Silicon Valley History Online  

Ohlone Indians

4th Social Studies

Native American Ohlone in Santa Clara County

Identify characteristics of the Ohlone Indians.

By using various pictures, the student will be able to identify the economic activities,
food supply or religious beliefs of the Ohlone Indians.

3.2, 4.1.1

Two Days

Cooperative Learning Travel Brochure

Selected Ohlone pictures on SVHO:
Ynigo, Ohlone Indian
Cooking Basket, 1750-1850,
Indian Adobe, ca. 1890
Indian Adobe, ca.1905
Cooking Vessel, Mission Period
Water Filter Urn, Mission Period
Santa Clara Mission Exterior, 1854
Book of Catholic Baptisms, 1804-1843


Day One:

  1. Post the recommended SVHO pictures on the whiteboard.
  2. Introduce the Ohlone culture with a story found in Rumisen Ohlone Stories written and illustrated by Linda Yamane (Oyate, 2702 Mathews Street, Berkeley, CA 94702; 510-848-6700, FAX 510-848-4815; 1995, 44 pages, paperback, storyteller and ancestral story sources bionotes. $10. 0-96251175-1-8.) or get a synopsis of one of the stories at
  3. From the story review some of the major characteristics of the Ohlone tribe; They lived throughout the Bay Area. Their homes were built of willow branches. They were agricultural peoples but moved with acorn, huckleberry or fish harvests. They traded these goods for obsidian, abalone shells, and beads with neighboring tribes.
  4. Depending on capability, have students view the three different images of the Ohlone at . Try to identify the various activities. From the sketch on this site, , identify the responsibilities of the woman, child and father - not pictured. has a wonderful picture of a Ohlone ceremonial dance.
  5. Divide students into groups of 2-4. Review the SVHO pictures on the walls. Assign each group one of the following themes: Daily Life, Trade, and Religion.
  6. Instruct students to visit the pictures, identifying the best picture, which relates to their theme. Remind them to look at small details such as the reeds from which the baskets are made that may give a clue for the “How did they use the Land” team.
  7. Debrief with students by helping them summarize the three themes and important characteristics of each. You may have one student from each group come up to the front of the class to explain the best picture with that theme and support their position by pointing out details and strengths of the picture.
  8. Homework: Compare the students life with the life of an Ohlone Indian.

Day Two:

  1. Review the homework

  2. In groups of four students each, develop a promotional travel campaign for tourists to go back to visit the Ohlone civilization during it’s heyday. Use the sources on the Internet and library for information on the Ohlone. Your promotional campaign should include the following:

    1. A large map of the civilization showing where in the Bay Area the Ohlone lived.
    2. A poster advertising the various economic activities.
    3. An sketch of one of the religious practices.
  3. Keep students focused on the four themes discussed yesterday; geographic distribution, economic activities, religious beliefs, or interaction with physical environment.

Day Three:
When you are finished, present your promotion to the class. Students might dress up or bring Native American food.

Alternative Ideas for Students:

  1. Have the students bring Acorns to class to cook, mix with flour and make acorn bread.
  2. Use a Santa Clara County Maps for two uses.
    • First, if you have several, you can have the students highlight the entire bay to have some idea of shape of the bay.
    • Second, students can search for Native American words in the Bay Area.


  1. Good descriptions for background information.
  2. . Good information on Ohlone.
  3. . More background information.
  4. . Thorough explanation with no pictures.