News from Cafe Ohlone by mak-’amham

horše ṭuuxi makkam!

It’s been a busy month for our Ohlone community, and we are proud to see our traditional foods flourishing a second time.

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To those who are unfamiliar with our work, we want to take a moment to explain the dynamics of Cafe Ohlone by mak-’amham and what to expect with our busy month planned in September and beyond. As we build our space, please know that we will plan to have set hours in October. Stay updated on our Twitter @makamham for more information.


Cafe Ohlone is part of mak-’amham and is about community. mak-’amham (our food in Chochenyo language) is the name for the organization we've formed to restore our traditional cuisine back to the Ohlone people. The primary purpose of mak-’amham is to work in collective ways with our people to empower the Ohlone community with our traditional culture and our heritage foods — to best accomplish this goal, intense amounts of time is spent directly with our Tribe and community on gathering trips, cooking classes, and tribal functions so that our Ohlone foods remain a living, thriving part of our contemporary culture.

Cafe Ohlone serves as the public face of this work, and is operated by mak-’amham in partnership with University Press Books and Musical Offering. Our Cafe is unique in many ways — amongst those reasons is that it was established so Ohlone people can have a public space to see our culture and cuisine reflected in the middle of our East Bay homeland. Cafe Ohlone also welcomes those from the general public to visit us, eat our food and engage in meaningful ways with the living Ohlone community. We want people from the public to learn about who we are, taste how delicious Ohlone cuisine is, and see the vibrancy of contemporary Ohlone identity.


Cafe Ohlone is doing big things in a small space. This will be the first known Ohlone restaurant in contemporary times — we understand how historic this is and the reasons why we need to move slowly and do things in a way that is sustainable and effective. Once opened, this will be the only place in the world, beyond the homes of Ohlone families, where these foods are prepared and served. This is significant, and we understand the immensity of this work.


Cafe Ohlone is still a work in progress. As we continue to build and shape Cafe Ohlone into the space we dream of, we are honest and realistic that this work is taking time. The reclaimed redwood plank table is under development and will be a central part of the space, evoking imagery of old villages under the redwoods of the East Bay hills and Carmel Valley. The french press coffee infused with bay nuts and piñons isn’t available because the bay nuts haven’t arrived yet, and the piñons aren’t yet in season. Native plants are coming in and a mural of one of our baskets is under construction — however, our space will continue to be Ohlone-ized as we grow, adding little by little until our space feels as though you are in an old ruwwakma (East Bay village) with Native vegetation, tule mats, redwood and bay laurel filling the space, and sounds and smells of home.


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Cafe Ohlone will not be open every day. Our Ohlone communities are doing a whole lot; we are collectively  working to restore our culture and heal the wounds brought by invasion and colonization. mak-’amham co-founders, Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, both have obligations to their communities and families that will only allow Cafe Ohlone to be open a few days a week. Vincent serves on the Tribal Council for the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, representing his lineage and working with his Tribe to protect Muwekma sovereignty in the Bay Area. Louis is a member of the Rumsen Ohlone community and is highly active in protecting Rumsen sacred sites in the Carmel Valley, as well as being active in the restoration of Ohlone basketry and art. Both Vincent and Louis are called on by their Tribes and families often to work together for the people we come from. On some days Cafe Ohlone will be closed to the public for private events for our people to revive our language, weave our basketry, protect our sacred sites or for other private community work.

Because of this, every Sunday we will publicize our hours on the header of our website (makamham.com/cafeohlone.com) and on our new Twitter account @makamham — please visit our account and we’ll keep the public updated when we will be at Cafe Ohlone, our hours of operation, and what our seasonal menu will be. As we grow, we want citizens of our Tribes to operate Cafe Ohlone as a means economic sovereignty for our people — with the possibility of extended hours in the near future.


Cafe Ohlone is going to be fun. We are going to have regular events that celebrate Ohlone and nearby California Indian cultures. Imagine spoken word in Ohlone languages, walnut dice tournaments and traditional games, musical acts from contemporary Indigenous bands, discussions and lectures on boundary breaking issues from leaders in the Ohlone community that result in real change of mind. These are some of the things we are dreaming up for Cafe Ohlone. In our beliefs, food and culture are inseparable. We want Cafe Ohlone to be a celebration of our beautiful culture and a reminder of how living these traditional ways are.


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We give gratitude and say makiš horše mak-hinnan (our hearts are good) to all those who have stood with us as we work to reclaim and revive our traditional Ohlone foods. We want to give special acknowledgement to our families, our parents, our grandparents, our elders and our Tribes and communities — the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area and the Rumsen Ohlone Community. As we work to revive our culture, we honor and pay respect to our ancestors who guide this work and allow us to continue to live and carry our beautiful culture. We work with our people to make things easier for the future generations of Ohlone yet to come, just as those before did for us.

mak-'amham at Indian Valley Farm video

Learn about the work we are doing to reclaim Ohlone cuisine through this video produced by the Cultural Conservancy. We are proud to have been a part of this powerful day in Coast Miwok land in Marin telling our story of resilience, hope + renewal of our food ways. We thank the Cultural Conservancy + Indian Valley Farm for organizing such a memorable event.

mak-'amham lunchtime pop-up, 12.17.17

makkin 'alšip-mak. We are grateful.

On December 17, 2017 something incredible happened in xučyun (Old Oakland) at E14 Gallery.

We brought a feast composed entirely of Ohlone foods, made with pre-contact, traditional ingredients to this powerful gallery space and shared our story of Ohlone persistence, continuity, struggle, and beauty. The space, an old brick building built with money from the Gold Rush — money that was obtained in the 1800s doing the worst types of injustices against Indian people — has been transformed by the staff of E14 Gallery, especially the powerful work of Vivana Rodriguez, a strong Chicana leader who strives to have the voices of communities of color promoted and heard. Her gracious opening of the space to mak-'amham was a natural fit.

The East Bay is our home; the home of my community, the Chochenyo Ohlone people. In spite of all the hardships and challenges our people have faced since the start of Euro-American colonization, we have persisted. No generation of my family has been born out of this ancient, beloved place that we descend from — stretching back into our Creation time. We still live and thrive here to this day. Of course, this did not come without a heavy price our people had to pay, challenges we still face with the ongoing forces of colonization that attempt to break us from our home. Yet, we persist, and we will unquestionably never leave our hiswi-warep, our birth place.

Colonization also attempted to suppress every aspect of our Ohlone culture; from language, to basketry, from religion, to even our very names. Colonization also attempted to break us from our cuisine, our foods that are rooted in the homeland. Our ancestors had undeniable strength, and refused to surrender the things they cared the most about — that is what makes revival of these old ways possible.

Louis, his community from the Carmel Valley, and myself work hard — along with our elders and members of our communities to bring these old ways back into existence. We resist the theft of land and suppression of our culture by finding ways to honor our people from before, strengthen our contemporary identities, as well as ensuring future generations will not have to work quite as hard to revive, so that these meaningful cultural ways can continue as they are intended to. We are seeing this come true, as young people grow up with Chochenyo and Rumsen Ohlone languages in their lives, Ohlone foods on dinner tables again, story come back home, our values revived, and our connection to homeland strengthened. This is a collective effort, it's not just us — we are voices in a chorus of many. Our Creator and our ancestors are the guiding forces.

Part of this effort also means that we have the courage to speak out, loudly, to remind people of our continued existence. Sometimes this can be difficult because we have seen what happens when Indian people speak out; we are often belittled and told our truths do not matter by larger society. Echoes of people angrily and dismissively telling us it's the past, and get over it are common, even in the ultra-progressive bubble of the Bay Area. It's not the past, and we are not over it. Far from it. Healing takes time, and the efforts to destroy us, while not successful, left tangible pain that is evident in all aspects of our world. 

With our ancestors as a model of survival, we still persist. We find the courage to speak out and remind people that this is Ohlone land, we have never ceded or given up this place. We have never left. We never will.

On December 17th we did just that. We decolonized a very colonial space — bringing the power of Ohlone culture front and center; creating a space full of Ohlone language, Ohlone stories — and, of course, Ohlone cuisine. A five-course meal of small, nourishing bites, all paired with Native teas gathered in our home.

Rose hip tea served with popped amaranth seeds, soft boiled quail eggs, and piñon nuts; white sage tea with Native greens, and purslane in homage to my great-grandma, Mary Archuleta, who loved that plant dearly and was the last generation of my intermediate family to gather traditionally before the contemporary revival. We made blackberry and bay laurel soda served with acorn flour flatbread, the acorn from saklan, a family tribal area east of the Oakland Hills; elderberry cider gathered from Louis' Rumsen homeland in the Carmel Valley served with savory venison meatballs full of juicy huckleberries and crushed yerba buena, also from saklan, where many of my direct ancestors are from. For dessert we shared freshly gathered yerba buena tea with acorn brownies which we make to introduce acorn, a beloved traditional food, to our young people for the first time, and sweet pinole seed cakes shaped in the same form as described to us from old notes recorded in the 1930s. 

All of the food served had intention and rootedness in place. We spoke of our contemporary identities, and the struggles our people face today. It was boisterous, loud, unabashed, and uniquely Ohlone. Each time we described a course, it had a story and a proper name in our language.

We are grateful. Grateful for Vivana Rodriguez from E14 Gallery for opening space for us to do this. Grateful for Alicia Adams (Maidu/Chemehuevi) for the logistical and emotional support, grateful for Jayden Lim (Pomo) for bringing Native house music to our event through DJ'ing. Grateful for everyone who showed up, ate, listened and understood that mak-'amham is centered on justice for our people.

We feel victorious, and we know there will be more events like this. Food is connected to every other aspect of our culture; as we eat these ancient foods, woven together with Ohlone language and story, all while being present in our homeland we are closer to those old ways, and our ancestors, that are cherished and wholeheartedly loved. We bring honor to our people and strengthen our collective identities. Not merely of the past, we are people of the present — of the 21st century. We will be here tomorrow, too.

In Chochenyo language, the oldest language of the inner East Bay, we say holše mak-nuunu our story is beautiful, ṭuyye mak-muwekma our people are strong, 'ayye makiš haššemak horše mak-muwekma hemmen ṭuuxi and we make things better for our people everyday.

makkin 'ammamak 'oyyo rooket, we will eat again soon.

Vincent Medina

'alšip-mak (we are grateful) to Scott Braley for taking these photographs and sharing them with us. Scott has long worked with Native communities to document significant community events.

šaakani, Susanna + staying woke

We cooked šaakani (duck) this week, delicious, savory duck breast roasted until the skin was crispy. As the duck was roasting, sokkoti (bay laurel leaves) were placed under its skin so that the bay laurel oil flavored the meat with its spicy and peppery flavor. The bay laurel was gathered with gratitude in the tribal area of saklan, the same area my ancestors are from. saklan is just east of the Oakland hills, and close to where I was born and grew up. All my Indian family is from around this area, most of us were born here, grew up here and still live close. 

As the duck was roasting with the sokkoti leaves, I boiled down some local berries – wild strawberries and more bay laurel to compliment the duck, and blackberries with yerba buena from Louis’ homeland in the Carmel Valley. It was meaningful to eat these same flavors our people ate before, with the ingredients maybe even gathered from the very same trees and woodlands our ancestors gathered from and cherished. It was a meal that nurtured us in every way.

The next day, talking to a friend of ours named Nadja, I told her how good the duck came out, and how we love to taste the flavors of home. As I was talking I started to tell a story – one that reminded me of a time that this delicious food was not available to my family, even though it should have been. This story happened before I was born, even before my father or grandfather was born. It is a story recorded in our old documentation recorded by John Harrington, a linguist from Washington, DC. Mr. Harrington interviewed an elderly Indian woman named Susanna Nichols here in the East Bay in 1930, over in Niles. Susanna is the sister of my great-great-great grandmother, Avelina Cornates. People in my family still remember Susanna’s name even today, especially the elders.

Susanna remembers that when whites first came into the East Bay, they ran Indian people off the land. Susanna’s family, witnessing this injustice, went to Mr. Manyan, the first police officer in Newark. Mr. Manyan gave Susanna’s family a paper granting permission to put nets wherever they wanted to hunt ducks, but first told Susanna’s grandmother it’s your land.

As I told that story, I thought about how fortunate we are to eat these delicious Ohlone foods today, but also thought about the times in our history we could not eat like this. And this is of no fault of our own, but because people prevented and restricted us from eating our heritage foods as a result of colonization and our lands being stolen. Today, we can eat enjoy Ohlone cuisine again and remember that generations of people have fought for our foods and recognized their importance.

Of course, we still have restrictions and difficulties attaining these traditional ingredients and game, but it is encouraging to know that people in our community have always done what they could to keep these foods in our world. I think about how difficult it must have been to have to ask for permission, in ones’ own home, to hunt for the same foods that countless generations have before. I’m grateful for Susanna’s family for having the foresight and courage to take this act. And Mr. Manyan’s response is spot on.

As we eat, we are reminded of our ancestors and their sacrifices. We are reminded of home and these plants that are gathered in our birthplaces. We are reminded of the truth – the need to stay fed with good food, and stay woke against injustice everywhere facing our people and our food.

— Vince Medina

  When the white strangers came they ran people off the land, would not let them shoot ducks, and my family went to see Mr. Manyan and he wrote out a paper giving us permission to put duck nets where we wanted, “it’s your land” he would tell my grandma.    — Told by Susanna Nichols in Niles in 1930 and recorded by John Harrington, Smithsonian Linguist and Anthropologist

When the white strangers came they ran people off the land, would not let them shoot ducks, and my family went to see Mr. Manyan and he wrote out a paper giving us permission to put duck nets where we wanted, “it’s your land” he would tell my grandma.

— Told by Susanna Nichols in Niles in 1930 and recorded by John Harrington, Smithsonian Linguist and Anthropologist