Indians in the San Ramon Valley

In our special series, “The History of the San Ramon Valley,” we delved into the history of the city of San Ramon, as well as, the famous Harlan House, which still resides on San Ramon Valley Boulevard. In covering the history of San Ramon Valley, we would be remiss not to take a step even further back in time to look at the first people who inhabited the area: The Valley Indians.

Photo courtesy of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley

Photo courtesy of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley

When westerners came to the valley, Spanish missionaries noted the names of the Indians they found inhabiting the area. They were Tatcan, Seunen and Souyen. It is believed the Tatcan territory extended along the San Ramon Creek watershed from Crow Canyon Road to Walnut Creek. They belonged to the Bay Miwok linguistic group. The Seunens and Souyens lived in the San Ramon-Dublin Area. Their territory was the Alameda Creek watershed around South San Ramon, Alamo and Tassajara Creeks. They spoke a language called Ohlone, or Costanoan. The two groups converged in the area of what is known today as Norris Canyon Road.

These Indians built their homes near the creeks and hunted in marshy areas. They lived in villages ranging in size from 50 to 250 people. They had annual traditions that changed with the seasons. Their diet consisted of seeds, acorns, fish, birds, bugs, animals and root plants. They were known to work harder and longer hours in the fall gathering acorns from dawn to dusk, but other times of the year were more leisurely.

Indians are widely known for their artistic basket weaving skills. Baskets were integral to their way of life – babies were carried in baskets, meals were prepared in baskets, and baskets were used to transport many things around and between the villages. Some Indian descendants today try to replicate these baskets, but the accessibility of the natural materials is dwindling.

When the Spanish began to enter the area, some of the Indians were resistant to their new ways while other Indians were more accepting. After 1794 some of the Indians began moving into the Spanish missions. Once baptized, the Indians were no longer allowed to leave the mission without asking.

Unfortunately, the Spanish ideas, diseases and animals destroyed the valley Indians’ way of life. The tribes are no longer in existence, but every now and again you hear about a particular artifact that has been found during construction or remodeling of homes and other buildings. Some descendants are still around and work hard to keep the cultural traditions alive so that others may know about them.

If you want to know more about the Indian tribes that inhabited the San Ramon Valley, be sure to visit the Museum of the San Ramon Valley during the months of October and November when they have their Indian Life exhibit.

Stay with us as we continue our series covering some of the important people, places and events that have shaped modern-day San Ramon Valley. Click here to read all the related articles.

If you are planning to move to the San Ramon Valley, contact Villa Properties today to find out how we can help put you in the home you’ve always wanted.