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San Ramon LogoIndians of the San Ramon Valley

The Rancho Era

Padre teaching neophytes the art of brandingIn 1833 and 1834, just as the Missions San Jose and San Francisco were being prepared for secularization, two Ranchos were granted by the Mexican government in the San Ramon Valley.  Both were called Rancho San Ramon.  The pastoral rancho era began, with lands carved from former Mission areas. The cattle and sheep brought to these Ranchos were probably former mission livestock.  Cattle hides and tallow provided the economic basis for the Ranchos.

Jose Maria Amador's Rancho San Ramon eventually included over 16,000 acres, with his headquarters in today's Dublin.  He employed Indian and Mexican workers and developed an industrial center which produced leather goods, harnesses, wagons and furniture.  Mariano Castro and Bartolo Pacheco, owners of the northern Rancho, lived elsewhere because of the aggressive Indian tribes in the area.

Mission San Jose became a parish church with no more temporal control over the Indians in 1836.  The Indians scattered to work on the Ranchos and at the Pueblo of San Jose.  Some more recent recruits went back to their tribes in the Central Valley.  On a rancheria in Pleasanton, called Alisal, Indians from different tribes preserved their customs and traditional religious practices for many years.

American California

When the Gold Rush began, it transformed California from a slow-paced Mexican territory to a lively and populous American state.  Although the Indians controlled most of the inland area, thousands of miners invaded these traditional lands and decimated these tribes.  California, which entered the Union as a free state in 1850, passed laws which allowed Indians to be enslaved by any white man.  Children and young women were taken and sold as servants.  Not until 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, was the so-called "Act for the Protection of the Indians" repealed.

Choris BasketsThere are 242,000 Indians in California today, more than 40,000 of them California natives.  Most live in urban areas, but many are still part of over 100 traditional communities in rural rancherias and reservations. 

The traditional Tatcan and Seunen tribes of the San Ramon Valley are no more. The artifacts unearthed next to creeks by bulldozers and the bedrock mortar holes on Mount Diablo remind us that a culture of great antiquity existed in this Valley just 250 years ago.

Sources:

  • Randall T. Milliken, An Ethnohistory of the Indian People of the San Francisco Bay Area from 1770 to 1810  (Berkeley: Dissertation, 1991).
  • A Time of Little Choice   The Disintegration of Tribal Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area 1769-1810  (Menlo Park:  Ballena Press, 1995)
  • Bev Ortiz, " Mount Diablo As Myth and Reality, An Indian History Convoluted," American Indian Quarterly  (Fall, 1989)
  • This information comes from the Museum of the San Ramon Valley in 2001.
  • Louis Choris, drawings of "Three Bay Area Indians" and of "Weapons and Utensils," 1816, courtesy of the Bancroft Library
  • Drawing of "The Padre Teaching Indians" and Village scene by Al Greger, 1996.
  • Conceptual Drawings of Mission San Jose by Jo Mora.

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