On Thursday evening, July 29th, the City of Alameda invited the community to celebrate the naming of Chochenyo Park with a picnic, speakers, food, music, and art. Earlier this year, Alameda's City Council voted to rename the former Jackson Park to Chochenyo Park based on the work of a thirteen-member, volunteer committee and with support from the Recreation and Parks Commission.
Origins of the Chochenyo Name
Chochenyo is the name for the spoken language of the Lisjan Ohlone, part of the region's indigenous Ohlone people. The Lisjan Ohlone lived on the land now known as the San Francisco East Bay, including the City of Alameda.
The Council's vote followed a three-month-long community process to identify new names. The Confederated Villages of the Lisjan, whose historical land includes Alameda, told city officials and the Committee that they preferred Chochenyo as it was specific to Alameda.
The renaming process began in 2018 when a petition was submitted to the City asking that the park be renamed. The petition said, "Alameda's first park, Jackson Park, should be renamed due to Andrew Jackson's oppression of African and Indigenous or Native American peoples."
Last month, the Renaming Committee announced a top ten list of names using the criteria of diversity, equity, inclusion, human rights, and anti-racism. In the end, the Committee unanimously chose the name Chochenyo.
Community Activists Speak of Historical Significance
Event speakers included:
- Recreation and Parks Commissioner Adrienne Alexander
- Renaming Committee Members Raquel Williams and Rasheed Shabazz
- Tribal Spokesperson for the Confederated Villages of Lisjan/Ohlone and Co-Founder of the Sogorea Te' Land Trust, Corrina Gould,
- Rhythmix Executive Director Tina Blaine (Bean)
- Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft
Raquel Williams, a recent Alameda High School graduate and a member of Youth Activists of Alameda, remarked that she was happy to be at the event as a celebration of this moment in Alameda history.
She remarked, "This proves that Alameda can change and grow for the better. This opens the door for more positive changes, more things to be renamed, more policies amended, and more people educated. I want to come back to Alameda after college and see a long list of things that include all the diversity that Alameda has.
"I want to see the next group of young people step into their role in Alameda. We can change things, be involved, be present, and get things done. I am a high school student, but I was able to have a role in this process regardless of how young I am."
Rasheed Shabazz noted that the renaming process was not without hitches. The process was instigated in early 2018 but moved slowly and stalled until the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor ignited a global anti-racist movement that brought urgency to the process. Following these events, 1253 people signed the renaming petition.
Alameda's Indigenous History
Corrinna Gould said, "Chochenyo speaking people have an unbroken tie to our traditional homeland. We have never left. The fact that we are having a conversation today, I give thanks to our ancestors for allowing us to do that. Our ancestors were resilient people who were colonized three different times. They were colonized by the Spanish missionaries, then during the Mexican rancho period, and today the occupation of the United States.
"In all those years, our ancestors held us up, showed us how to be resilient, fought through pandemics, thrived through starvation, and being pushed off our lands. Our ancestors are buried in various places throughout this city." She noted that Mound Street represents a sacred site, a mound that her ancestors put there thousands of years ago with their burials.
She continued, "We are not going away, but we want to work in a relationship with all of you for important work." As the Co-Founder of the Sogorea Te' Land Trust, she talked about the Trust's work in returning indigenous land to indigenous people. She discussed the concept of "Shuumi," which means gift in the Chochenyo language.
The Trust wants to establish a cemetery to reinter stolen Ohlone ancestral remains and build urban gardens, community centers, and ceremonial spaces so that Indigenous people can thrive in the Bay Area. They ask for Shuumi or voluntary annual contributions that non-Indigenous people living on traditional Lisjan Ohlone territory can make to support the Trust's work.
She proudly noted that the City of Alameda, first in the Bay Area, and she believes first in the country, has decided to pay Shuumi. She thanked the city for helping to ensure that indigenous people have places where they can connect and re-engage the people of the Bay Area. She hopes to see indigenous people become a vibrant part of the current cultural landscape and not just a part of its history.
Future of the Temporary Art Exhibit
Recreation and Parks Director Amy Wooldridge noted that when RPD was tasked with taking down the Jackson Park sign, she reached out to Tina Blaine (Bean), Executive Director of Rhythmix Cultural Center. They discussed installing a temporary art exhibit in place of the sign while the renaming process was ongoing.
Artist Stephen Bruce curated the exhibition that featured artwork by six artists on the theme of Creating Our Future. The temporary exhibit was removed at the end of April 2021 when the City unveiled the new Chochenyo Park sign.
Since then, Councilmember, John Knox White, has started a GoFundMe to raise funds to acquire the artworks and donate them permanently to the City of Alameda. The GoFundMe notes, "Donating to this campaign will help commemorate the renaming process—the effort to look at Alameda's history and the impacts of place-names on different parts of our community, and to realign how we present this space to reflect our community's aspirations."
Mayor Ashcraft concluded by quoting Maya Angelou, who said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." The Mayor said that is what the Recreation and Parks Commission, the Park Renaming Committee, and the City Council have done. She said, "when we knew better, we did better."
Picnic meals were sponsored by Alameda restaurants Tahina, Johnathan's Sandwich House, and Viva Mexico. DJ Samoa Boy provided music. Commemorative wooden Chochenyo coins made by Clarisse Bayani from the College of Alameda FabLab and paper cranes made by local high school student Meilin Beloney were distributed.
- City of Alameda Park Naming Celebration Announcement
- Chochenyo Temporary Art GoFundMe
- Sogorea Te' Land Trust
- Rename Jackson Park website
- Rename Jackson Park petition
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