The Ohlone people had fixed village locations, moving temporarily to gather seasonal foodstuffs like acorns and berries. Seafood from the bay and ocean were important to their diet. An estimated 10,000 Ohlone people lived in the central California coastal areas between Big Sur and the Golden Gate of San Francisco Bay prior to Spanish contact. This group consisted of approximately forty different tribelets ranging in size from 100-250 members. Unlike other Native American ethnic groups, the tribelets did not have a common sense of identity and did not act jointly.
Spanish and U.S. encroachment into the California coast, starting with a landing by Sebastian Vizcaíno in December 1602, disrupted and undermined Ohlone social structures and way of life. By the early 1880s, Ohlone people had nearly been displaced from their communal land grant in the Carmel Valley. To call attention to the plight of the California Indians, Indian Agent, reformer, and popular novelist Helen Hunt Jackson published accounts of her travels among the Mission Indians of California in 1883.
One Ohlone language was called Costanoan after a Spanish term. Its last fluent speaker, Isabel Meadows, died in 1939. The Ohlone today refer to themselves as the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation. Their tribal council claims enrolled membership by currently approximately 500 people from thirteen extended families, approximately 60% of whom reside in Monterey and San Benito Counties. territory.