Sogorea Te’ Is Growing a Just Future by Looking to the Past

Sogorea Te’ Land Trust envisions a Bay Area in which Ohlone language and ceremony are an active, thriving part of the cultural landscape, where Ohlone history is taught, and where intertribal Indigenous communities have affordable housing, social services, cultural centers, and land to live, work and pray on.

When the Spanish touched down on the continent in the late 1700s, they began what would be centuries of terror, enslavement, and genocide against the Indigenous people. The Spaniards invaded and colonized the land, attempted to strip Native people of their languages and cultural practices and replace them with Christian ideology, and brought deadly diseases and invasive species with devastating consequences for the Ohlone people and the native flora and fauna.

Those who survived faced the United State’s genocidal policies. Enduring state-backed racial discrimination, oppression, and violence, Ohlone families concealed their culture and heritage to survive. Combined with the passage of time, this has led to the loss of much of Ohlone traditions and knowledge.

Sogorea Te’ is an Indigenous women-led organization that is working to facilitate the return of Ohlone land to Indigenous people and the revitalization of Ohlone knowledge and culture in a 21st-century world. 

“The first thing I envision doing is creating a space where Ohlone people can come together. We can revitalize language and song and dance and ceremony. We can talk about ways of looking at the Bay Area in a different way, and really doing what our ancestors had originally taught us to do: take care of the land. And how do we do that in an urban environment, with cities built up all around us? How do we stay true to those original teachings? How do we then pass that on to our kids? It’s about the survival of our culture and who we are as Ohlone people. In every other way we have been erased, and that can’t continue to happen. Our generation has to make this leap.” – Corrina Gould, Co-Director, Sogorea Te’ Land Trust

Centered in Huchuin, the ancestral homeland of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan Ohlone, now known as the East Bay, Sogorea Te’ has rematriated and is caring for the land at landback sites, where they plant crops, native plants, and herbs. These are spaces to grow, harvest, and process crops, seeds, and medicines and practice traditions. Sogorea Te’ distributes the food they grow from these sites and leads community volunteering sessions. They regenerate and return to the cultural knowledge and practices that were lost in colonization through projects and everyday practices such as Mak Noono Tiirinikma, which means “our language awakens” in Chochenyo and serves to breathe new life into an Ohlone language that was once on the brink of erasure. Through their work, they bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together to heal and transform the legacies of colonization, genocide, and patriarchy. 

We prioritize funding for Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led and centered work, with a particular focus on women of color-led work. Solutions to systemic oppression need to resource and shift power to the communities most impacted by its effects. To create a just world, we must follow Indigenous leadership, center Indigenous voices, and shift power to Indigenous communities. We are proud to fund Sogorea Te’ through our Safe & Sustainable Future For All Impact Collective

“This grant will significantly increase Sogorea Te’s capacity to rematriate the land through their landback efforts, build community resilience, and also partner with more of our towns and help us shift the way we all relate to our land and its history.” – Laura Merchant, WDN member, member of our Safe & Sustainable Future For All Impact Collective

We must center, resource, and shift power to those most affected by systemic oppression in order to create an equitable society. We look forward to continuing to grow our community and collaboration with Sogorea Te’. 

Additional resources:

  • The work of Sogorea Te’ is multifaceted and growing; browse through their website or follow them on Facebook to keep up with everything they’re doing. One of Sogorea Te’s recent and exciting pieces of news is the City of Albany’s resolution to work with them on land rematriation. 
  • Learn more about Sogorea Te’s Shumi Land Tax, a voluntary tax that directly supports Sogorea Te’s work of rematriation.
  • Read some of Sogorea Te’s educational resources. An important one is their piece on land acknowledgments, something that is becoming more of a common practice but must be done with intention and understanding to create positive change. 
  • WDN is funding Sogorea Te’ through our Safe & Sustainable Future For All Impact Collective, take a look at their page to learn more.
  • If you’d like to keep up with our work, follow WDN on Twitter.

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