Informative signage coming soon to new ‘Ookwe Park

Informative signage coming soon to new 'Ookwe Park
Photo credit: Kathy Chouteau

A new Marina Bay park that honors the land’s Native American roots will soon get important signage that will help tell that history.

In April last year, the small park at South 27th St. and Pierson Ave., near to the Officer Bradley Moody Memorial Underpass, was named Ookwe Park. During an excavation of the underpass in 2015, Ohlone shellmounds were discovered at the site. The shellmounds are considered by the Native American people to be living cemeteries and sacred players of prayer, veneration and connection with their ancestors.

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.

While the park is mostly complete, the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission worked with stakeholders over the last six months to approve a three-part graphic design package to include large directional signage, as well as pedestal didactic signage and botanical markers aimed at informing park visitors about the land’s history. On Tuesday, Richmond City Council will vote on whether to approve a contract for that work.

The Confederated Villages of Lisjan Nation is working with the city to tend to the traditional plants selected for the park’s landscape. With help from the signage and public gatherings, tribal members will be able to “steward this landscape as they have for hundreds of generations,” according to project officials.

Here’s the design for the directional entrance signage:

And here is informative language provided in city documents describe the park and its  history:

“‘Ookwe Park has been thousands of years in the making. The park is on the site of a Shellmound–an ancient burial site/cemetery of the Ohlone (Huchiun) people. Shellmounds are the ancient monuments of the first people that live here and continue to have an unbroken tie to these lands. These monuments were created in villages where freshwater met saltwater and are older than the pyramids of Egypt.

There were once as many as 425 shellmounds in the Bay Area, prior to the arrival of the Spanish explorers. The Ohlone lived in over 50 separate Tribes and spoke several different languages. They thrived in the abundance of the Bay Area, and by living in reciprocity with
the land. These great monuments have been continuously destroyed because of development over the past few hundred years and it causes great suffering to the Tribe that still lives on their traditional lands.

Through thousands of years of living in reciprocity with the lands, plants, and waters, the Ohlone have developed spiritual practices, languages, and economies and continue to practice Traditional Ecological Knowledges (TEK). Ohlone people are not of the past but are generous people who now share their traditional territories with everyone who now lives, works and plays on their lands.”