Pre-History

Ohlone Photo

The first inhabitants of the coastal area from San Francisco to Monterey were the members of the Ohlone or Costanoan Native American language group.   Although  the Ohlones shared cultural and linguistic similarities, the tribe consisted of eight distinct politically au­tonomous linguistic  groups.  The Santa Clara Valley along the banks of the Guadalupe Riv­er and Coyote Creek was occupied by the Tamyen or Tamien group made up of four or more tribes with their own territories within the valley. The natives congregated in numerous concentrations of small villages that were related to each other by kinship ties (Levy 1978)

Ohlone IndiansThese early people established their settlements near a dependable water source and other easily available subsistence needs.  Inhabitants in the northern portion of the valley were able to exploit both the river and estuary environments in addition to nearby grasslands and oak woodlands for fish, game, and vegetable materials.  Temporary camps were also established in scattered locations in order to collect seasonal foodstuff or materials that were not locally available.

The arrival of the first Spanish exploration parties marked the beginning of the end of the Ohlone lifestyle in the Santa Clara Valley. Spain began colonizing California as a response to the threat to its northern borderland by the Russian settlement at Fort Ross and English and American explorations and commercial expansion. California ports were also neces­sary to provide provisions for Spain’s fleet of Manila galleons in the Pacific.

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