Urban Adamah & COVID-19 Updates…

This Place

The Urban Adamah farm was a bare lot when we purchased it in 2013. After a great deal of fundraising, planning, permitting, soil moving, and laying of infrastructure, we were able to move our operations and programs from a temporary site to our permanent home. We are working to build our soil and grow an increasing variety and volume of crops (vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers). We are raising bees, chickens, and dairy goats.

Land & History

We are grateful to have the opportunity to build our farm and campus near the shore of San Francisco Bay. This area, where land, freshwater, and seawater meet, was once home to a great abundance and diversity of plant and animal life. This abundance drew the first human occupants of this land – Ohlone people – who for thousands of years and to this day have lived along these shores. The land on which we have built our farm is the un-ceded traditional territory of the Ohlone Lisjan community, a place called Huichin in the local Chochenyo language.

After several centuries of great human, cultural, and ecological destruction, there are hopeful signs of resilience and recovery. The local Ohlone community continues to organize to protect sacred sites and secure access to their ancestral land. And endangered rainbow trout continue to spawn in the re-wilded section of Codornices Creek, which runs along the northern border of our farm.

Urban Adamah recognizes and honors the native inhabitants of the land on which we have built our farm. Following is a brief overview of the history of Ohlone people in this area.

History of Ohlone People

The highly productive ecosystems of the Bay Area formed an almost perfect village site for Native Americans. Shellmounds, or small hills composed of sea shells, food waste, and human remains accumulated over thousands of years, indicate that there were Native American village sites in this general area some 4,000 years ago. It was once a lush and verdant landscape. The Berkeley Hills provided shelter from winds, and salt marshes provided shellfish and waterfowl for food.

Just north of our site, where Cerrito Creek and Middle Creek meet at the foot of Albany Hill, mortar holes in rocks and deep deposits of shells show it was once a village site. There also are remains of a village a mile or so south of our site as well, at the mouth of Strawberry Creek.

The Native American tribes who lived in this area are referred to as Ohlone. However, they did not comprise any single tribe, but rather many different, smaller tribes who inhabited the area from the San Francisco Bay all the way to the Big Sur coast. The Ohlone sub-group that occupied the East Bay were Chochenyo speaking people. The people who are indigenous to the area in which our farm is built call themselves the Ohlone Lisjan community and they call this territory, from Oakland and Alameda in the south up to El Cerrito in the north, Huichin.

Ohlone tribes traditionally subsisted mainly as hunter-gatherers and harvesters. They inhabited villages, moving temporarily to gather seasonal foods like acorns and berries. Cultural arts included basket-weaving, ceremonial dancing events, female tattoos, ear and nose piercings, and other ornamentation. Ohlone villages interacted through trade, intermarriage and ceremonial events. At its peak, the Ohlone population is estimated to have reached 10,000 to 25,000 people from the Bay Area to Big Sur.

Most of the Ohlone settlements of the East Bay were wiped out through contact with missions of the Catholic Church in the 18th and 19th centuries. Around the time California was ceded to the U.S. after the Mexican-American war (1848), Californians began to systematically slaughter those native peoples who had survived the missions or had remained independent of them. By the late 1800s, the population of specifically Ohlone tribes had dropped to fewer than 1,000 individuals.

As of 2005, there are at least 1,400 people registered on Ohlone tribal membership rolls. The federal government has and continues to deny Ohlone people any federal recognition, and their sacred sites continue to be destroyed and threatened by urban development.

To learn more about the history of the Ohlone people, read The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, by Malcolm Margolin.

To learn more about the current effort to protect local Ohlone sites and preserve Ohlone culture, visit Indian People Organizing for Change and Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.

Urban Adamah makes an annual contribution to the Shuumi Land Tax  / Segorea Te’ Land Trust to support their work to acquire and preserve land, establish a cemetery to reinter stolen Ohlone ancestral remains and build a community center and round house so current and future generations of Indigenous people can thrive in the Bay Area.

Corrina Gould leads the local community’s ongoing struggle for recognition, preservation of historic sites, and access to land. Urban Adamah first connected directly with Corrina in the summer of 2017. We invited her to come to the farm to learn about what we do, share with us important traditions to her people, and request her affirmation of our presence and purpose on this land.

Corrina shared with us that the traditional Ohlone Lisjan “protocol” for entering territory was to stop at the border, light a fire, and wait for runners who would come to see who was there. Runners would go back and tell the community about the visitors, and the community would prepare a welcome feast. The visitors would be welcomed for feasting, music making, and dancing. After a genuine human connection was established, the visitors would share the reason for their entry into the territory (passing through, needing assistance, looking for a partner, etc.). Corrina emphasized to us that the first priority was always connection and not business. There were no obvious territory markers, so protocol would happen at natural borders, such as Codornices Creek.

We exchanged gifts with Corrina – summer 2017 fellows presented her with a basket of farm produce, and Corrina gave Urban Adamah an abalone shell. (Abalone is a sea creature that lives in a large oyster-like shell; once used for jewelry making and a staple of the Ohlone diet, abalone is now endangered). Corrina shared with us that the abalone shell recalls great grandmother ocean and grandmother moon, who help regulate the cycles of life, including those that live within women. Abalone was the original Lisjan gold, before other people came and decided that a shiny gold piece of metal was more valuable. According to tradition, in the middle of the designs in each abalone shell is an animal. When Corrina gifted us the shell, she asked us to look inside for the animal and then place our wishes for Urban Adamah’s relationship with the local Ohlone community in the shell. The shell is now mounted at the main entrance to our farm.

Corrina and her community’s ongoing struggle for recognition, cultural preservation, and access to land are described in the film Beyond Recognition. To learn more about current efforts to preserve local sacred sites, visit Indian People Organizing for Change and Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.

Urban Adamah makes an annual contribution to the Shuumi Land Tax  / Segorea Te’ Land Trust to support their work to acquire and preserve land, establish a cemetery to reinter stolen Ohlone ancestral remains and build a community center and round house so current and future generations of Indigenous people can thrive in the Bay Area.

Urban Adamah is perfectly nestled between a restored segment of Codornices Creek, the last working windmill in Berkeley, the Bay Area’s only kosher winery, Covenant, and Fieldwork Brewing Co., a hopping brewery and pub.

Codornices Creek Watershed today covers approximately 2.9 square miles of land and is comprised of a large network of streams, creeks, channels, and storm drains that carry water from Berkeley and Albany to the Bay.

Rainbow / steelhead trout were noted in the Codornices Creek in the 1990s, and sections of the creek began to be restored by community groups including Friends of Five Creeks in the early 2000s. The stretch of the creek that lies at the northern border of the Urban Adamah site was restored in 2011. The trout run has continued to grow healthier. Restoration of native habitat and removal of invasive species is an ongoing effort in which Urban Adamah participates.

Codornices Creek (pronounced co-dor-nee-ces) is named after the California Valley Quail (codornices is Spanish for quail), once common in the area and the state bird of California. The Codornices Creek watershed was formed as little as 1 million years ago by the clash of tectonic plates along the Hayward Fault. As the plates clashed together, hills rose to form the hills of San Francisco to the West, and the Berkeley hills to the East, with a valley in between. An enormous volume of water from the Central Valley flowed through the Sacramento River and passed through the Golden Gate. There likely were some spectacular waterfalls and tremendous rapids. Some 8,000 years ago, as the end of the last ice age released water from glaciers, the sea level rose and the valley between the San Francisco hills and Berkeley hills became filled with water, forming today’s San Francisco Bay.

The sediments washing down from the hills joined sand and silt carried by tides and along-shore currents. They formed an alluvial plain – today’s flatlands. Codornices Creek, like many flowing from the East Bay hills, petered out in the wet flatlands before reaching the Bay. Soil on the Urban Adamah site consists primarily of clay, silt, sand, and gravel that have been deposited by erosion and flooding streams over time.

San Francisco Bay is an estuary where mingling fresh and saltwater create a distinctive and unusually productive ecosystem. Where the creeks and their floodplains meet the Bay, marshes and coves at the creek mouths serve as resting places for birds and nurseries for aquatic life.

For many thousands of years, and up until the 1800s, herds of elk and antelope would roam around this land and graze on native perennial grasses. Codornices Creek flowed into marshy grassland, followed by salt marsh and a long slough that supported fish and waterfowl.

More than a century of intensive urban development resulted in devastation to many of the habitats and species around the Bay. In 1961, residents began organizing to protect the Bay through Save the Bay, an organization that continues to lead the effort to protect, restore, and celebrate the Bay.

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