Ryan Matsumoto and Caitlin Hopkins were recognized as this year’s fourth grade first and second place winners, respectively, of the Second Annual Louise and George Cooper Historical Essay Contest. Presented by the Saratoga Historical Museum, the contest was open to all fourth and fifth graders enrolled in Saratoga schools. Students researched and wrote a 300-word essay on the topic, “A Day in the Life of an Ohlone Child.” The essays were evaluated on criteria including: a clearly stated topic, descriptive language, organization, and correct grammar and spelling. Ryan and Caitlin each received a cash prize and were recognized at a reception with city council members.
Have you ever wondered what an Ohlone child does all day? Well, after you read this essay, you will know some of the secrets of the Ohlone Tribe. Noso-n (greetings), my name is Wapi, meaning white and lucky. I am in the Ohlone tribe located on the coast of California. I want to tell you about my daily life. First, I wake at sunrise, and step out of my tule hut wearing my buckskin cape and eat a breakfast of acorn mush with my tribe. We then join the male elders in the woods and learn to hunt, fish, and make weapons - skills we will need when we are adults. During our lessons, the women gather acorns that they will prepare for our meal. After a few hours, I return to our village to eat lunch, a roasted antelope with acorn bread. Once finished, my friends and I play a game in the grassy fields. One of us rolls a hoop and another tries to throw a stick inside the hoop. This helps us learn to hunt. As we play, a red-tailed hawk flies above us. I love watching my spirit animal soar through the sky. As evening approaches, we head back to our village. The women have prepared a meal of salmon, shellfish and acorn bread. After dinner, the children gather around the fireside to hear stories about our ancestors. I listen carefully to the stories about the beginning of the world and the adventures of the coyote. Finally, the children head to their family huts and go to sleep. I snuggle under my fur blankets and fall asleep with the help of the stars peeking through the smoke hole and an owl hooting peacefully.
I awoke to the sound of a woodpecker, knocking on the oak tree outside my house, remembering today is building day in my Ohlone village. I let out a yawn from my goose-feather mat, and changed into my apron. A leaf whisked by me as I took a step outside, where the cold was bracing. My woodpecker took flight, and flew swiftly away.
It is time to take our house down and rebuild. Yesterday we walked up the mountain to gather materials. Before descending, we gave thanks, while gazing at the misty blue ocean across the summit. Today, the men used the felled trees to frame the dome shape, and I helped the women cover the frame with redwood bark.
We live in a valley sheltered by mountains, in a meadow surrounded by oak and evergreen trees, next to a stream. Animals fill our world - deer, coyote (trickster spirit), birds, and fish. I study them and learn much from them.
My name is Wapun, meaning Day Star; I am 10. My village is led by my mother, who inherited the status of headman from grandfather, and was approved by my people. She resolves disputes and heals the sick, yet still has time for our family.
This afternoon, after the women finished the houses, I walked through the meadow, where under the shade of an oak tree, my friends and I worked pounding acorns, while singing, talking, and giggling. The finished meal was placed in twined baskets, woven from willow.
At sunset, I sprinted through the grass toward the creek, jumped from boulder to boulder, and swam in the cool water. When I returned, I helped prepare the deer downed by the men's hunt. The hide was saved; the meat was cooked. I ate, then walked to my new house, laid my head down, and fell fast asleep, dreaming about tomorrow's Sun celebration, where I will blow smoke toward the sky and offer prayers in blessing.