Native Americans left their mark on Tesla

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By Dan L. Mosier

Little is known about the early Native Americans who once inhabited the Diablo Range. Archaeological studies have indicated that the Costanoans (Ohlone) inhabited the San Francisco Bay Area to the west for at least 4, order
500 years, and the Northern Valley Yokuts inhabited the Central Valley to the east for at least 9,000 years. Both groups are believed to have inhabited the Corral Hollow region, which was on the boundary of the two ethnographic tribal areas. Both tribal groups were hunters and gatherers and, therefore, shared similar life styles.

Tesla Park - Corral Hollow Creek Wildlands

Tesla Park – Corral Hollow Creek Wildlands

The Native Americans did not have strict property boundaries. They were free to roam wherever they pleased, but careful not to annoy their neighbors. Their geographic sense was based on the drainage basin in which they were born and raised. It was along the streams that they traveled and lived. Corral Hollow Creek and all of its tributaries were probably occupied by one of the Northern Valley Yokuts tribes. Arroyo Seco Creek and all of its tributaries were probably occupied by one of the Costanoan tribes. It may have been that the surrounding ridge crests were the boundaries that they respected. They were aware that the next stream over the ridge was occupied by another group. The Northern Valley Yokuts traveled from the San Joaquin River to Corral Hollow and back again. The Costanoans traveled from the Livermore Valley to Arroyo Seco and back again. They came to the mountains to hunt wild game and gather acorns and other plant materials.

The mountains of Corral Hollow were rich in deer, elk, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, turkeys, and bears. The native peoples hunted the wild game with bows and arrows or spears. Chert and obsidian points are evidence of this activity. Along the banks of the creek are bedrock mortars, where acorns were ground to powder with stone pestles. Bowl-shaped mortars made of hard sandstone were also used and carried by the natives as they moved about. Roots, seeds, berries, snails, insects, and worms were gathered for food.

In some of the smaller, protected ravines, there are indications of a camp or village. Trash piles, or middens, are often found at sites occupied for longer periods of time. The middens are full of rejected items such as bones, stones, shells, and ash. Some of the natural caves in the area provided shelter where acorns were ground on the floor and petroglyphs carved on the walls.

The native peoples believed in the powers inherit in certain objects or places and these were considered sacred. An example is a bold outcrop of blueschist rock that archaeologists have termed a ?pecked curvilinear nucleated rockĀ. The blueschist rock surface is full of curvilinear-shaped, or horseshoe-shaped, pits, where the natives have pecked out pieces of the rock. It has been suggested that the forms are fertility symbols. The pecked out pieces of rock may have been offered to the young women. But little is known about how they were actually used.

Chert is plentiful in the Corral Hollow area and there are indications that some of the larger outcrops may have been mined by the natives. Chert was a highly desirable stone for making sharp points for arrows and spears. A well worn trail leads to one of the larger chert outcrops, where chert flakes were found in the ground.

The lives of the Ohlone and Yokuts as they knew it came to an end after the establishment of Mission San Jose by the Spaniards in 1797. They were rounded up and taken to the mission to be converted into Christians and to contribute to the community. But the Corral Hollow Canyon and Tesla parkland still hold many treasures about their traditional lives.

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