Writing the Story of California's Muwekma Ohlone Indian Tribe in WWI
By Alan Leventhal
In 1925, the Muwekma Ohlone Indians were erroneously declared extinct. Alan Leventhal has dedicated his life and career to correct this mistake. Here's a look at his work on writing and telling the story of Muwekma Ohlone WWI veterans, who have proved that they have never stopped living...or fighting:
I was hired at San Jose State University in the Department of Anthropology in 1978. As a trained archaeologist I worked on a multitude of ancestral Ohlone heritage sites. However, at that time, there was scant information about the Ohlone Indians (aka Costanoan Indians) of the San Francisco Bay region. In 1980, two anthropology students escorted Chairwoman Rosemary Cambra, who claimed to be an Ohlone Indian to my office. After having an engaging discussion about her family and what she wanted to accomplish relative to future research on her tribe, I informed Rosemary that, although I had taught about Native American tribes at the American Museum of Natural History and worked directly with Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone tribal communities in Nevada, I knew virtually nothing about California Indians, let alone about the history and heritage of the Ohlone/Costanoan tribal groups.
I then took Rosemary to our university library (before computers) and we used index cards in oak file drawers. We found Ohlone Indians on a card, which also noted for us to “see Costanoan.” The most comprehensive source that we located was the monumental tome titled Handbook of Indians of California written by eminent California anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber from University of California at Berkeley. Published in 1925 as “Bulletin 78” of the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, Kroeber’s handbook became the quintessential authoritative publication on all of the California Indian tribes.
In his chapter on “The Costanoans,”, Kroeber writes, “The Costanoan group is extinct so far as all practical purposes are concerned. A few scattered individuals survive, whose parents were attached to the missions of San Jose, San Juan Bautista, and San Carlos; but they are of mixed tribal ancestry and live almost lost among other Indians or obscure Mexicans,” (1925:464).
After reading this section, I turned to Rosemary and said to her that she must be from some other tribe because Kroeber had declared the entire group extinct by 1925. To this Rosemary responded that she was an Ohlone Indian, her mother was born on the Sunol rancheria in the East Bay, and she was baptized at Mission San Jose in 1912 with her other siblings. So rather than take issue, I asked her what research she wanted to explore. Rosemary stated that her family, extended families and other non-related families wanted to explore the mission baptismal and death records to see if they could trace their respective genealogies back to their aboriginal villages. I then agreed to work with those families who were interested in conducting such research.
As I interviewed various elders of the tribe, I came to realize that much of their 20th-century history was not included in Kroeber’s handbook, including the fact that they were federally recognized in 1906 as the Verona Band of Alameda County. During interviews, the elders remembered men coming to their houses when they were children (1920s – 1930s) asking about the Indian language that was spoken amongst them. I would later find out that the linguist who visited them was John Peabody Harrington from the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution. Further discussions centered around their enrollment with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (1928-1932, 1948-1957, 1968-1971); attendance in Indian Boarding Schools such as Sherman Institute in southern California and Chemawa Indian School in Salem, Oregon during the 1930s and 1940s; serving in the United States Armed Forces during WWII including the 101st Airborne, 82nd Airborne, 7th Co. 508th Parachute Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, 41st Infantry Division, "Jungleers”, Pacific, 3rd Army, Patton’s Tank Division, 14th Mechanized Cavalry Group, 18th Cavalry Squadron, 2nd Armored Division, Co. F. 358th Engineers GS Regiment, 345th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division, 58th Field Artillery Battalion, 76th Division, 226th Field Artillery Battalion, Battery B, Pacific, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, 3rd Marine Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Pacific, Company A, 155th Engineers Combat Battalion, Pacific, 89th Division, 1st Battalion, Co. M, 354th Infantry Regiment, 640th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 40th Infantry Division, Pacific, Army Air Corps, Pacific Theater.
After interviewing some of the World War II veterans, they pointed out that several men of their parent’s generation served in World War I. Working with various sources, we were able to track down their service records and burial locations in the Golden Gate and Riverside National Cemeteries. I also came to realize that no military historian included the service in the United States Armed Forces spanning from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the recent conflict in Iraq. This includes not only the men and women of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe but also from the 135 California tribes and bands that were illegally removed from their Federally Acknowledged status in 1927 by an incompetent Superintendent at Sacramento, Lafayette A. Dorrington.
The following presents those Muwekma men who served in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps prior to and during America’s engagement in Europe during World War I:
A Call to War: Muwekma Men Enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces: World War I
Even before California Indians legally became citizens in 1924, prior to and during America’s entrance into World War I, at least six Muwekma men joined 17,000 other Native Americans and served in the United States Armed Forces in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. These Muwekma men enlisted through the San Francisco Presidio and Mare Island and four of them are buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery:
Antonio (Toney) Guzman, U.S. Army, Private, Battery F., 347th Field Artillery, 91st Division. Toney Guzman was born on March 27, 1890, either in Centerville or on the Niles Rancheria. He was the son of Muwekma Indians Francisca Nonessa and Jose Guzman. Toney enlisted in the U.S. Army and he fought in the Meuse-Argonne (September 26 to October 8, 1918), Ypres-Lys, and Lorraine campaigns in France. Toney served in the Army from April 29, 1918, and was honorably discharged at the San Francisco Presidio on April 26, 1919.
The 91st Division was known as the "Wild West Division." The Division's shoulder patch was a green fir tree referring to its origin at Camp Lewis in the Pacific Northwest. The Division was deployed to France in August 1918 and fought with great distinction. In the Ypres-Lys campaign, the Division served in the Flanders Army Group, under the command of the King of Belgium. The Division was headquartered adjacent to Flanders Field. Five members of the Division earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. The 347th Field Artillery Regiment was assigned 4.7" inch guns, and the 91st Division received the following Victory Medal Clasps: Ypres-Lys, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and Defensive Sector.
In October 1931, Toney Guzman and his brothers enrolled with the Bureau of Indian Affairs under their mother’s BIA Application #10293. On his WW II Registration Card dated April 27, 1942, Toney was identified as “Indian”. Toney passed away on October 8, 1948, and was buried on October 12, 1948, at the Golden Gate National Cemetery (Section J, Grave 254).
Alfred (Fred) Guzman, U.S. Army, Private, Company “C,” 110th Infantry, 28th Division under Brigadier General T. W. Darrah. Alfred Guzman was born on the Pleasanton Rancheria on June 27, 1896, to Francisca and Jose Guzman. Prior to the declaration of War, Fred Guzman had served in the National Guard at Fort Mason in San Francisco in 1917. Afterwards he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and served in the 28th Division, 55th Brigade Infantry, 110th Infantry, Company “C” and fought in the major battles at Ourcq-Vesle (July 28, 1918), Second Battle of the Marne (July 15-August 5, 1918), Meuse-Argonne Offensive (September 26 to October 8, 1918), and Havrincourt (October 8 – November 11, 1918) in France.
The 28th Division fought in the following campaigns: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne, Champagne (1918), Lorraine (1918). The cost in lives of these six campaigns was 4,183 casualties including 760 dead. The six fleurs-de-lis on the regimental insignia commemorated their World War I service. The 28th Infantry Division was a unit of the United States Army formed in 1917 at the outbreak of World War I. It was nicknamed the "Keystone Division", as it was formed from units of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard; Pennsylvania is known as the "Keystone State". It was also nicknamed the "Bloody Bucket" division by German forces in WWII, after its red insignia. Fred Guzman served from July 28, 1917, and was honorably discharged at San Francisco Presidio on May 31, 1919. On his WW II Registration Card dated April 25, 1942, Fred is identified as Indian. Fred Guzman died on November 3, 1961, and was buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery (Section Y, Grave 1059).
Joseph Aleas, U.S. Army, Sergeant, Company D, 21st MG BN, 7th Division. Joseph Aleas was born on the Alisal (Pleasanton) Rancheria on May 11, 1893, and was the son of Margaret Armija. He enlisted in the US Army on June 30, 1916. According to Armija-Thompson family recollections, he was a good horseman and wanted to fight against Pancho Villa had led approximately 1,500 Mexican raiders in a cross-border attack against Columbus, New Mexico, in response to the U.S. government's official recognition of the Carranza regime. Villa’s troops attacked a detachment of the 13th U.S. Cavalry, seized 100 horses and mules, burned the town, killed 10 soldiers and eight of its residents, and made off with ammunition and weapons. President Woodrow Wilson responded by sending 6,000 troops under General John J. Pershing to Mexico to pursue Pancho Villa and his troops. This military mobilization was called the Punitive or Pancho Villa Expedition.
Later, Joseph Aleas served in France in the 21st Machine Gun Battalion, 7th Division (its Hourglass insignia dates back to 1918). Organized originally to serve in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during World War I, the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division was created at Camp Wheeler, Georgia on December 6, 1917, and it fought in Alsace-Lorraine, France during the war. The division also served as an occupation force in the post-war period. On October 10-11, 1918 the 7th was shelled for the first time and later it encountered gas attacks in the Saint-Mihiel woods. Defensive occupation of this sector continued from October 10th to November 9th during which the infantry regiments of the 7th Division probed up toward Prény near the Moselle River, captured Hills 323 and 310, and drove the Germans out of the Bois-du Trou-de-la-Haie salient. After 33 days in the line of fire, the 7th Division had suffered 1,988 casualties, of which three were prisoners of war. Thirty Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded members of the 7th Division.
Joseph Aleas was honorably discharged at Camp Funston, Riley, Kansas on July 9, 1920, and was awarded the World War I Victory Medal and the Bronze Victory Button. Joseph Aleas enrolled with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in October 1931 (BIA Application # 10299). On May 24, 1955, Joseph enrolled during the second enrollment period with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Joseph Francis Aleas passed away July 13, 1964, and was buried at the Gold Gate National Cemetery Plot Z, grave 2597.
John Michael Nichols was the older brother of Henry Nichols and he served in the U.S. Army from 1914 to1920. John enlisted on October 27, 1914, at Fort McDowell on Angel Island. He fought in France serving with the 59th Coast Artillery Corps which was attached to the 32nd Brigade, C.A.C. The 59th was converted to a TD (towed artillery) battalion and was engaged in the St. Mihiel offensive and the Meuse-Argonne offensive. John’s artillery unit was later attached to Battery C, 67th Field Artillery, 42nd Infantry Division, at the time when he returned back to the United States with his unit. John was discharged at Fort Winfield Scott at the SF Presidio on June 4, 1920. John M. Nichols was listed as an Indian on the 1930 Federal Census along with his son Alfred in Santa Cruz County. On John Nichols’s Draft Registration Card dated April 27, 1942, he was identified as residing at the Veteran’s Home in Napa (Yountville), California and he had resided there from 1941 to 1953. John Nichols died in April 1968 while living in Stockton, California.
Henry Abraham Lincoln Nichols, U.S. Navy, Fireman 1st Class, Battleships USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma. Henry Nichols was born in Niles on February 12, 1895, to Charles Nichols and Muwekma Ohlone Susanna Flores Nichols. Henry enlisted on May 23, 1917, and first served on the USS Albatross. By December 31, 1917, he was transferred to the Battleship USS Arizona, and later on March 26, 1918, he was transferred again to the Battleship USS Oklahoma. During World War I Henry Nichols served in the North Atlantic and was on escort duty in December 1918 when the Oklahoma was serving as escort during President Woodrow Wilson’s arrival in France at the end of the war (November 11, 1918). The Oklahoma returned to Brest, France on June 15, 1919, to escort home President Wilson who was transported on the USS George Washington from his second visit to France. Henry Nichols was honorably discharged at Mare Island on August 14, 1919, and was issued the World War I Victory Medal. On Henry Nichols Draft Registration Card dated April 27, 1942, he is identified as Indian. Henry Nichols passed away on January 5, 1956, and was buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery (Section L-5, Grave 7455).
Franklin P. Guzman (Service # 87843) Sergeant, U.S. Second Marine Corps Division, Fourth Marine Infantry Brigade, Sixth Machine Gun Battalion, 81st “D” Company. Franklin was born on the Alisal Rancheria on January 15, 1898, and was the son of Pleasanton Indians Teresa Davis and Ben Guzman (who later died in 1907). He was also the nephew of Toney and Fred Guzman. Franklin was listed on the 1910 Federal Indian Population Census for “Indian Town”, Pleasanton Township. He enlisted on October 20, 1916, while working near Sacramento, reported for duty on October 25, 1916, and was assigned to Company “B” Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Mare Island. On May 28, 1917, Franklin was promoted to the rank of Corporal. By March 31, 1918, he earned an Expert Rifleman Badge and a Marksman Badge and by April he was assigned to the 111th Company, 8th Regiment. In May, Franklin was transferred to the 150th Company 1st Machine Gun Replacement Battalion at Quantico, Virginia and he was promoted to Sergeant on May 22, 1918. The 1st Machine Gun Replacement Battalion sailed on May 26, 1918, on the USS Henderson and disembarked in France on June 8, 1918. The 1st Machine Gun Battalion was later renamed the 6th Machine Gun Battalion in France. From September 12 to 16, 1918 the brigade was engaged in the St. Mihiel offensive in the vicinity of Remenauville, Thiaucourt, Xammes, and Jaulny. On September 16, 1918, Franklin Guzman was wounded in the left thigh and from September through December he was placed in various Field and Base Hospitals in France, and finally transferred back to the States on December 16, 1918. Franklin remained in recovery at the US Navy Hospital at Norfolk, Virginia until he was honorably discharged from service as a Sergeant on June 27, 1919. Franklin’s Battalion participated in the Chateau-Thierry sector (capture of Hill 142, Bouresches, Belleau Wood) from June to July, 1918; Aisne-Marne (Soissons) offensive from July 18 to July 19, 1918; Marbache sector, near Pont-a-Mousson on the Moselle River from August 9 to August 16, 1918; St. Mihiel from September 12 to September 16, 1918; and later the Meuse-Argonne offensive (October 1 to 10, 1918, and November 1 to 10, 1918). Franklin passed away on May 30, 1979, and was buried in the Riverside National Cemetery (Section 8, Grave 2826).
For more on Native Americans who served in WWI, see Chag Lowry's WWrite post on his graphic novel, Soldiers Unknown.
Alan Leventhal is a trained archaeologist/anthropologist/ethnohistorian. During the early 1970s, he worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in the departments of Anthropology and Education. Mr. Leventhal completed his undergraduate degree in Anthropology at City College of New York and did graduate work at the City University of New York and the University of Nevada, Reno. He had also worked as a state archaeologist at the Nevada Archaeological Survey in University of Nevada, Reno, and taught classes there.
In 1978, Alan briefly worked as a Forest Service archaeologist in the Lassen National Forest before coming to San Jose State University in 1978 where he spent nine years in the Department of Anthropology as the Anthropology Lab Director. Alan completed his Master’s Thesis at SJSU in Social Sciences with an emphasis in Anthropology/Archaeology. His thesis is entitled A Reinterpretation of Some Bay Area Shellmound Sites: A View from the Mortuary Complex from CA-ALA-329, the Ryan Mound. He is also the author of numerous publications on Bay Area prehistory, California Indian ethnohistory, ancient and modern Native American DNA, that include stone tool analyzes spanning 12,000 years of human history in the SF Bay Area, work on the Indian Neophyte Cemetery at the Third Mission Santa Clara (1781-1818), and more recently a Pre-contact to Proto-contact Period cemetery site in Sunol with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
Presently Alan works as on the administrative staff in the Office of the Dean, College of Social Sciences at SJSU and continues to teach as a lecturer about contemporary Native American Issues and topics on advanced methods and theory in archaeology in the Anthropology Department. He has lectured and conducted archaeological investigations in New York, Georgia, Nevada, and California.
For the past 38 years, he has worked with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Region as a tribal ethnohistorian and senior archaeologist. He has also research tribal genealogies through the censuses and mission records as well as California Indian military service spanning all the major theaters from WWI through the recent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Leventhal has also worked as a volunteer (1992-1998) on the Congressionally created (HR 2144) Advisory Council on California Indian Policy’s Unrecognized Tribal Task Force and was one of the few advocates for the Previously Federally Recognized Tribes in the state.
He has also worked closely with other tribes throughout California as they seek restoration and reaffirmation of their tribal status. Mr. Leventhal has also served as an ethnohistorian and archaeologist for two other previously Federally Recognized tribes: Amah–Mutsun Tribal Band of Costanoan Indians (since 1989) centered around Mission San Juan Bautista and Ohlone-Costanoan/Esselen Nation (since 1992) centered around Mission San Carlos in Monterey.