The fight to preserve the sacred West Berkeley Shellmound

ByMackenzie Stock Localish logo
Friday, January 6, 2023
Honoring the Ohlone or housing?
The fight to protect and preserve the West Berkeley Shellmound has been going on for years. Did you know a 6,000-year-old history lies underneath the concrete?

BERKELEY, Calif. -- The fight to protect and preserve the West Berkeley Shellmound has been going on for years. We have a first look at the vision for an Ohlone Cultural Park. Did you know under this concrete lies a 6,000-year-old history?

"The West Berkeley Shellmound is the oldest known archaeological site or historic structure of any kind here in the Bay Area," said Lucy Gill, UC Berkeley Anthropology Ph.D. candidate.

Corrina Gould, the Tribal Chair for the Confederated Villages of Lisjan, has been fighting to preserve and protect the West Berkeley Shellmound for the last six years.

"But a private developer wants to own this land and to build on top of it. As Ohlone people, as Lisjan people who have been here since the beginning of time, we also need housing for our own people," Gould said. "But this is not the place for it. This place should be opened up for everyone in the Bay Area to know about our people. This should be a place of prayer that has always been."

Kent Lightfoot is a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley, who has been looking into the West Berkeley Shellmound's archaeological significance.

According to Lightfoot, "The West Berkeley Shellmound was known as one of the very largest and the earliest. It's about 6,000 years with our most recent radiocarbon dates and it goes til about 1,000. So, it was used for at least 5,000 years."

Gill notes it holds knowledge about how the Ohlone people lived in the area.

Despite City Landmark Status, the developer was granted a permit to build on this site.

Gill worked with Gould and the Confederated Villages of Lisjan to try and protect the site legally, as did the City of Berkeley.

"But we have a different vision for the best use of this land, a green space and a cultural park," said Gould." There's not one place in the Bay Area that talks about Ohlone history and resiliency and that this could be that place. Then why not the city of Berkeley? UC Berkeley has decimated our sacred sites and holds 9,000 of our ancestral remains. Why not return them home where they belong? Part of them belong here at the West Berkeley Shellmound. Children should have the ability to play in an open creek again, like we did when we were kids. A place where we can have a ceremony, the way we're supposed to. Not on asphalt but on a place that's green that has trees growing. And that's not only good for us, that's good for everyone that lives in the Bay Area."

If you would like to get involved, you can go to for ways to help honor the Lisjan Ohlone and their sacred site.