Over 100 people attended the webinar we hosted with Sogorea Te’ Land Trust on practical considerations for how to rematriate Lisjan Ohlone land to Sogorea Te’ Land Trust. See the full webinar here and the slides here!
Inés Ixierda of Sogorea Te’ Land Trust opened with an overview of Sogorea Te’ Land Trust’s history and vision for rematriation. As Inés shared, rematriation is “not just signing over land,” but a “transformative” process. “It's powerful to see the work people are doing internally...People are making new choices that have generational impacts.”
Cassandra Ferrera, a real estate agent with Green Key Real Estate, spoke of the practical benefits and costs of dealing with the real estate market. She also helped us think about reframing from land “transactions” between a seller and buyer to “transitions” from title holders into a reunion or rematriation.
Maija West, a mediator and consultant with Maija West Consulting, spoke on doing due diligence regarding the relationships involved in a land return, including with the family, the tribe/nation, and the land itself. She shared success stories and challenges from her experience supporting Indigenous communities receiving land back.
Alma Soongi Beck, a trusts and estates attorney with Lakin Spears, challenged the “gift” terminology used in trusts and estates and shared pitfalls to consider in rematriating land. “How can you gift something back to someone that didn't really belong to you? I've been shifting my language towards ‘transferring’ or ‘transferring back,’” she said.
Ellen Fred, an attorney with Conservation Partners, taught us about conservation easements as a tool in the toolbox that can provide Indigenous communities with full access to their ancestral lands, with a case study of the Tsnungwe Council and Hlel-din Village in Humboldt County, California.
Alejandra Cruz, a staff attorney at SELC, reminded us to remember “our capacity for breaking the rules, especially when…learning the rules and searching for the flexibility within those rules.” With this in mind, she shared technical considerations for both those receiving and returning land, from non-profit formation and property tax exemption to the tax deductibility of “donations” of land.
Many panelists also emphasized the importance of not imposing a timeline that prioritizes the land holder, but moving at a pace that serves the people receiving the land.
In the Q&A, the panelists responded to a range of thoughtful questions. One participant asked how someone might follow the suggestion of resourcing a land return with extra funds if they have land but not a lot of cash. SELC staff Chris Tittle chimed in, pointing out that this could be a great opportunity to mobilize the community to help fundraise and resource the rematriation together. On how individuals returning land relates to structural change, Inés offered, “Incremental steps are building a new transformation. Real estate agents and agencies adding a percentage of a sale back to a tribe; funders/lenders doing a similar thing. It builds reserves of resources around land.”
If you yourself hold Lisjan Ohlone land that you’re interested in rematriating to Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, we invite you to watch the webinar, read the resources on Sogorea Te’s website, and fill out this form to let Sogorea Te’ know.
By Yeji Jung, intern at the Sustainable Economies Law Center
Yeji Jung (she/they) is a Corean American woman continuously learning their histories and connecting with their ancestors. They connect the land struggle on the Corean peninsula to land struggles everywhere, especially where they reside. They helped organize the Law Center's Teachgiving Series in 2021. They join movements for liberation with a growing understanding of Indigenous sovereignty as environmental justice in the face of the global climate/capitalist crisis. They strive to show up for their communities in various roles, including artist, organizer, Corean political pungmul drummer, law student, and gardener. At the Law Center, they are working with Sogorea Te’ Land Trust to support the rematriation of Lisjan Ohlone land.