Alameda has officially renamed the former Jackson Park — named for slave-owning and Native American-oppressing U.S. President Andrew Jackson — Chochenyo Park, for the language spoken by the island’s original inhabitants, the Ohlone tribe.
The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday, with Councilman Tony Daysog dissenting.
Alameda stripped the park of its name in July after a two-year process that began with a petition signed by more than 1,000 Alameda residents asking for the removal. The movement picked up steam in 2020 with the national outrage surrounding the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others by law enforcement around the country.
Alameda’s Recreation and Park Commission approved the change and appointed a committee of residents to find a new name. Chochenyo was selected over four other finalists, including Ohlone Park, Justice Park, Peace Park, and Mabel Tatum Park. Tatum was a Black woman advocating for housing rights for low-income residents of Alameda during the 1960s.
Though nearly two dozen residents spoke in favor of Chochenyo during Tuesday night’s Zoom session, some residents were concerned the process was not transparent enough. Daysog said his issue was the committee’s criteria was not broad enough to include both people of color and those of non-color while considering names.
“I think we missed an opportunity here,” Daysog said. “I don’t think we worked hard enough in casting the net for criteria.”
The Spanish were the first Europeans to colonize California. The land that is Alameda was gifted to Luis Peralta, whose family owned it under Mexican rule. It was named Alameda — which roughly translated means a grove of trees — in 1853.
Located at 2430 Encinal Ave., the park was initially named Alameda Park by English immigrant Alfred A. Cohen, who developed part of the tract into the Alameda Park Hotel and the Alameda Park housing subdivision. The hotel’s garden area was later transformed into the city’s first public park. It was renamed after the seventh U.S. president in 1909.
Councilwoman Trish Herrera Spencer voted for the new name but had reservations over a committee member’s stated preference of not including the name Alameda Park during consideration because it was a Spanish name.
“I actually see this as institutional racism,” Herrera Spencer said, after saying she would like to eventually see an Alameda park with a Hispanic name.
Herrera Spencer said she decided to support the re-naming once she discovered the committee consulted with the Confederated Villages of Lisjan, the descendants of the Ohlone.
Chochenyo was one of eight languages spoken by the Ohlone tribe. It has been revived and is still spoken by local Native Americans. The city’s staff report detailing the renaming process said Chochenyo was their preferred choice to name the park, as it is more specific to the language spoken by original inhabitants.
The former Jackson Park was one of four in Alameda named after U.S. presidents, with others named for George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and William McKinley. Jackson was president from 1829 to 1837 and owned about 300 slaves, according to the city report. He also signed the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which caused the killing and forced relocation of Native Americans. City leaders said they want to disassociate from the name and build relations with the Lisjan people.