The Documentary

Feature-length documentary:

The Ohlone Profiles Project has documented many of our events working with a number of videographers. With the help of Can Tashora, we produced two 30 minute compilation videos, one documenting the Coit Tower Projection, another documenting the Sunrise Ceremony and the testimony to the Board of Supervisors.

Looking to the future, its clear that the return of the Ohlone tribe to San Francisco is worthy of a full length documentary. THe responses and support from multiple San Francisco communities, and the human story of the tribal members will make this a compelling story and every film maker I’ve spoken to has been excited about being engaged.

With the help of Joan Holden, we have written a film treatment and began applying for grants so that we can utilize the unique documentary footage we are gathering, do essential historical research and illustration, and produce a full length feature film about the Ohlone return.

Project Description

This film will document the re-emergence and return of the Ohlone, the native people of San Francisco Bay, exiled since the 1830’s and widely assumed to have been driven to extinction.
The Ohlone, who once numbered at least 10,000, lived around the Bay for at least 12,000 years.  Since the 1830’s, they have been invisible. The Native American occupation of Alcatraz in 1969, which drew representatives from peoples all over North America, included none from those who once fished and gathered eggs on that Rock.  As other tribes demanded rights and recognition, surviving Ohlone remained hidden in family networks on or near “rancherias” in Pleasanton, Hollister, and Carmel, with one group, now 2000-strong, in Pomona.  But slowly and warily, beginning in the 1980’s, Ohlone people have been reclaiming their identity. In 1986, Ann Marie Sayers won title to her ancestral lands near Hollister.  By 1989 four Ohlone bands had applied for federal recognition. In 1998 and 2010, Ohlone bands were recognized in formal proclamations by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, though the federal government still does not recognize the existence of a tribe.

In the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, open practice of traditional native ceremonies invited persecution and attacks; in some places it still does.   For most of the 20th century, many practices were prohibited by federal law.  But in June 2011, members of at least five Ohlone bands will make a month-long ceremonial return to San Francisco, including a dance performance at City Hall, a four day sweat lodge and bear dance healing ceremony at Yerba Buena Gardens over an ancestral burial ground, and a culminating appearance at the Novellus Theatre by the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe’s Humaya Singers and Dancers, as the opening and closing act of San Francisco’s acclaimed Ethnic Dance Festival.  The Ohlone will have come home.

This work-in-progress seeks grant and private matching funds to complete. Contact us to make your contribution to documenting the return of the Ohlone to the cultural and historical experience of San Francisco.