Vincent Medina is committed to keeping native culture alive in his community. Through the café that he co-founded, he shares the language, meals, and practices of his tribe, the Muwekma Ohlone people.
“By keeping the story as a hopeful one, we ask people to reframe how they think about our culture, to associate our culture more with victory and not with defeat.”
Meet Vincent: Ohlone tribe activist
Vincent Medina: We’ve gone through too much and we’ve come too far to ever give up anything now. By keeping the story as a hopeful one, we ask people to reframe how they think about our culture, to associate our culture more with victory and not with defeat.
(Chalkboard reads: Mak-’amham means “Our Food” in Chochenyo — the first language of the East Bay!)
(Vincent welcomes guests of Café Ohlone speaking in Chochenyo)
What I just said to you in Chochenyo — which is the very first language of the East Bay, the language of my family and my tribe, the Muwekma Ohlone people — is, “Hello, good evening. Welcome to Cafe Ohlone. My name is Vincent Medina and I’m the co-founder of this space, as well as my partner, Louis Trevino. And we’re both Ohlone people. We stand here proud about what our community has always kept alive for us.”
Growing up here in the Bay area, it was common for people to often think that we were extinct as Ohlone people. There aren’t many reminders that native people, or Ohlone people, were ever here at all.
Louis Trevino: A lot of the misinformation that people have is because of anthropologists and the way that they’ve written about our people. A lot of those anthropologists had extreme bias against our people.
Vincent: So there’s huge diversity within our traditional diet. Acorn is our most traditional food. It’s our staple food. Our people would often hunt, and to this day, lean game is something that we still cherish and serve — things like venison, salmon, elk, duck. Our people have always loved quail and rabbit. During this time also, early nuts start coming in, like black walnuts and hazelnuts.
[Speaking to café guests] So much of this experience is also learning that our culture is a fun one as well. So we want to share with you a traditional game. Who doesn’t want to play an Ohlone game, right?
(Guests of café play Ohlone game with sticks)
As Ohlone people, we have to work several times as hard to share this story. We have to remind people out there that what they thought about us was untrue.
[Speaking to café guests] We ask you a favor: that you share these messages, what you learned today, far and wide. One of the most dangerous misconceptions, which is unfortunately still lingering even in 2019, is that Ohlone people are extinct. Whenever I hear that, I’ll say, “What are you talking about? Do I look extinct to you?” We’re not extinct. Our people have never been. We’ve never left this space. We never will.