The city of Oakland, Calif., announced a plan last week that would make it one of the first cities in the country to return land to Indigenous peoples.
City Council will hold hearings and decide whether to grant a easement on five acres of land in city-owned parkland to local Indigenous organizations: the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, the East Bay Ohlone Tribe and the Confederate Villages of the Lisjan Nation.
The easement would allow the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust to immediately use the land, known as Sequoia Point, for public education, natural resource restoration, cultural practices and other future uses, the town said. town.
“This agreement with the City of Oakland will restore our access to this important area, allowing a return of our sacred relationship to our ancestral lands in the hills of Oakland,” Corrina Gould, co-founder of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust and Lisjan The Tribal Chairperson, said in a statement. “Servitude allows us to begin to heal the land and heal the scars created by colonization for the next seven generations.”
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The Ohlone people, who belong to the Confederate Villages of the Lisjan Nation, had inhabited Oakland and the East Bay area in northern California for thousands of years before being forcibly removed by European settlers and their descendants from the 18th century, the city said in its statement.
Discussions for land “rematriation,” as the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust calls it, began in 2018 between Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Gould.
“I hope the work we’re doing in Oakland with the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust can serve as a model for other cities working to return Indigenous lands to the Indigenous community we stole it from,” Schaaf said in a statement. City press release.
Schaaf also shared on Twitter that “Oakland, CA will return land to the native community we stole it from.”
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The Sogorea Te’ Land Trust said in a statement that it plans to create a “ceremonial gathering place and structure” on the grounds for indigenous peoples and guests to gather.
The return of Sequoia Point is especially significant for the Lisjan Nation, which encompasses five Bay Area counties, as it is not a federally recognized tribe.
“We have an unbroken connection to these lands, but we don’t have a land base because we’re not recognized by the federal government,” Gould told USA TODAY. “Even though we have been here on the landscape for thousands of years, there is no place in the Bay Area that allows us to tell the story and engage the land at the same time. “
A process that other cities can duplicate
The announcement in Oakland comes amid a “back to the land” movement across the country and the world in which Indigenous peoples are demanding the return of their lands to governments and landowners.
In the United States, the movement is led by NDN Collective, an indigenous rights group that has campaigned for the closure of Mount Rushmore and the return of federally owned land to the indigenous community.
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In 2019, the city of Eureka, California, about 275 miles north of Oakland, returned an island off its coast to the Wiyot people, nearly 160 years after the land was seized from the tribe and that the residents of Eureka massacred several of its members, reports the local newspaper Times-Standard.
Activists in Minneapolis, Minnesota are pushing for the return of some city parks to Indigenous control to provide housing for the homeless Indigenous population. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told the Minnesota Reformer last year during his re-election campaign last year that he supported returning land to the Indigenous community.
Eureka is believed to be the first city in the country to return land to indigenous people. But the Wiyot tribe is federally recognized, meaning the land was returned to a federal trust, Gould said.
The process is very different for federally unrecognized tribes, according to Gould, who hopes Oakland’s land restitution can serve as a model for other cities seeking to return land to unrecognized tribes across California. .
The perpetual land easement the City of Oakland is considering granting to the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust is a “brand new” development, Gould said. It gives non-owners the right to use the property for designated purposes.
“We really wanted to make sure other cities could replicate this process,” Gould said. “There are hundreds of federally unrecognized tribes in California. Almost every tribe that has been brought into a mission is not federally recognized…so there are several hundred thousand people who are landless.