Richmond’s ‘Ookwe Park offers medicine for the soul

Richmond’s ‘Ookwe Park offers medicine for the soul
All photos by Kathy Chouteau.

By Kathy Chouteau

When was the last time you visited ‘Ookwe Park?

It’s a small, relatively new park at South 27th Street and Pierson Avenue in the Marina Bay neighborhood of Richmond.

In 2015, Ohlone Lisjan Shellmounds were discovered during the excavation for the Officer Bradley Moody Memorial underpass. Shellmounds are sacred burial sites considered to be living cemeteries by the Ohlone people, who have lived in the East Bay for hundreds of generations.

This discovery planted the roots for a public art project among the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission, members of the Ohlone tribe and internationally recognized artist, Masayuki Nagase, which since 2021 has been known as ‘Ookwe Park. 

“Ookwe” is a word meaning “medicine” in Chochenyo, the traditional language of the surrounding area and the Ohlone people, according to the history of the park detailed in a sign there.

On a recent visit, the Standard took in the park’s beautifully chiseled environmental artwork on 11 large boulders, planting beds bearing native plants known for their medicinal and craft applications, chirping birds, busy bees, snails and occasional geese reveling in the sunny January day.

A short walk or drive from Marina Bay’s main commercial center, the park is one of Richmond’s undiscovered gems—the perfect place to catch your breath and your thoughts amid life’s merry-go-round.

Learn more here.