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.
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.
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.
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.