Every year during tax season, I make two payments: one to the state/federal government, and the other is a “shuumi tax” to the Lisjan Ohlone people of the occupied land where I live and work.
Shuumi (meaning “gift” in the Ohlone language Chochenyo) is a voluntary annual contribution that non-Indigenous people living on traditional Lisjan Ohlone territory are invited to make. If, like me, you and your ancestors are not Indigenous to this region, offering shuumi is one of many steps we can take to be in right relationship to the land and Lisjan Ohlone ancestors past, present, and future.
I learned about this invitation from the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, a very active, well-respected local organization led by Indigenous women. Paying shuumi goes to support their mission to rematriate Indigenous lands, build gardens and ceremonial spaces, and establish a cemetery to bury stolen ancestral remains.
If you live anywhere roughly between Oakland and Stockton, Vallejo and San Jose, I invite you to join me in some form of shuumi this year. Sogorea Te’ has created a super easy “shuumi calculator” which suggests an amount based on whether you are an individual or business, owning or renting. For example, let’s say you’re renting an apartment or own a business in the East Bay. Just go to the shuumi calculator, and in 10 seconds you’ll know your shuumi estimate and be able to donate immediately (and it is tax deductible since it’s going through a nonprofit).
Opening meetings with land acknowledgements to First Nations communities is becoming more common these days, but in addition to such verbal acknowledgements, paying shuumi is one of many other ways to substantively engage and show respect for Native sovereignty and stewardship of the land we inhabit.
- If shuumi isn’t an option for you, check out Sogorea Te’s list of other activities to support and honor the flourishing of Indigenous communities.
- If you don’t live in the Bay Area and are inspired by this invitation, reach out to tribal leaders and First Nations organizations in your area to ask how to get involved or take restorative measures in your own backyard or across the continent. The National Congress of American Indians has a list of tribes and curated nonprofit organizations, and US Department of the Interior Directory has contact information for 574 federally recognized tribes. Not all tribes are federally recognized (yet), so definitely do your own research.
- Native Americans in Philanthropy and the Liberated Capital Fund are also great resources, and I have to give a shout out to the Jump/Scale Native Resilience Circles, a new kind of entrepreneurship accelerator based on Indigenous economic and social practices.
- Sogorea Te'”s Shuumi Land Tax was inspired by the Wiyot tribe’s Honor Tax in Humboldt County, California, and there is the Real Rent Duwamish in Seattle, the Manna Hatta Fund in New York, the Honor Native Land Tax in Albuquerque and a number of others in development.
The Sogorea Te’ Land Trust is “working on behalf of all of us to transform our relationship to the land we live on, to heal its brutal history of violence and restore its ecological health and vitality.”
If this inspires you as it does me, please read up — and spread the word.
Note: all photos shared with the permission of Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.