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The Land We Learn On
Alegria Barclay, PreK–12 director of social justice and equity

November is Native American Heritage Month, a fact that often gets overlooked in the midst of parent-teacher conferences and Thanksgiving holiday planning. This year at Nueva, we wanted to focus more intently on Native American history and, specifically, our relationship to the land that Nueva rests upon and our responsibility as an institution to bear witness to the history of this soil. All of us who live and work in the Bay Area exist on land that has long been the ancestral homeland of the Ohlone people. We think it important to acknowledge that those of us who have settled on this land have done so without always recognizing the long history of violence against and erasure of the indigneous Ohlone people and their culture in the Bay Area. In honor of their legacy and continued commitment to be stewards of this land while preserving their cultural heritage, we invite you to reflect on your own understanding of this history and in what ways you can deepen your knowledge of the Ohlone people. 

Land acknowledgements have become much more common in the last few years and some of you may be familiar with the concept. If you are not, however, it is helpful to understand their intent. Chelsea Vowel of the Métis tribe says,

“If we think of territorial acknowledgments as sites of potential disruption, they can be transformative acts that to some extent undo Indigenous erasure. I believe this is true as long as these acknowledgments discomfit both those speaking and hearing the words. The fact of Indigenous presence should force non-Indigenous peoples to confront their own place on these lands.” 

Similarly, Northwestern University states that “land acknowledgements do not exist in a past tense, or historical context: colonialism is a current ongoing process, and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation.”

At Nueva, we are beginning to build that mindfulness and, through some of our curricular studies (notably in second, fifth, and 11th grade), are seeking to dispel key myths about Indigeneous people—including the Ohlone tribe—in this country: most important, that Indigenous people are not gone but still very much present in our country and community as they continue to fight for their civil rights. We hope to deepen this knowledge over time and are seeking to create greater awareness and connections to indigenous communities in the Bay Area . . . We invite you to join us in this journey!

There are many ways in which you can further your knowledge of the Ohlone people and support their efforts to preserve their connection to the land. One such way is to learn more about the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an Ohlone organization based in the Bay Area that “facilitates the return of Indigenous land to Indigenous people.” This indigeneous women-led land trust manages a number of projects related to preserving and protecting Ohlone culture and practices while seeking the return of Indigenous land. 

Additionally, you can voluntarily opt to pay the Shummi land tax which is an “annual contribution that non-Indigenous people living on traditional Lisjan Ohlone territory make to support the critical work of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.” If you’d like to learn more about some of the cultural roots of the Ohlone people, I highly encourage you to visit Cafe Ohlone when it reopens, as it is a lovely and delicious dining experience grounded in a deep decolonization practice. Indeed, the owners seek to engender “a full revival of Ohlone Indian food traditions as a part of the larger, ongoing cultural restoration that empowers Ohlone people to decolonize ourselves of layers of forcibly imposed identity and return to an identity that is aligned with that of our ancestors.” 

Finally, if you are curious to learn more about tribal territories across the United States, this Native Land map allows you to explore indigenous territories across the globe. We know that this is but a first step in truly recognizing the impact settler colonialism has had on indigenous communities and we are committed to this journey of working and learning in solidarity with Native nations. 

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