Read The Ohlone Way by Malcolm Margolin Online


Two hundred years ago, herds of elk and antelope dotted the hills of the San Francisco-Monterey Bay area. Grizzly bears lumbered down to the creeks to fish for silver salmon and steelhead trout. From vast marshlands geese, ducks, and other birds rose in thick clouds "with a sound like that of a hurricane." This land of "inexpressible fertility," as one early explorer descrTwo hundred years ago, herds of elk and antelope dotted the hills of the San Francisco-Monterey Bay area. Grizzly bears lumbered down to the creeks to fish for silver salmon and steelhead trout. From vast marshlands geese, ducks, and other birds rose in thick clouds "with a sound like that of a hurricane." This land of "inexpressible fertility," as one early explorer described it, supported one of the densest Indian populations in all of North America.One of the most ground-breaking and highly-acclaimed titles that Heyday has published, _The Ohlone Way _ describes the culture of the Indian people who inhabited Bay Areas prior to the arrival of Europeans....

Title : The Ohlone Way
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780930588014
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 177 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Ohlone Way Reviews

  • Ken-ichi
    2019-04-05 13:02

    I think this is probably a decent introduction to learning about the native peoples of the Bay Area, but the form is seriously flawed. More than half the book is written in a narrative style, describing possible scenes from an Ohlone village. It's engaging and memorable, but I found it almost impossible to trust any of the factual details included because of the fictional style and the author's obvious belief in the moral superiority of the Ohlone. Look how in harmony with nature they are! Look how tolerant they are! They had no problem with homosexuality! Even if these things were true, harping on them just makes Margolin seems biased, and since there are absolutely NO citations, it's impossible to verify most of the claims without simply reading through his entire bibliography.If we take Margolin at his word, though, there are some pretty interesting nuggets. One detail that was so strange I have difficulty believing the author didn't make it up was that Ohlone mothers used to shape the pliable skulls of their infants so they would have a particular facial structure. That just seems amazing to me.Now I really want to go visit the Coyote Hills Regional Park, which has some Ohlone archaeological sites and some exhibits on them.

  • Jesse
    2019-04-17 09:19

    This is a fabulous book to read while you fantasize about quitting your job, burning your bus pass, and spending your days idling around eating seeds and nuts with naked people. Although the author promises not to idealize the Ohlone as noble savages, he is clearly infatuated with their lifestyle; in the post script calls our society "spiritually more backward" than theirs (apparently he prefers quack shamans to quack televangelists).There is a lot of food for thought here; if you ever wondered whether man took a wrong turn with agriculture and metalworking, this book will assure you that low-tech hunting and gathering was once an attractive alternative -- at least in the rich San Francisco and Monterey Bay area (and perhaps will be attractive again once bio-technologists produce a race of Shmoo). Their "gift culture", in which wealth is measured by generosity rather than accumulation, may challenge some people's assumptions about "basic limitations" of "human nature".The author gets somewhat tedious as he extols the magnificent artistry of their basket weaving, fawning over "the wholesome, satisfying roundness of the basket shape". It may be true they were "among the most accomplished basketry artists the world has ever seen -- or most likely will ever see again", but that's partly because WHO GIVES A DAMN ABOUT BASKETS. Serious history this ain't, as evidenced by his complete lack of footnotes. He seems loathe to dwell on any topic which would show the Ohlone in an unfavorable light; although he briefly mentions all-out inter-tribal genocidal warfare, he offers no details and instead gives an extensive example of ritualized, mostly non-lethal combat.One mystery for me is, in an environment with plenty of food and few predators, how did the Ohlone avoid overpopulation -- with the attendant problems of starvation, disease, and violence? The author suggests that population was controlled by extensive sexual taboos (no sex before hunting, for two years after childbirth, etc). If so, this is worth exploring in more scientific detail. Perhaps their extreme exogamy also discouraged new members from joining a village whose resources were already stretched. I certainly feel the need to get another angle on this fascinating story, and plan to look for "The Ohlone Past and Present" (Bean) as a complement.

  • Julie Mickens
    2019-03-29 14:03

    Pro: engaging, thoughtful, very accessible and enjoyable. It's a very digestible introduction to what's known of the pre-contact lifestyle & culture of the Ohlone tribes of the San Francisco Bay Area. Instead of writing in a scholarly format or as standard nonfiction, the author presents his material as historical-fiction vignettes, as if in a novel, interlaced with factual exposition and some of his own interpretations. The advantage to this presentation is the possibility of reaching a wide audience at a variety of reading and interest levels. In fact, no one living in the Bay Area and its surrounding regions has any excuse for NOT reading this fascinating, short-ish, and broadly informative book. Which brings me to my main caveat: Because of the writing style, and the lack of footnotes, it's impossible to say which assertions embedded in the narrative are indeed fully attested, which might be borrowed from what's known about other California tribes or other hunter-gatherer-harvester peoples, and which might even be the author speculating to fill in the gaps or even unconsciously bringing forward his own cultural assumptions, e.g. regarding gender. There is a decent bibliography for the time of the book's writing, but it's impossible to readily link details to specific sources. Still, if this had been written in an academically correct style at the time it appeared in 1978, it surely would not have had such a broad impact in shifting mainstream attitudes about the Bay Area Indians -- and a change was sorely needed at the time. The Ohlone were then presumed totally extinct (which was not and is not true), and because they hadn't left a showy material culture, they had been viewed with contempt or at best pity, as backwards, as another reviewer explained of the societal attitudes before this book's publication. Some of this context is addressed by the author in a very good 2003 afterward. In fact, the need for a broadly accessible introduction to the Ohlone & the pre-contact Bay Area persists, as even today the few scholarly books on the subject are $25 and paper-format only, while my copy of The Ohlone Way was an instantly available $8 Kindle format. I will probably try to get those other books via interlibrary loan, but may not have made that effort if The Ohlone Way hadn't gotten me hooked.

  • Joyce
    2019-04-08 10:23

    A hippie-era classic that needs to be read in a specific historical context. I was educated as a small child in the California school system before this book was published in 1978, and I can tell you that the attitude towards the native Californians was condescending in the extreme. They were collectively called "Diggers" and described as a "Stone Age" people subsisting largely on insects and grubs.Margolin argued for a view of the Ohlone as a sophisticated culture of plenty that also happened to be peaceful, spiritual, and relatively egalitarian. Hmmm, major hippie values! Coincidence? I think not... but that doesn't diminish this book as a major step forward in sympathetic understanding of extremely pre-capitalist lifestyles.Basically the author's argument is that in an environment of plenty there is little incentive, economically or socially, to make big changes. Your mama's hand-woven baskets and rabbitskin blankets and recipe for acorn bread were going to sustain you in fine style... so why not enjoy your free time instead of trying harder to accumulate more? It's a question that I think made this book seem pretty revolutionary when it came out, because it NEVER judges the Ohlone for their lack of material accumulation; and it's probably relevant today as we confront the idea of machine-made abundance.

  • Richard Reese
    2019-03-31 12:07

    The wee folk were once beaten by iron-using people, which made them detest this powerful metal, and the people who used it. Consequently, when the Iron People conquered Europe, they were very careful to protect themselves. They sewed bits of iron into their children’s clothing, and hung horseshoes on their doors. They used the dark energy of forged iron to repel the bright spirits.Malcolm Margolin’s book, The Ohlone Way, is a magnificent collection of bright knowledge that is powerfully repellent to the dark energy of misanthropes — those cynics who insist that all humans everywhere have always been self-centered, materialistic, and aggressively warlike by nature — fatally flawed, and rotten to the core. If you carefully absorb the knowledge in this book, misanthropes will skedaddle whenever they see you coming. Bye-bye!Humans simply aren’t the problem. The problem is crazy cultures. It is cleansing and healing to comprehend this important distinction. It implies no quick or easy remedies, but it negates the notion that the only effective solution to the Earth Crisis is human extinction. We possess adequate intelligence to do what needs to be done, but whether we will ever do so remains a potent and prickly mystery.The Ohlone were an assortment of tribes that lived in the region around San Francisco Bay for thousands of years prior to European conquest. Margolin does a lovely job of describing the various aspects of their way of life, and Michael Harney’s drawings are intriguing — many show skies darkened with millions of seabirds. The Ohlone were blessed to inhabit a land that provided an abundance of plant and animal foods. It’s so hard for us to imagine what a magical treasure this planet was prior to farmers. Ohlone country, like much of the western region, was lucky to have a climate that was poorly suited for growing corn, so the tribes were able to avoid that dangerous and highly unstable way of life. They didn’t farm, nor did they enslave animals, yet they were able to enjoy a complex culture and a stable way of life. Occasional armed conflicts were usually low-intensity ritual warfare, good for blowing off steam. Sometimes conflicts were intense, wiping out whole villages. But this was not a war-oriented culture. There were no wooden palisades surrounding villages. The men did not have shields, war clubs, tomahawks, or body armor. The culture did not enshrine heroic war chiefs, nor did it create a sprawling empire. They were really into dancing.The Ohlone lost few people to disease, famine, or war. But their culture was successful at maintaining a stable population. Taboos and restrictions on sex kept a leash on the birth rate. Sex was forbidden during the two years that a mother was nursing, as it was prior to hunts, or during menstruation. Deformed babies and twins were not kept. Women understood how to terminate unwanted pregnancies. They were careful to avoid the horrors of population growth. Smart!Stability was the core of their success, and time-proven wisdom was carefully preserved. “To be different was to be wrong, the best ways were the old ways.” Innovators and rebels were scorned, as were freedom and individualism. The Ohlone valued belonging — having strong social bonds to family, clan, and tribe. A man without his family was nothing. It was a society built on a foundation of cooperation, sharing, and generosity. Greedy and aggressive people were banished, because they toxic. Respectable people learned well, and then passed the ancient knowledge on to the next generation.Stability is hard for us to comprehend. The Ohlone could live in the same place for a thousand years and not destroy the soils or forests. The hills were still filled with antelope, elk, and deer. The rivers were still thrashing with salmon. The nut trees continued producing sacred acorns. Stability did not diminish the seals, sea lions, sea birds, or shellfish. Fast forward a thousand years into the future, and it’s the same culture, the same stories, songs, and dances.They did not live like a hurricane. They lived like reverend guests in a sacred land. “Everything was alive, everything had character, power, and magic, and consequently everything had to be dealt with properly.” “It was a world in which thousands of living, feeling, magical things, all operating in dream logic, carried out their individual actions.” “Power was everywhere, in everything, and therefore every act was religious.”All of us have wild ancestors who enjoyed a similar manner of living. The Ohlone were not fascinating freaks. Five hundred years ago, the tribes of western North America were among the most stable, successful, and sustainable human societies on the planet. The secret of their success was that their cultures were, in almost every way, the direct opposite of our own. Sadly, the Iron People arrived in 1770, and hurricanes of progress and ecocide soon followed. Margolin worked on this book for three years, and he often dreamed about the Ohlone. “It produced in me a sense of victory to know that such a way of life is part of the human potential, part of the human history.” Yes, indeed! The daily news in our world regularly fills us with awe and amazement at the stunning achievements of human foolishness. It’s difficult not to feel like inmates at an insane asylum because, in many ways, we are. On the bright side, we all have front row seats as our insane civilization crumbles before our eyes, creating thrilling opportunities for new experiments in living. And Margolin reminds us of the important fact that our genes are not diseased, just our culture. Victory over civilization is not impossible, it’s a matter of time and love and healing.

  • Märt-matis Lill
    2019-04-03 07:27

    Beautiful, empathetic and a poetical evocation of a people of long ago, focusing on their worldview and on their relationship with their enviroment and each other.

  • Rose Gowen
    2019-04-14 10:03

    This book was a gift, and I really wanted to like it. I began to worry when I glanced at the acknowledgments, where the author says the books was "nourished" by many people. The book was published in 1978 in Berkeley. The author describes a deer hunt as "spiritually aware" and "socially conscious".The main trouble with this book is that, while there exists plenty of source material, Margolin mostly chooses not to quote from or refer to letters and diaries; instead he "reconstructs the scene". This is particularly problematic when he's showing something provocative, like: "Whereas the other dwellings contain large families, this one contains only two people. They are both men. One of them leads a man's life, but the other has chosen the women's way. He wears women's ornaments, grinds acorns with the women, gathers roots, and makes baskets. The two men are living together, fully accepted by the other villagers."and when he tells us what someone is thinking or feeling:"He has been admitted to the sweat-house only a month before, yet (despite the teasing) he already feels a welcome easiness here, a sense of being at home. In fact, as he squats against the back wall he has a curious sense that he has been here a million times before. It is as if the closed sweat-house with its cluster of men is the real, eternal world, and the world of the village, the meadows, and the woods is merely a colorful but passing dream."

  • Pamela
    2019-04-08 12:25

    original review from July 2011: "This 1978 edition is a good, basic elementary level overview of what Ohlone life may have been like. Each topic is covered in small chapters. "Feb 2014: The chapters, or segments really, are very small.. a couple pages at a time covering various topics such as fishing, basket-making, hunting, the sweat-house, marriage, childbirth, etc.. A very in depth look, even fanciful stories illustrating what life may have been like.. and a sensitive, empathetic, respectful, but objective historical examination. I read this 2nd (and 3rd as I reviewed my notes) time for a class, and found it interesting but not as amazing or insightful on multiple reads.

  • Rebecca Rolnick
    2019-04-21 12:17

    I got this book from the Nature Center at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve while visiting Monterey Bay, California. I had done enough research before the trip to know the name Ohlone, but I wanted to learn more about the people indigenous to this area. The book was originally published in 1978, with an added afterward from 2003 and a preface from 2014. I found the book to be an interesting overview of Ohlone customs and culture and an enjoyable read. I learned that there is not really one "Ohlone" culture or nation, as there is a Haudenosaunee Confederacy and culture--rather, it is a name for the interrelated "tribelets," that lived in the Monterey Bay area before contact with Spanish missionaries in 1776. No one is sure where the word Ohlone came from, so it is a bit of an artifice, but it is what is now used to describe this group of people.I like how he gives a narrative of a "typical" scene or scenario of tribal life at the beginning of the chapters before going into a more objective, generalized description. This breaks from the tradition of anthropology being more of an objective and dry, academic science of an outsider collecting facts--Margolin really wants to tell the story of these people and make it come alive. That being said, it did annoy me that he often wasn't clear about where he got the source for each piece of information (except for direct quotes and accounts from explorers/missionaries). He says in the beginning that he sometimes fills in holes in the knowledge about Ohlone culture with what we know about similar, nearby groups, but it is not clear which parts are definitively Ohlone and which are inferences. There was a bibliography in the back, but I probably would have preferred something more academic in that sense; something that analyzed the rhetoric and historical context of each source and took those things into account to explore /how/ we know what we do, how much we can trust each source, and which facts need to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, one fact I'm particularly suspicious of is how he says that Ohlone mothers stretched out their infant's faces to form it into the proper shape. Based on other things I've read, such as the book Nature's Body, during the age of colonization and during the 1800s, Europeans made many accounts of non-Europeans throughout the world (and especially Africa) doing this. It went along with the "science" of using skull shape and skeletons to define race. Nowadays we obviously know this science to be false, but it was a part of the racial ideology used to set Europeans as the ideal race. So all in all there are definitely many benefits to the storytelling style approach Margolin took, but I thought it was also a bit simplistic and ever so slightly romanticized. That's still a big improvement from the previously dominant idea that looked down on their culture as primitive and dirty, however. Another thing I would have liked is if the book talked more about contemporary issues in the Ohlone today. What really impressed me the most about this book is the humility of the author. Especially in the updated preface and afterward, he is open and honest, willing to admit that there was a lot he did not know when he wrote this book and excited about how much he has learned since then. Writing about Native American peoples is a sensitive area, and I think he does a great job. Since 1987 he has been a publisher for the magazine he was part of starting, News from Native California. He has helped to further the communities of Native American anthropology and cultural revival, and made the way for other, especially Native, voices to be heard and published. He writes, "When /The Ohlone Way/ was first published in 1978....this was the only book [on the subject] that existed. Blessedly, that uniqueness is gone. There are not only other books on Ohlone life, but there is a thriving community of people engaged in promoting an understanding of it as well. I admit to feeling somewhat outdated and replaced. I couldn't be happier."

  • Daisy
    2019-03-29 08:59

    excellent commentary, if not totally relegated to a white perspective of an indigenous culture.

  • Marcus Kazmierczak
    2019-04-13 09:02

    A good look at the lives of the Ohlone people who lived in the Bay Area before the Spaniards arrived. The book looks at all the aspects of life from gathering food, to marriage, and medicine.

  • Tom
    2019-04-06 14:26

    I loved this book. It gave me a great introduction to Bay Area indians and explained how the entire California native culture is so enigmatic and strikingly different from the native populations on the rest of the continent. The descriptions from early explorers about the richness of the pre-European Bay Area was amazing; I had no idea.It seems that the only critique others really have with this book is that it ventures into historical fiction at times. I personally don't see that as a problem because those portions of the book are clearly delineated and there is no mistaking them. I also enjoy the fiction elements because, in a sense, the facts cannot fully speak for themselves. The point of this book is not just to give you an arsenal of cold-hard facts, but also to help you build empathy with these natives and to see the facts through their eyes.It's not written as an academic text so it's up to the reader to chase down the references (provided in the back of the book) if you want to confirm any given piece of information. If you are an actual researcher, you could probably just email the guy and ask him for specific references. I really don't see this as something to complain about, given the scope of this particular book.

  • Liam
    2019-03-29 12:17

    "The intermingling of grasslands, savannahs, salt- and freshwater marshes, and forests created wildlife habitats of almost unimaginable richness and variety. The early explorers and adventurers, no matter how well-travelled in other parts of the globe, were invariably struck by the plentiful animal life here." (7)"Living in a land of great plenty, the Ohlones -- unlike those who lived in a more hostile environment -- did not feel that life was a 'dog-eat-dog' affair, or that each day was a grim test of survival. Not at all. There is no record of starvation anywhere in Central California. Even the myths of this area have no reference to starvation. All around the Ohlones were virtually inexhaustible resources; and for century after century the people went about their daily life secure in the knowledge that they lived in a generous land, a land that would always support them." (40)"In the Ohlone world even warfare -- the grossest and ugliest of all human activities -- was (whenever possible) governed by those ubiquitous Ohlone virtues, moderation and restraint." (114)

  • Zoe
    2019-04-01 13:25

    I found this book a good resource for imagining and visualizing the San Francisco Bay Area pre-European invasion. It gave a picture of daily life in my neighborhood in the not-so-distant past. I liked Margolin's Postscript about feeling hopeful rather than despondent about the proven capacity of our species to live harmoniously with the environment and other humans. "The Ohlones...cannot provide us with a working model of an ideal society. But they can provide us with a vision- a vision of how a Stone-Age people, a people whom we have so long belittled, had in fact sustained a life of great beauty and wisdom..."

  • Robert
    2019-04-08 06:29

    Margolin works very hard to make the life of the Ohlone Indians of the San Francisco Bay area understandable and convincing. He depicts them as competent and adapted to their environment, and tries to work out how consistent their cultural view presented itself to themselves.The book is primarily marred by its date (over 25 years) and the lack of research since then done in the areas. It has also vague overtones of current concerns of environment and living within it that the Indians only share in the hindsight of the present day. A bit more Darwin and Marx and a little less Romanticism would have gone a long way.

  • Kurtis
    2019-03-27 14:26

    This is an enjoyable book if you're like me and you often daydream about how beautiful a place like the Bay Area must have been before European influence. It certainly did indulge my imagination by painting some nice scenes and descriptions of Ohlone life, but it didn't seem like a serious study of the Ohlone culture and provided more of an anecdotal reference. If you are at all interested in Native American life on the West coast I would recommend The Ohlone Way. It is a quick and fun read, probably good for young folk too.

  • Anna Samborska
    2019-04-15 07:19

    Excellent book on the way of life of the people that used to live in San Francisco Bay just a few hundred years ago.Almost nothing is left of this culture and this world. Not the "primitive" people at all, had a sustainable way of living,integration of gays into the society, respect for women, efficient system of justice without government or prisons.Their knowledge of medicinal and edible plants is all but lost today.My main question - how did they survive in San Francisco fog without any clothes on?

  • chelsea
    2019-04-11 14:11

    I really liked reading about the native americans that were local to this area.The book was really really easy to read (seems like it would be read in like a 6th grade class if the class was really cool). He talks about what the land and animals were like pre-European contact which was so interesting and also about the spiritual beliefs of the Ohlone. I liked his point of view which was pretty respectful. I think some people could take issue with some parts in terms of accuracy or politics but its the best I've found about local groups.

  • Giovanna
    2019-04-21 12:01

    I liked the book because I knew the areas that they were referring to. I have been from Monterey to San Francisco and it was easy for me to imagine the life of the Native Indians. The book was very informative with very nice detail of how they lived, their beliefs and how these particular Indians were different from other tribes. There was some repeating of information which at times made the reading less exciting. But I felt it was a good history of the Ohlone Indians that were native to Santa Clara county and other territories.

  • Robbie Forkish
    2019-04-22 09:14

    Very interesting insights into the people and the environment as it existed before the arrival of the explorers, missionaries and finally... civilization. My only complaint is that it was more info than I really wanted (not the author's fault)... I would have been satisfied with a long magazine article on this topic. Still, it's worth reading the first few chapters, then skimming up to the final chapter ("The Last Two Centuries", as depressing as you might imagine).

  • Cassandra
    2019-03-30 08:24

    An excellent combination of speculative fiction and nonfiction about the natives of the San Francisco bay. My only complaint is that the author states in the preface that he was trying to find a middle ground between "heathen beasts" and "noble savages" but fails. However, he errs on the side of "noble savage" so the book ends up being readable and engaging. His anti-modern bias ends up being contagious, rather than off putting.

  • Randi
    2019-04-05 07:27

    This was a book assigned to my college history course and of course my thoughts were, "Ugg, this is going to be dreadfully boring." However, I was proven wrong. This book is a delightful narrative that gives us a view into the lives of the California people pre-European expansion. Margolin paints a magically picture of the Ohlone people and sheds light on the injustice plagued upon them by the Franciscan missionaries. I highly recommend it, especially to Bay area locals like myself.

  • Meg
    2019-04-03 14:13

    Perhaps I ought to have given this book 3 stars because I don't have any way to judge its accuracy, and it lacked citations (and, as others here have noted, it did lean toward the "romantic Indian" portrayal), but I did really enjoy reading it. I was especially interested in the cross-cultural comparisons of how the Ohlone tribes differed from other Native American groups in different regions (there were quite a lot of differences even just within Northern California).

  • Steve
    2019-04-10 09:10

    Terrific book about those who lived in the Bay Area before the Europeans arrived. Great research, and Margolin takes a leap of imagination to really give you what seems to be an accurate portrayal of the lives and even at least a bit of the way of thinking about these people who are all gone now. Though he's probably not as successful at not romanticizing them as he could have been, the picture he paints seems real. A thoroughly enjoyable book.

  • Susan Greef
    2019-04-14 14:16

    As I walk about the East Bay I often wonder what life was like for the native people who lived here before me, and this book was very illustrative. Readable and informative without, I thought, romanticizing the Ohlone. Sad in the end of course because we all know how it ends, but he does say that he finds hope in the fact that the Ohlone demonstrated that it is actually possible for humans to live in one place for thousands of years in relative peace, and I find that hopeful too.

  • Tim Gannon
    2019-04-05 10:18

    A text about the way of life of Indians living in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay area. The author shares knowledge he accrued over 3 years of research. The book discusses the land, hunting, farming, harvesting, social and spiritual beliefs. Also the sadness and death that resulted from the Franciscans's efforts to civilize them and teach them Christianity. It was quite fascinating.

  • Erin
    2019-04-05 08:23

    This was the first ethnography I read as a young student. I'm glad it was so readable. Later on, I would learn that many anthropologists, while being very detailed, lose sight of the big picture. I also loved that the author focused not only on the Ohlone people, but also on their surrounding environment, contrasting it with that same region today.

  • 'sunny
    2019-04-13 12:17

    Great historical fiction depictions. Broken into sections, land, society, spirit and moden Ohlone, the author gives brief details about a topic and then create realistic fictionalized situations. Fun to read if you're into local history or Native history or both!!

  • Orinthia
    2019-03-28 12:11

    This book was amazing. It was very engaging and informative. I like how it sometimes does a little section which was sort of recreating how it might of looked, almost like a clip from a historical fiction. Five stars, no doubt about it.

  • Lena Feygin
    2019-04-20 09:23

    It's a very good book to get some ideas of how Californian Indians lived and learn some history. It is written not as a pure documentary but rather as a collection of stories, which makes it very easy to read.