The Valley’s First People
Around 250 years ago several tribes lived in the San Ramon Valley. Theirs was an ancient culture with intimate knowledge of the land passed down in an oral tradition. One tribe, called by the Spanish the Tatcan, lived in the drainage area of the San Ramon Creek watershed which flowed north. They belonged to the Bay Miwok linguistic group.
Other tribes, the Seunen and Souyen, lived in San Ramon and Dublin. Their territory included the Alamo, Tassajara and South San Ramon Creeks which flowed south into a vast marsh area. They spoke an Ohlone (also called Costanoan) language. The Bay Miwok and Ohlone linguistic areas appear to have met around today's Norris Canyon Road. Randy Milliken's mission records research revealed marriages between members of these tribes.
Each tribe had as many as three villages of 50 to 250 people, with perhaps several hundred Indians living in the valley at western contact in 1772. They moved from permanent settlements to other camps during the year. At least seasonally, Indians lived on the Mount Diablo foothills, as evidenced by bedrock mortars found there.
Their lives revolved around the rhythms of the natural world, called "seasonal rounds" Their diet was dependable and diverse and included seeds, acorns, fish, birds, insects, animals and root plants. In certain seasons, such as the autumn acorn-gathering, people worked from dawn to dusk; at other times of the year, life took a more measured pace.
Many archaelogical finds with different site numbers are scattered throughout the San Ramon Creek watershed. Most of the items discovered are stored at Sonoma State University. However, the museum does have several artifacts found in valley locations from Alamo to San Ramon.
Each September the Museum of the San Ramon Valley mounts a special Indian Life exhibit and provides reference books in the research library with extensive information about California Indians. On school day mornings, fourth graders learn about the Indians who lived in this place from trained docents.
Sources: Robert F. Heizer (ed.), Handbook of North American Indians, California (Vol. 8) 1978; Malcolm Margolin, The Ohlone Way; Randy Milliken, A Time of Little Choice The Distintegration of Tribal Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area 1769-1810; Alfred L. Kroeber, Indians of California, 1925; Beverly Ortiz, Ohlone Curriculum 2015 (see ebparks.org, educational resources)