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Patrons and Partners Visit Sacred Ohlone Site
On September 9, Coastside State Parks Association Patron and Partner members and their guests got a behind–the-scenes view into the lives of the native Californians who lived in Quiroste Valley at Año Nuevo State Park. Mark Hylkema, State Park archaeologist and storyteller extraordinaire, took members and their guests back in time to a special place where wild animals were abundant, redwood forests grew tall, and significant historical events unfolded.
Lunch and Lecture at the Horse Barn
The day began with a buffet lunch and an opportunity to meet and greet friends, new and old. Then Mark wove engrossing tales about Quiroste Valley and the lives of the native people who lived there thousands of years ago. He told about the Ohlone--the Native American tribes living in the Bay area and Central coast. While the tribes were independent from one another in terms of language and village location, they were connected by way of trade and marriage. Mark focused his lecture on the large and wealthy local tribe and told many stories about their life in Quiroste Valley.
Quiroste Valley Visit
After the lecture participants drove to the Quiroste Valley Cultural Preserve in the northeastern section Año Nuevo State Park. The valley lies at the foot of the Santa Cruz mountains and is an area known to have supported a large village of native people. It is believed to have been one of the largest and oldest Ohlone villages along our coastline.
The Quiroste Valley site dates from about 3000-6000 B.C. and was a thriving community at the time of the first Spanish contact by the Gaspar de Portola expedition in 1769. The Quiroste people who lived in the valley used land and fire management to convert the resource-poor coastal scrublands and woodlands into productive grassland. As a result, the Quiroste Valley area is a wide-open, almost circular clearing, surrounded by hills and redwood trees. The native people had a special relationship with the land and influenced the health and maintenance of the plant and animal communities around them.
Portola Expedition Meets Quiroste People
As Mark told how the Quiroste people welcomed the Portola expedition, it was easy to imagine the scene … the expedition comes upon a wide grassy clearing with many native people. The explorers are surprised to see so many people living in the area. These native people kindly welcome the explorers to their village with food and gifts. In the center of the clearing is a very large circular house; the community center for the people who lived in the area. (In the journals from the Portola expedition, this house was called “Casa Grande.”) Standing in this exact spot and looking around, you can feel a strong sense of the place and the sacredness of land where this event happened centuries ago.
Mark was one of the first archaeologists to realize the archaeological significance of Quiroste Valley and he worked hard with state officials to get the valley protected as a State Cultural Preserve. During the archaeological digs at the site, Mark found evidence of human habitation going back thousands of years. In particular, there was evidence of a large pit oven found on the site, filled with hearth material and food waste, which was dated to approximately 1000 to 1200 A.D.
Mark showed many fascinating artifacts found on the land, including cooking and hunting tools and some beautiful projectile points. There were many “oohs” and “ahhs” as he passed around the treasures for everyone to see and touch.
As always, the time spent with Mark was very entertaining and highly informative. With the lecture and the trip to the Quiroste Valley, members spent several enjoyable hours learning about this special place and the people who lived there. Mark continues his work, along with descendants of the Ohlone tribes, to protect this sacred land.