Richmond park named in honor of its Native American heritage

Richmond park named in honor of its Native American heritage
Ookwe Park is located at South 27th St. & Pierson Ave. in Richmond's Marina Bay. (All photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

Richmond’s new park site at South 27th St. & Pierson Ave. in Marina Bay will now be known as Ookwe Park in a move that honors the land’s Native American roots. At its Tues., April 20 meeting, the Richmond City Council approved the name for the park nearby the Officer Bradley Moody Memorial Underpass following a request by Shasa Curl, deputy city manager, Economic Development and Winifred Day, arts and culture manager.

According to the City Council Agenda Report, during the excavation of the aforementioned underpass in 2015, Ohlone shellmounds—considered by the Native American people to be living cemeteries and sacred places of prayer, veneration and connection with their ancestors—were discovered on the site.

Following the discovery, internationally acclaimed artist, Masayuki Nagase, was selected to design a park to honor the interred Ohlone ancestors in collaboration with The Confederated Villages of the Lisjan Ohlone, per the report. Nagase’s public art installation at the park, which was completed last year, features eleven granite boulders carved with symbols and stories that tribal members shared with him. For its part, The Confederated Villages of Lisjan adopted an area in the park where they can care for and harvest traditional medicinal plants and flowers. Along with a winding pathway, a green space, trees and park benches, the park offers an intimate and serene retreat mere minutes from Richmond city center.

The Richmond Public Art Advisory Committee, the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission have committed to fund the park naming project via Richmond’s 1.5 percent for Art Resolution 70-97 funding, per the report. Together with The Confederated Villages of Lisjan, they selected the park name of Ookwe Park due to “ookwe” meaning medicine.