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The Ohlone in Santa Clara

Primary and secondary resources aiding in the study and research of the Ohlone tribe of Native Californians in Santa Clara

Introduction to Pre-Contact Research Sources

To understand the way of life of the Muwekma Ohlone and other Ohlone tribes pre-European contact, it is necessary to consult primary sources like archeological artifacts, documentary/archival evidence from early explorers, natural histories, and oral histories, in addition to secondary sources like anthropological, ethnographic, and historical essays and books.

Unfortunately there are no known written records created by Native individuals from this time period.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

As mentioned on the homepage of this research guide, it is important to distinguish primary sources from secondary sources when doing this type of research. Ask yourself when the object/artifact/text was created. If it was created during the time period you are studying, it is a primary source. If it contains conclusions made my present-day scholars or journalists, it is a secondary source that has analyzed the primary source and the author is offering you their interpretation. The primary source, on the other hand, is open to analysis and interpretation, and can support a variety of claims depending on the skill of your argument.


Oral Histories and Grammars

Although John Peabody Harrington's work occurred mostly in the beginning of the 20th century, he was able to capture aspects of Ohlone culture that predated European contact, for example oral histories of tribal myths and field notes about the Costanoan language. The National Anthropological Archives have stewardship of the Harrington papers, and links to their holdings, especially digitized content, follow below. If you need more help with this collection, please reach out to the NAA at or consult their research guides.


de Saisset Museum

National Anthropology Archives at the Smithsonian Institution

Santa Clara University Department of Anthropology Research Manuscript Series

Other Sources (e.g. book chapters, journal articles)