Ookwe Park in Richmond honors Ohlone ancestors on sacred ground

RICHMOND, Calif. -- For several years, a tribal burial site lay waiting to be unearthed beneath a railroad track in Richmond, California. A recent railroad project uncovered years of history surrounding the Ohlone tribe of the Northern California Coast.

Funded by the Richmond Public Art Advisory Committee and the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission, Ookwe Park was created to honor this sacred ground and educate visitors about the Ohlone legacy.

"If you can imagine for thousands of years my ancestors lived and buried our people here on this land," explains Corrina Gould of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan. "This park is a gathering space for us to reflect, to dream, and to remind people that we're still here and a part of the fabric of the Bay Area."

The word "ookwe" means medicine, and the park harvests medicine plants amongst several burial site boulders known as shellmounds.

"Richmond has 32 miles of shoreline. Along that shoreline, historically, were many shellmounds," describes the mayor of the City of Richmond Tom Butt.

Gould adds, "Over the course of the last 150 years, many of them have been destroyed because of development."

The park features eleven granite boulders carved with symbols and stories from tribal members.

"Those rocks, they're kind of a symbol of their connection to nature, the three important elements of nature: water, earth, and wind," explained the boulder artist Masayuki Nagase.

These new shellmounds honor Ohlone ancestors and educate visitors on the tribe's rich history.

"It's a deep connection to the ceremonial place, to our tribe, and to future generations," says Gould. "They can still feel a part of the land that their ancestors have been a part of since the beginning of time."