Amah Mutsun

Facts about Sargent Ranch and claims from the Amah Mutsun:

Amah Mutsun Claim






Sargent Ranch was home to Juristac, their most sacred village, a place where sacred ceremonies were held and home to Kuksui, a famous and powerful spirit. 


The village of Juristic was first referenced in the Spanish explorer Pedro Fages’ journals. Fages lead an expedition from Monterey Bay up the Pajaro River into Mutsun-speaking areas in 1770 and again in 1772. The villagers living in the San Benito and Pajaro River drainage saw Europeans for the first time during these expeditions, as they went past villages of the Ausaima and Unijaima. The explorers described seeing villages at the mouth of the Pescadero Creek, which may have been the Juristac village (Milliken R. T., 1993, p. 49).


Various maps place the Juristac village at different locations.  Hart stated that Rancho La Brea was the location of a Mutsun village and provided a map titled Diseno del Rancho Juristac from the United States District Court case for the recognition of the German brothers’ land grant which placed Rancho La Brea east of Tar Creek, north of where it empties into the Pajaro River (Hart, Winter/Spring 2003, p. 54). Kroeber placed Juristac south of the Pajaro River and east of the San Benito River, right near the present day Betabel RV Park. Kroeber did not know if the villages listed on his map were permanent towns, suburbs or summer camps and stated that they could only be “vaguely located” (Kroeber, Handbook of Indians in California, 1925, p. 465). Levy placed Juristac north of the Pajaro River on the eastern side of Pescadero Creek (Levy, 1978, p. Map 3).  Millikan put the village at two different locations at different times. He identified the village near the mouth of Pescadero in 1776 (Milliken R. T., 1993, pp. 49, 64-68) and on the land near the tar seeps located on what is now Tar Creek during the Mission period (Milliken R. T., 1993, p. 77). Two of these four locations are outside the boarders of the current day Sargent Ranch and all four locations are outside the Sargent Quarry project area.


What little is known is that the current-day Sargent Ranch was the territory of the Unijaima people. The Unijaima were one of the forty groups that make up the Ohlone and almost certainly lived on the Ranch at one time or another. Little of their history was passed down from generation to generation, as these peoples did not have a written language and believed that discussing the lives or activities of anyone that had died would invite evil spirits. (Margolin, 1978, p. 148) There is no historical record of the specific ceremonies or dances of the Unijaima. (Jones, Fall 2015, p. 56) They left no artifacts, burial grounds or anything that would tell us about their lives. The claims made by the Amah Mutsun are from what little is
known about the Ohlone people of the larger region. Nothing specific can be placed on the Sargent Ranch lands other than the
existence of the tar seep.

Juristac hosted the Big Head dances
associated with Kuksui and other healing and renewal ceremonies.


There is nothing in the historical record that discusses anything that occurred at Juristac or how it was more or less sacred than any other site. The Ohlone people lived a life where all things that surrounded them had meaning and were sacred.  The meadow where seeds were gathered had sacred qualities and proper names as did the path to the meadow, the bushes next to the path, the trees behind the bushes, the rocks amongst the trees, the birds that flew from the trees, the deer that ran through the meadow and so on. Every object—the sun, a trail, a spring, even the common pestle—was believed to have a life and a force of its own (Margolin, 1978, p. 134).The Ohlone people were forever concerned with not properly addressing, and thereby insulting, the spirits. Insulting spirits might result in a person being caused to trip and fall, have a poor night of gambling, not be able to kill a deer on a hunt, and an endless list of problems.  (Margolin, 1978, pp. 46-47).Everything was tied into religion. The dogma that western religions rely upon meant nothing to the Ohlone. According to Margolin, “It did not matter whether one believed the Eagle flew east or west after the creation of the world: some groups believed one thing, other groups believed something else and for still other groups it was a matter of doubt or complete disinterest. What did matter was that one knew how to get along with Eagle, acquire Eagle’s power, and display that power in one’s relationship with others. Thus Ohlone religion was one without dogma, churches, or priests: it was a religion so pervasive (like the air) that the missionaries who first visited the areas missed seeing it entirely…” (Margolin, 1978, p. 143)The “religion” was conducted through dances and ceremonies. Very little is known about the specific dances or ceremonies that were conducted by each tribelet. The historical literature only listed two dances and labeled the origin of those dances as being “problematic or provisional” due to cultural intermingling during the Mission period (Jones, Fall 2015, p. 56).  The idea that Juristic is the home of Kuksui is also in conflict with the historical record. Early archeologists have attributed the belief in the spirit of Kuksui to the peoples that lived in the northern Sacramento Valley. It is one of only two dances that were attributable to the Ohlone, but were never directly associated with the Mutsun peoples of the San Juan Bautista Mission. To attribute the Kuksui solely to the areas of Sargent Ranch and to state that Juristic was their most sacred site is a fabrication made without historical basis.

There will be no way to rehabilitate the cultural and spiritual aspects of the landscape once disturbed by mining.


There is nothing in the historical record that suggests mining or disturbing the landscape was objectionable to the Ohlone people or their god/spirits. To the contrary, the Ohlone and the other California Indians treated their mines and quarries and the products they produced as sacred. (Hodgson S. F., 2005, p. 8)  Across California, Indians mined obsidian, chert, salt and other materials for their everyday consumption, to trade with other tribes, for decorative, healing and religious purposes. (Heizer, Vol 40, No. 3, July, 1944, p. 298) Tribes that did not have access to these resources sent tribesman to trade for them. The excursions were also treated as sacred. 

The Ohlone that lived on or near Sargent Ranch mined the asphaltum seeps found on the Ranch. Their neighbors twenty miles to the north at the New Almaden mines used open pit mining techniques to mine cinnabar. Further to the north, the tribelets living in current Napa and Sonoma Counties mined obsidian that was thought to contain magical powers and was traded to tribes as far away as to present day Washington State. (Heizer, Vol 40, No. 3, July, 1944, p. 295) 

The Ohlone and other California Indians did not see any conflict between the sacredness and power of the landscape and the use of mining to harvest valuable minerals. Mining provided the products, bowls, arrowheads, paints and sealing agents that they used to improve their lives, just as mining provides essential resources today. Mining and its products were an integral part of Ohlone life.  Different groups mined for various materials. The Wintu of McCloud River in northern California used obsidian from Glass Mountain. In the summer, two or three men would make a two to three day trip northeast to the quarry. The men fasted throughout the journey, as the act of obtaining obsidian was a semi-religious quest (Heizer, Vol 40, No. 3, July, 1944, p. 303).

The asphaltum that was mined from Sargent Ranch was used for a wide variety of symbolic, decorative, and practical purposes. California Indians used asphaltum to fasten stone knives and spear points to wooden handles with an asphaltum adhesive, which also waterproofed the sinew wrappings securing the blades (Hodgson S. F., 2004, p. 7). Baskets and water bottles were waterproofed inside and out with asphaltum by the Yokuts and Chumas Indians (Hodgson S. F., 2004, p. 8).