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Highway takes on Ohlone name

Modified: Thursday, Sep 26th, 2013

Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian Assemblyman Luis Alejo (third from left) and others unveil a new sign Wednesday for the naming of the Ohlone Kallentaruk Highway.

WATSONVILLE — Hundreds of years ago, Gaspar de Portola passed through the Watsonville area, where he likely encountered villages of Amah Mutsun people, a tribe of Native Americans sometimes referred to as Ohlones.

What followed was an unfortunate history that saw the tribe of Amah Mutsun, which had occupied the land for thousands of years, rent asunder by Mission occupation and colonization.

Some 244 years later, local leaders honored those people, and those whose bloodlines still run thorough the Pajaro Valley, when a five-mile stretch of Highway 129 between Blackburn Street and Murphy Crossing was renamed the Ohlone Kallentaruk Highway Wednesday afternoon.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, joined Watsonville Mayor Lowell Hurst, Watsonville Councilmembers, and Native American leaders of the Amah Mutsun Tribe for the unveiling.

The event marked the first time a state highway to be named after the Ohlone. 

“I am happy to pay tribute to the Ohlone people who originally lived in the Pajaro Valley, near the Pajaro River, and in the Watsonville wetlands and sloughs,” Alejo said. “The Ohlone were the first inhabitants of the Pajaro Valley and have contributed rich cultural, economic and environmental traditions to the region. It is important that we recognize and honor their contributions to our current understanding of Native American culture and history.”

Meaning “house by the sea” in the Awaswas language of the Amah Mutsun people, the name Kallentaruk was chosen in consultation with Ohlone Indian descendants from the Pajaro Valley. It was chosen to describe the Watsonville region.

“It’s a magnificent day,” said Valentin Lopez, tribal chairperson for the Amah Mutsun Tribe. “Our people have been silenced since the Mission days. Our voices have been silenced, and nobody knew who we were. This is a significant way of putting it in people’s conscience that we’re here.”

This year, Alejo introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution 35, which recognizes every September as California Native American Heritage Month. ACR 35 encourages Californians to participate in observances that celebrate and commemorate California Native Americans and their outstanding contributions to this state.

The highway’s new name does not change businesses and residential addresses along the highway.

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