Ohlones and Miwoks marked life’s important transitional events with both private and public ritual. Following birth, Ohlone mothers lay with their child on a leaf mattress in a pit lined with heated stones. When Ohlone girls reached puberty, they refrained from eating meat, fish, and salt, and from lifting heavy objects. Ohlone boys received initiation into the datura society. Upon a couple’s marriage, the groom’s relatives presented a gift to the bride’s.

While Ohlones and Miwoks usually reserved music, song, and dance for religious ceremonies, they also sang songs as hunting and love charms. They played musical bows, a stringed instrument plucked with the fingers, in secular contexts.


Life’s important transitional events continue to bring Ruth’s family together. As in the past, some of these events center on religious observance, such as baptisms and confirmations. Others center on the same types of holiday observances and celebrations familiar to most Americans. Among the family’s favorites: Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving,

Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve provide opportunities for large, extended family reunions. On these days, Ruth’s small home overflows with the love, laughter, and easy camaraderie of a multi-generational family used to being together and sharing heaping batches of home-cooked food, including stews and tamales.

Ruth’s great-granddaughter Mariah’s Quinceañera dress, at age 15, 2016. The family’s first Quinceañera occurred last year due to the long-time cultural importance of this event for the family of Mariah’s father.