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January 21, 2009 > Milpitas Historical Society meets

Milpitas Historical Society meets

By Dustin Findley

The Milpitas Historical Society had its first meeting of the year at the new location of the Milpitas Public Library. Barbara Gomes Bowman, President, reported that the society donated $100 worth of food supplies to the Milpitas Food Pantry.

The George E Ewan Family Foundation donated $300 to the Society, which they used to install an alarm system for the historical firetruck, Leapin' Lena, on display at the library.
The society will donate a bronze statue of a little girl reading to the library. She will be in the children's section. The name Jim Davidson is inscribed on the statue. Look closely to see that the pages she is reading are blank.

Terri Rogaway, Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, spoke about the Native American tribes that inhabited the area, focusing on the Ohlone tribe. For more information visit

In a typical Ohlone village the houses were made out of plants like tule and wood from the willow tree. Women wore skirts made out of tule in front, and more comfortable leather or pelts in back to sit on, and the length of the tule skirt indicated to men if they were old enough to be married. Ohlone women also had tattoos to show that they were married.

There are different Native American groups working with Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, trying to make arrangements with them so they come onto open space to do some of their spiritual practices, "Because we have so much open space" said Rogaway.

Men hunt, and women gather. Everybody in the Ohlone village would come together to gather acorns, 500 pounds of which are needed to feed a family for a year, where the men would whack the trees with sticks to make the acorns fall down.

There are two possible reasons for the division, spiritual and practical. One belief is that women are creators of life, so to maintain balance men were takers of life. The other consideration is that it would be impossible for women to successfully hunt and carry children because the children would scare aware the animals.

Rogaway also brought artifacts. In the place of drums the Ohlone Indians used a clapper stick, a percussion instrument that slaps against itself (claps). Another instrument was a rattle made of shells and deer "toe nails." Society members had an opportunity to view obsidian arrowheads.

The Ohlones did not have obsidian in the area, so they had to trade with the tribes that were up north, where the volcanoes are.

Sage was also on the table. Rogaway offered to burn some outside. It is a sacred plant with a very distinct smell. Sagebrush actually grows in the Bay Area. Burning it opens a spiritual doorway, pushing all the bad things out, and letting the good things in. People nowadays "smudge" their homes or new homes.

Necklaces made out of shells were "Ohlone money." The value was determined by how long it took to make it. The shells had to be scraped on a rock until they were round, and holes had to be drilled into the shell without breaking it. The Spanish came with glass beads, "still beautiful, just different" according to Rogaway.

The Milpitas Historical Society meets once a month at the Milpitas Public Library. They have a guest speaker that talks about something historical.

If you are interested in joining the Milpitas Historical Society please contact Barbara Gomes Bowman at (408) 942-1492 or Kraig Bunnell at (408) 262-2559.

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