Oakland Plans to Return Land to Indigenous Group
Oakland has announced plans to return about 5 acres of land owned by the city to Indigenous stewardship.
The Oakland City Council will hold hearings to consider conveying the site, known as Sequoia Point, to the Indigenous women-led non-profit, Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, and the East Bay Ohlone tribe, Confederated Villages of Lisjan Nation. The City would grant a cultural conservation easement in perpetuity to the Land Trust, allowing the Land Trust to immediately use the land for natural resource restoration, cultural practices, public education, and to plan for additional future uses.
What started out with a casual conversation between Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and tribal Chairperson Corrina Gould in 2018, has grown into a partnership between the City and the Land Trust to begin to address the historic harms of Oakland’s founding. Chochenyo-speaking Ohlone people have inhabited Oakland and parts of the East Bay for thousands of years. They were forcibly removed from their land with the arrival of Europeans and descendants of Europeans beginning in the 18th Century.
“I am committed to returning land to Indigenous stewardship, to offer some redress for past injustices to Native people,” said Mayor Schaaf. “I hope the work we are doing in Oakland with the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust can serve as a model for other cities working to return Indigenous land to the Indigenous community we stole it from.”
In the short term, the easement would allow the Land Trust to immediately begin tending to the land, gather Native plants and foods, clean up the area, and perform environmental and natural habitat restoration. The long-term vision of this project is to create a thriving, beautiful, ceremonial gathering place and structure where Indigenous people and their guests can come together, and share cultural information and celebrations. In recognition of this historic moment, tribal Chairwoman Corrina Gould said, “This agreement will restore our access to this important area, allowing a return of our sacred relationship with our ancestral lands in the hills. The easement allows us to begin to heal the land and heal the scars that have been created by colonization for the next generations.”
Gould is also cofounder of Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, the first urban Indigenous women-led land trust in the country. The organization is returning land to Indigenous hands in the Bay Area through innovative approaches including the use of cultural conservation easements.
Councilmember Sheng Thao, who represents District 4 and whose office will host the community meeting, said: “I am thrilled that the city is returning land to the Indigenous community and am very grateful to welcome this project right here in District 4. I am very excited to share the details of this project with the community, revitalize one of the most beautiful parts of Joaquin Miller Park, and begin to make amends for the pain and trauma our Indigenous communities have faced.”
The project will also be reviewed by the City’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) on September 14, as well as local stakeholders including the Friends of Joaquin Miller Park. The City Council will ultimately need to review and approve the easement; the Council is expected to consider the easement in November.
After more than 250 years of separation, Sequoia Point will be returned to Indigenous Hands! An agreement between the city of Oakland and Sogorea Te’ Land Trust plans to return five acres of Joaquin Miller park to permanent indigenous control. https://t.co/Lc7wJqwJZh
— Kalliopeia Foundation (@KalliopeiaF) September 13, 2022