[Marxism] In the Bay Area, technology has gone hand in hand with imperialism for 500 years | Salon.com

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 10 06:15:39 MST 2018

Five hundred years ago, this swath of Northern California was populated 
by the Ohlone peoples, about 10,000 of whom lived in the stretch of land 
that we call the San Francisco Bay Area. So rich in plant and animal 
life was this region that the Ohlone were able to survive without 
farming or animal domestication; indeed, Western explorers, when they 
eventually arrived, were amazed at the quantity of wild animal life. The 
Ohlone lived off acorns from all the different varieties of oaks, 
blackberries and gooseberries, chia, shellfish, and the roots of many 
plants. They hunted squirrels, rabbits, elk, bear, whale, otter and 
seal. They did not “farm” in the Western sense of the word, though they 
had a complex knowledge of how to use controlled burns to cultivate 
plant and animal food sources.

Though they are called Ohlone now, at the time they did not think of 
themselves as a contiguous group: There were at least eight different 
languages between their small tribelets, each one spoken by about a 
thousand people. One might walk twenty miles and be unable to understand 
the local tongue. Their laissez-faire social relationships were alien to 
the hierarchy-obsessed Spanish missionaries, who commented that “in 
their pagan state no superiority of any kind was recognized.” Likewise, 
the Ohlone lived in a communal society—which vaguely resembled a gift 
economy—that shocked the missionaries. “They give away all they have… 
[and] whoever reached their dwelling is at once offered the food they 
possess,” one missionary said. There was no obvious form of government. 
Status and competition were unimportant to the Ohlone; generosity and 
family were. This led early missionaries, who were subject to powerful 
governments, to conclude that the Ohlone lived in “anarchy.”


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