During National Native American Heritage Month, Alameda Health System (AHS) celebrates the rich and diverse cultures and important contributions of Native Americans who originally settled here in the East Bay communities where we serve all. It is especially important to pay tribute to the proud Chochenyo Ohlone (Ohlone) people who first inhabited the land that AHS hospitals and wellness centers sit on today.

While we owe much gratitude to the Ohlone and all of the Native American tribal nations in the Bay Area and beyond, we simply cannot forget that their rich legacies are marked with great sacrifice, pain and injustice as a result of colonization. Their connection to this land is one we should always honor and respect.

The Ohlone tribe lived in Oakland and other parts of the East Bay for thousands of years before they were forced out in the early 18th century.

The latter half of the 20th century saw many different tribes from across the country coming to the Bay Area as one of several relocation sites by the United States government. The displacement of Native Americans from their reservations led to the creation of the oldest urban Native American center, Intertribal Friendship House, which provided a community for Indigenous people from several tribes including Ohlone, Bay Miwok and Delta Yokut to seek each other out and access social services. Intertribal Friendship House is based in Oakland and continues to operate today.

It is critical to recognize the Bay Area’s Indigenous populations, past and present. Despite the atrocities of colonization and genocide, Native American communities persist today and are active in efforts to preserve and revive their culture and some cases, reclaim their land.

For example, The Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an urban Indigenous women-led land trust based in the Bay Area is working to facilitate the return of Indigenous land to Indigenous stewardship.

Collectively, these efforts are helping to bring awareness to the plight of Native Americans and is a sobering reminder that this time of year can bring painful memories of the past.

As many of us gather to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family, Native Americans recognize Thanksgiving as a day of mourning in memory of their ancestral history and in protest to the racism and oppression they endured.

From a HEDI lens, we need to be thoughtful and considerate during the holiday, as we know stories told about the first Thanksgiving often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and racism. It is important that Thanksgiving celebrations also acknowledge the enduring contributions of Native Americans, debunk myths, and accurately identify Native Americans as contemporary members of modern society with dynamic and thriving cultures.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to focus on common values including generosity, gratitude and community. Values that all of us at AHS share with our friends, families and each other.

Native American heritage, history and culture is an important part of our American story. For more information and resources visit: