The city of Oakland lies directly on Ohlone land where the Lisjan Ohlone people lived for thousands of years prior. After years of slavery, forced Catholicization, and genocide at Mission San Jose and Mission Dolores, the tribes then faced years of colonization, state-sponsored murders, and discrimination from the US government. Yet the six Confederated Villages of Lisjan are federally unrecognized, meaning that they have no way of obtaining reservations, protections, compensation, scholarships, or housing grants. This is all due to the unnecessarily lengthy and intricate application process required to become federally recognized as a tribe. Since 1988, all eight official petitions submitted to the government by Ohlone tribes have been denied.
In September, Oakland City Council announced an initiative to become the first city in California to participate in direct reparations to Indigenous people in the form of property. The proposal is pending the council’s approval as early as this November, and includes full access to the land as well as protections against any potential reversal efforts by future city leaders. The proposed rights to an approximate five acres of Joaquin Miller Park, known as Sequoia Point, would be granted to the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an Indigenous women-led nonprofit based in the Bay Area. Since 2015, the non-profit has advocated for the return of sacred land to natives, built emergency response centers, revitalized cultural practices and traditions, funded youth programs, and facilitated the Shuumi Land Tax. Shuumi, which translates to gift in the Ohlone language Chochenyo, is an annual contribution recommended for any non-Indigenous individuals currently residing on Lisjan Ohlone territory, which includes the counties of Alameda, San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Solano, and Napa.
Co-founder of the Sogorea Te’ Land trust Corrina Gould stated that “[T]his is a way for us to take this land and reimagine what it might have looked like… It’s a way for us to tell our story as Lisjan people, and to engage our relatives from all walks of life into stewarding this land.” The Trust plans to use the land for traditional ceremonies, to replant species native to the Bay, as well as to establish an educational center. Oakland hopes to be the first city of many in California to give municipal land back to Indigenous groups.
Give Shuumi at sogoreate-landtrust.org/shuumi-land-tax/