul has a Master’s degree in Mexican-American Studies with an emphasis in Multi-Cultural Studies focusing on Native Communities from San José State University. She has studied at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, CA and the Vienna School of Law in Vienna, Austria. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Human Services Administration from the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, California and is currently teaching Ethnic Studies at St Cloud State University in Minnesota. She believes that each new acquisition of knowledge will only help resurrect and sustain Ohlone ways.

Personal Statement – I have over 8 years of college education and degrees to go with.  Not one of these degrees is in the area of art.  The skills of painting, design, textile construction and organization were innate skills refined and nurtured by Elders throughout childhood.  Over time, I have found that experiences gained through the processes of free learning and creating were often more valuable than the content any degree.  What I am talking about is the teaching of Spirit…  My hope is that through my work, families understand this and teach their children the arts, crafts, traditional culture and innate skills that have been handed down in their own families.

Video from 1,000 Hummingbirds:


Charlene can be contacted at:  csul@ohlonewellness.com; (209) 609-8987

Malcolm Margolin, Author & Publisher

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vimeo Video- Malcolm Margolin by The Ohlone Profiles Project

Mary Jean Robertson, Cherokee Radio Host
Co-Founder, Ohlone Profiles Project
I am a radio program producer. I have had the honor of producing live radio shows for the Bay Area Indian Community for 37 years. The Show is called “Voices of the Native Nations” and is aired on KPOO, 89.5FM in San Francisco. I arrange the interviews, coordinate the music and read the news and announcements. American Indian artists, poets, musicians, activists and spiritual leaders have all been featured on the show. I create programs on special issues: the radioactive Rio Puerco Spill, the Klamath River Dams removal, the protection of Glen Cove’s village and burial sites, the Yellowstone buffalo slaughter and many other issues.maryjean

I live, work and produce Radio in San Francisco, CA. San Francisco is the traditional homeland of the Costanoan Ohlone people. San Francisco is also a terminus point for the Federal Government’s Relocation program that moved many Indian families off the reservations and into the cities. The San Francisco Bay Area has been one of the most active Urban Indian Communities in the Country. The 1964 and 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island sparked takeovers protests and demands for Justice all across Turtle Island. The Trail of Broken Treaties, the Longest Walk, the Sacred Runs all started here. The International Indian Treaty Council located their information office in San Francisco because of their access to the Radio program as well as other media outlets. I believe the Radio program energized the communities abilities to pass bills like the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, The American Indian Child Welfare Act and raised awareness of the Indian Health Service sterilization of American Indian women without their knowledge or consent.

San Francisco was the place that Women of All Red Nations got started. San Francisco State and Berkeley founded the first Ethnic Studies Department for Native American Students. The first two spirit gatherings and celebrations were part of the founding of GAI here in San Francisco. Inter-tribal Friendship House is one of the oldest continuously functioning Urban Indian Centers in the country. My nation, The Cherokee Nation has changed its constitution to reach out to its citizen members who reside outside of the 14 county area in Oklahoma that constitutes its current boundaries. We have now what are called at-large counsel members and at large communities. I am one of the founding members of the Cherokee Society of the Greater Bay Area and their current Membership coordinator.

When my family moved to California in the 50’s we did not think too much about who’s land we were moving onto. I began producing radio in 1971 in San Francisco and I too did not think about the original people who’s land I was living on. In not recognizing the Original People here in the place where I live I became as harmful as any invader to a land that was not my own. I made an effort to recognize my own participation in the cultural genocide that was on going against the Costanoan Ohlone. When we acknowledge our participation in wrong doing and talk about it we can begin to heal the harm we have caused.

I am in the middle of a very special 4 year project to recognize the unrecognized. I am doing an Ohlone Profiles project with my friends, Neil McLean, Bernadette Zambrano. We have met with and asked permission of the Ohlone leaders to plan a process of cultural recognition with four ceremonies a year at four sites of significance to Ohlone cultural revival. Our four year goal is to establish an Ohlone tribal presence with relationships to ongoing institutions in San Francisco. I want to bring public visibility for Ohlone people, to share Ohlone culture and tradition and to begin sustainable relationships between Ohlone people, the Native American community, city agencies and the participants and audiences at our events.

I see my role as holding a circle so ceremonial art can happen in San Francisco created by the Ohlone people and supported by the Native community. My circle making art includes protecting the participants while encouraging the witnesses to experience insights that transform their understanding of the place where they live. I’m convinced that I can best re-energize the Native American movement by supporting Ohlone leadership to reappear. Recognizing Ohlone culture will encourage all of us to refocus on the core issues of honoring protocol and using prayer to connect with the ancestors of this particular land.

We have chosen four sites to host our ceremonies because of the people and organizations who’ve offered to support us, Ohlone pre-historical connections or the political and cultural space the site represents to San Francisco. The sites are Heron’s Head, Yosemite Slough, San Bruno Mountain and The Veteran’s Memorial Building. Ceremonies will be for healing the land, the bay, the ancestors and Native American Veterans.

I am partnered with two very significant Ohlone elders. Tony Cerda chairs a 2,000 member Ohlone organization that has never before had the chance to plan and execute ceremonial events at their own initiative in their native land. This project will fulfill not only their lifelong dreams, but those of their ancestors. Ann Marie Sayers already has a significant role in Ohlone Territory. She is called to San Francisco to officiate, welcome, honor and inspire. She is most often the sole Ohlone participant. This project will give her a chance to be surrounded by her people.

I have already seen a healing energy flowing through the Ohlone as they talk about their dreams and desires. We will have a living Cultural presence of the original people of San Francisco here in their own home territory.

Neil MacLean

Neil MacLean

Neil and Tony at Indian Canyon.

Neil and Tony at Indian Canyon. (photo by Leigh Merrymore)

1. History of community based practice leading to the Ohlone Profiles Project
2. Nine key ideas guiding my work in the Ohlone Profiles Project


1. History of community based practice:

2007 – present: Ohlones Profile Project

2004-2008: Teaching Ohlone and CA history at New College in collaboration with Professor, Milly Henry.

2002-present: Producing media events with Ohlone

1999-2007: Nationwide organizing of communities of the Pacifica Radio Network, over 40 public events presenting over 150 radio programmers and community activists, in four of Pacifica’s broadcast areas: San Francisco Bay Area, Houston Texas, Washington DC, and Los Angeles. I concluded that a training center for community radio programmers could have a very positive impact on the network. There was no public university willing to cater to the non-professional community radio stations. I had already built three recording studios as part of the punk and rock recording industry in San Francisco so I approached New College of California with the concept of becoming such a training center. I built first a recording studio and next he built a forty seat classroom equipped with live broadcast capabilities. The broadcast classroom became a center of support for KPFA where Flashpoints, La Onda Bajita, the Women’s Show, Queer Channel, made live, community based broadcasts.

The Ohlone Shellmound Peace Walk also began making its annual trek to Ohlone sacred sites, stayed in the college broadcast theater, and broadcast over KPOO and KPFA.

1996-2006: Founded the Young Adult Profits Project, a nationwide training for Unitarian Universalist young adults in prophetic leadership. The concept was to inspire and support radical justice UU ministry students. The project eventually organized seminars at all of the major UU divinity schools, most prominently three consecutive years at Harvard’s Divinity School. Several student’s from New College attended these seminars, and the curriculum we studied gave us  a window on Humanist history and a prophetic impulse that lives in community based counter narratives and expresses itself through the community radio movement. One of the leading edges of that expression since the 1970s has been the radio format that Native American programmers have developed. Mary Jean Robertson’s Voices of the Native Nations is one of the leading examples.

1996-1997: Produced John Trudell in San Francisco, introduced by Rosemary Combra, a Mutsen-Ohlone Chairwoman.

1996: Produced John Trudell as the keynote speaker and workshop organizer for 1200 Unitarian Universalists Justice Minister’s in Washington, D.C.

1989-1994: Made three trips to Scotland to study the impact of English conquest on the tribal people’s of the highlands and islands.

1992: attended Celebration of 500 Years of Resistance to Colonization in Chela Guatemala. Ten days of meetings and ceremonies where Native people from North and South America met together including drafting a survival statement from the indigenous peoples of the hemisphere to the United Nations. The ten days concluded with a “Columbus Day Parade” in which 40,000 people, mainly Mayan’s from the surrounding hills, showed their beauty and respect for their culture.

1987-1995: Student of Holbrook Teeter, community based trauma recovery leader, specializing in support of Salvadorian refugee torture survivors and maximum security prisoners and their families

1984-1987: leader of holotropic breath workshops, which helped formulate the concept of not individual recovery but social, ethnic and class-based collective recovery.

1975-1984 Re-evaluation counsel practioner. First practical application of individual recovery from discrete trauma.


Its rare to have such a close meeting

Its rare to have such a close meeting

2.) 9 Key Ideas influencing my work with the Ohlone people:

1)      The most important insight or lesson from John Trudell is that we all come from tribes. We are all indigenous to some place, and we have all been alienated from that land. The process of alienation was violent and traumatizing. It has impacted our abilities/reduced our ability to be fully human. Recovering our humanity involves understanding the narrative of that displacement, and recovering from the trauma of the violence. People who are indigenous are at one end of the spectrum of humanity, and we can learn a great deal about our alienation from them. Sadly, the dominant tendency is to further target indigenous people, often in reaction to how they remind us of our painful alienation.

2)      My tracable indigenous ancestors are from Iona, Mull, and Coll in the Highlands and islands of Scotland. Iona, the “Western most Isle,” was the burial ground for chiefs and later the kings of Scotland since before history (throughout Christian era and before.) So my tribe has that legacy of caring for the graves and the memories of the ancestors through song and story. My tribe has the oldest written songs in Europe, primarily dirges that the pall bearers sang and played on the bagpipes and drums as they carried the corpses across the highlands and channels to the island.

Worth noting about Iona: many recognize three historical capitals of Christianity: Rome, Constantinople and Iona. Iona was the capital of Celtic Christianity. One characteristic of Celtic Christianity was, for hundreds of years, refusing the concept of original sin

3)      In my early adolescence while camping, I heard spirits singing, especially in the water, and felt they were in a duet with people’s that were no longer present. I have always wanted to hear that other voice, and to hear that duet between nature’s water spirits and a human culture. I am beginning to get a sense of fulfilling that quest as I am supporting the Ohlone return to San Francisco.

4)      a critical success of the environmental movement was protecting species that are near extinct. The lack of protection for human cultures is appalling. The touchstone for deep ecology is the sense that we can learn most from human cultures who have chosen different paths of adapting to the environment.

4)      When trauma isn’t verbalized, human responses are isolated and misunderstood and persist without a human context. To imagine entire societies in that condition is to gain a window on post-modern life and the potential of the indigenous movement for reorganizing our social relations and giving each of us a greater historic and cultural depth of understanding about who we are. The people who are looking through these windows into our collective past include human rights advocates, truth and reconciliation efforts, and trauma recovery psychologists who focus on transforming exile and colonial culture.

5)      Throughout the eighties I practiced trauma recovery and learned some important lessons.

  • A.      You can’t undo trauma.
  • B.      You can be more conscious of what happened and how it effect’s you.
  • C.      This process of Ohlone renewal is intended to increase our understanding, first of all of the Ohlone past and present, second of all of native Americans more generally, third of we who are settlers and our  society.

6)      These concerns lead me to the project of developing relationships between the Ohlone tribe’s and the environmental community, the human rights and veterans community, and the arts community.

7)      Its useful to understand that violence and the subjugation it enables are shameful. The shame causes us to repress knowledge of the violence. We propagandize to avoid it. We reinterpret history and our own mental states in order to deny it. Contact with first people’s elevates us by helping us confront these patterns of denial. Thus we have an active role in our recovery and are not merely learning from the original peoples, but are learning with them about our own histories and our own systems of repression.

8)      The Ohlone tribe is not what it was before contact and it will never will be that again. But the process of supporting the tribe and engaging in dialogue with it can only help the tribe to revive and help us by recovering the truth about our history.

9)      Because there is near universal consensus that the tribe is extinct, every media event honoring them breaks that false consensus, opening us to new possibilities and truths about the past and the future.