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Friday, April 12, 2024

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OpinionPerspectivesFinally, Native American land returned to Native Americans in Berkeley

Finally, Native American land returned to Native Americans in Berkeley

At the ancient Berkeley shellmound, the Lisjan people get back their sacred land.


Patriarchy Builds Parking Lots 

Patriarchy builds Shopping Malls & everything Matriarchy Does NOT 

Patriarchy drops bombs on Palestine 

And builds Prisons instead of skools on Turtle Island 

Patriarchy kills mamas while they hold their babies

Patriarhcy shoots children and when we fight back shoots us and calls us Crazy 

Patriarchy is violent 

But Matriarchy is a sacred, healing mama trident 

Matriarchy weaves palabra and quilts, prayer smoke and warming gifts, 

Matriarchy lifts Up love into sky spirit – calling down Grandmother Moon and Mama Ocean 

Matriarchy begins with the womb -offerring life always even in the face of violent brutal strife

Matriarchy protects water, and ancestors and air 

Matriarchy threads liberation into our hair 

No colonizers you can’t define our herstories. We are RIGHT HERE 

We will continue to come with un-ending prayer, 

You can’t stop the mamas, the grandmommas, the babies, the uncles and the fathers 

The liberation mamas and the LandBack Suns and daughters 


MamaEarth Is NOT for SALE – in perpetuity 

Steam rises from the broken concrete. Krapitalism buzzes in the distance. A train roars its approach.

But here in a parking lot on 4th street in West Berkeley… it is so quiet. Only the murmur of a wind…. And then if you listen very carefully, you hear it. A 5,700 hundred-year-old whisper. It swirls above the asphalt and the painted lines of metal and rubber and plastic. Sacred Shellmounds buried deep below click together in unison. If you listen carefully you hear the ancestors. They whisper together until it becomes a song #LandBack….LandBack… 

A celebration of the return of land, many years too late.

“Over the last eight years thousands of people came together and said YES at the same time to the Lisjan ancestors,” said Tribal chair of the confederated villages of Lisjan Corrina Gould. “We collectively prayed, sang, danced and created art together. As the Confederated Villages of Lisjan Nation joined in a six year long legal battle alongside the City of Berkeley to protect a shellmound and village site more than 5,800 years old.”

Under an agreement worked out by the City of Berkeley, a Native American burial site will now be returned to the indigenous people who once occupied what we now call the East Bay.

It is important to recognize that Corrina and all of us have been fighting for something that should have already happened. We have been praying, fighting, marching for something that is repair and return. Return and repair because something has been deeply broken.

A centuries old sacred burial ground should have been revered and protected, loved and honored by all people. Not just the descendants of the ancestors there. Just like cemeteries and mortuaries are. 

Instead, for decades it was a parking lot for a seafood restaurant. This is not an accident. This was not a mistake or an error in planning. This is violent colonization in a trajectory of other violent colonization that deemed indigenous bodies inhuman and therefore not deserving of life, land or respect, much less burial grounds, sacred spaces, or lands of origin.   

“I am so thrilled that I get to see this in my lifetime, we have all fought and worked for so long and this is truly beautiful,” said Ruth Orta, an 89-year-old elder Ohlone mama and grandmomma and daughter of a survivor of the colonial boarding schools.

Imagine the cemetery where your family is buried being turned into a parking lot. 

“This was long past due, to correct this historic harm to Ohone peoples of the Bay, said Melissa K. Nelson, president of the Board of Sogorea Te Land Trust. “Let this be an example for other cities, other towns, and states across the country, to address the historic injustices that have been perpetrated against Native American People on our ancestral lands.”

As Melissa spoke, the ancestors rose up, quietly, steadfastly, standing alongside the Youth and elder Ohlone/Lisjan family of warrior mamas and auntys and daughters and sons and uncles that lead the Sogorea Te Land Trust and the allies and accomplices that circled around them. They were right there. Heads held high into the healing smoke that rose into the morning.

“It was important for us to contribute and support Sogorea Te Land trust at the same scale that is commiserate with the hurt and harm that they have experienced for centuries,” said Nwamaka, CEO of Kataly Foundation, whose foundation radically redistributed $20 million dollars, which in addition to $1.7 million of the City of Berkeley contributed, made this possible.

“It was also important for us to pay Shummi land tax as our organization and our staff is located in the bay and it’s not up to us to decide how the resources were used, but rather to be in solidarity with Sogorea Te Land Trust, trusting that they will use the funds in the way that is most impactful,” said Nwamaka.

This powerful movement of indigenous land return is the intersection of many things. It’s about the colonial violence of having to buy back your ancestors resting place, your sacred spaces where our ancestors are buried, which all humans deserve.

It is about the violence of krapitalist greed and the lie of private property causing the casual (yet intentional) genocide of erasure, removal, and desecration of not only a burial ground but a sacred site that is thousands of Gregorian years old.

And finally, it’s the settler violence of greed, hoarding and accumulation that would put an insane, almost unimaginable “price” on Mama Earth to charge the peoples whose lands of origins this land belongs to, whose lands we are all standing, sitting, dreaming, thinking, buying and selling billions of blood-stained colonial dollars just to get it back.

This moment is also about the resistance moves of Kataly foundation, which clearly overstands, like we poor and houseless peoples teach at PeopleSkool, that their immense wealth does not “belong” to them, but rather is also stolen, “made” on the broken backs of Black, Brown, Indigenous and 1st Nations peoples and lands.

That this system is built for extraction, and the only solution is radical or what I’m now calling logical redistribution of these stolen resources and stolen land, rooted in love and repair, back into the thousands of places and spaces like this small part of Lisjan Land, in so-called West Berkeley, so we can all heal. 

“We owe this victory to the ancestors and every single person who stood beside us in this fight, we did it!” said Deja Gould, mama, organizer/leader with Sogorea Te Land Trust and daughter of Corrina Gould. 

This moment is about all of the settlers who stood, marched, prayed, screamed alongside Ohlone/Lisjan relatives. Knowing clearly that 1st peoples are not gone. That colonization didn’t work. That the human spirit is strong and together we can heal from this colonial hell with our voices, our humility and our actions. 

And for all the confused settlers reading this, LandBack does not mean re-making the same settler violence that was perpetrated on First Peoples of scarcity and removal and incarceration and death. This moment is a testament to the deep structures of ancestors who never believed Mama Earth was for sale. Who never saw her as a commodity to be extracted from and desecrated. Who were never rooted in the violence of scarcity but rather the solutions of sharing and interdependence.

If one relative has a job or food to eat, everyone eats. If one person has water, everyone drinks. If one family has a roof, as we do at Homefulness, as many people as possible are housed for free. For life.

“We made Herstory today, said Cheyanne Zepeda, mama and auntie,  Ohlone/Lisjan leader at Sogorea Te Land Trust and daughter of Corrina Gould.

This not a time to become scared or scarce. This is a calling in, not a calling out, we have all been lied to in krapitalism and we are all dying from it.

As Melissa said, let this be an example. Let us all learn more and live into more radical return, logical redistribution and most important, love for Mama Earth and all of us, so we can all be ok. So we can all heal. Together.

“I’m  so happy today, because this land is free,” said an Ohlone nine-year-old youth povertySkola student from DeeColonize Academy and granddaughter of Corrina Gould.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram


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