Research Manuscript Series


Erin M. Reilly

Document Type


Publication Date



Santa Clara, Calif. : Santa Clara University, Department of Anthropology and Sociology


This study addresses the nature of human interaction with the riparian environment in the Santa Clara Valley over time. This is not a new anthropological theme. Literature dates to 1863 The Earth as Modified by Human Action, by George P. Marsh); cultural ecologist Betty J Meggars stated: "The relationship- of culture to environment is one of the oldest problems in the science of anthropology ... "(Meggars, 1968:19); and, anthropologist Alfred Kroeber said: "no culture is wholly intelligible without reference to the nonculture, or so-called environmental factors with which it is in relation and which condition it "(Kroeber 1906:297).

Along these lines, therefore, I have studied the Valley natural history (e.g., the geography, climate, geology, fauna and flora) and combined it with an examination of Ohlone culture and the changes associated with the entrance of the Spanish missionaries, Mexican control, and takeover by the united States of America. My analysis of the Ohlone includes a brief ethnographic sketch with reference to myth in order to illustrate Ohlone belief and use of the river. I include aspects of water resource exploitation by the

seasonality, clothing, shelter and tool materials. Second, I examine the use and exploitation of the rivers by Spanish missionaries and Mexican settlers, and their impact on the Ohlone. Finally, I sketch the situation beginning with the Gold Rush and Anglo settlement. Twentieth century uses of the rivers in the Santa Clara Valley are innumerable, but include mostly industry, agriculture and channelization.


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