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Page 71


Although they exploited natural resources and altered the landscape as they saw fit,

compared with successive cultures the Ohlone lived in a more balanced and harmonious

relationship with its natural surroundings. They utilized renewable resources and

discouraged excessive consumption, and produced a thriving culture for thousands of years

(Margolin 1978; Clark 1985). However, Don Gaspar de Portola's arrival on Sweeney Ridge

in Pacifica on November 4, 1769 permanently and irrevocably altered life in California for

all Native inhabitants, including the Ohlone and Miwok tribes in the San Francisco Bay

Area. From the fateful moment when Portola's party first gazed upon the Golden Gate and

San Francisco Bay, European and subsequent American colonization of California proceeded

rapidly, and eventually exterminated Ohlone culture.

Spanish Missionary Period (1776-1824)

The arrival of Spanish Missionaries in 1776 brought a quick and brutal end to aboriginal

Ohlone culture on the San Francisco Peninsula. Newly introduced European diseases,

forced abandonment of villages, and efforts at religious conversion all contributed to the

rapid demise of the tribes at the hands of the Missionaries. The history of Spanish, Mexi-

can, and American treatment of native inhabitants in California is well documented (Pitt

1970; Castillo 1978; Clark 1985; Gillespie 1986; West and Cotchett 2002; Merchant 2007).

Ohlone tribes living at or near Mussel Rock at the time of imperial Spanish arrival would

have been among the first of the native inhabitants to be collected and forcibly removed to the

newly constructed Mission San Francisco de Asis (Dolores). The proximity of Mussel Rock

to San Pedro Road, which connected Mission Dolores to the mission outpost at San Pedro

Creek in Pacifica, would have virtually ensured capture of any Ohlone living at Mussel Rock

by the Missionaries (Figure 21, page 58). By 1801, the entire Peninsula and the coast south to

Santa Cruz were completely depopulated of Native Americans (Castillo 1978).

Page 72


In one of the great genocidal episodes in human history, the Spanish managed to wipe out, in

less than thirty years, the entire 'Costanoan' Ohlone culture through brutal assimilation pro-

grams and the accidental introduction of diseases to which the native people had no immu-

nity. Between 1776 and 1806, three separate epidemics of influenza and measles swept away

the remaining Ohlone that had not been previously captured (Castillo 1978; Clark 1985).

Thus, it is unlikely that many native inhabitants of the Mussel Rock area survived past the

late 1700s. Even if a small number managed to avoid capture, rapid changes in the land-

scape and population of the Peninsula in the subsequent years would have changed their

lives irrevocably. The Spanish also made major modifications to local ecosystems. For

example, Spaniards replaced the native perennial bunch grasses with introduced annual

grasses and weeds to feed other newly introduced animals such as cattle and horses.

Mexican Land Grant Period (1824-1848)

After Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821 and became a Republic, Cali-

fornia was governed by Mexican grantees who were given large parcels of land previously

owned by the Spanish Missions (Figure 22). Some Mexican governors chose to develop

their land grants and some chose to sell them to prospectors and ranchers. During this

Rancho phase of Northern California under the governance of the Republic of Mexico

(1822-1846), three large ranch estates were established in the area surrounding Mussel

Rock. In what was then known as Sand Hills (present day Colma, Daly City and Pacifica),

Mexican grant recipients established two of the largest Ranchos in Northern California.

The largest ranch, called Buri Buri, covered 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) in parts of

today's peninsula cities of Colma, Burlingame, South San Francisco, San Bruno, and

Page 141


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