In the San Francisco Bay Area, demand for land seems endless. Property values are sky high, rents are backbreaking, and people just keep coming. Over 2 million more are expected to settle here by 2040. Bulldozers and backhoes reshape neighborhoods. Cranes dominate the horizon. Land, with a home or high-rise plopped atop, can build a fortune for its owner.
Today’s land rush is nothing new. For more than 200 years, there has been a run on Bay Area real estate — a relentless wave of colonization , then suburnanization and now gentrification that left the Ohlone, the Bay Area’s first people, landless.
“Nobody knew about us,” said Corrina Gould, a Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone leader and activist. “There was this process of colonization that erased the memory of us from the Bay Area.”
Beth Rose Middleton, UC Davis professor, Muir Institute Affiliate, and board member of Sogorea Te, said land trusts — typically used by private conservationists — can serve as tools for decolonization. For tribes like the Ohlone, which do not benefit from federal recognition and have no reservation lands, land trusts can be especially powerful. Gould and LaRose are using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.
“These tools can be used in ways never imagined in the colonial time they were created,” Middleton said. “You are almost taking [land] out of this capitalist regime to bring it into indigenous ownership.”
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