Alternatives to Paying Shuumi (Sogorea Te’s “Land Tax”)

Acknowledging our occupation of Native Land; and the way we benefit from Mission Enslavement of Native Americans, the enslavement of people we know as African-American, and the California Genocide is not this easy.

The Sins of Colonialism can not be washed away with more blood money.

Direct investment in the community is what’s needed, instead.

Why this sudden change of heart?

In the beginning, I wanted whole-heartedly to just step aside, and lift up the idea of a “Woman-led Revolution!”

But some things happened. Corrine Gould, Deja Gould and Cheyenne Zepeda (Gould) came for me in private messages and pretty much destroyed that bridge.

I was pretty shocked at being attacked off the bat by these people who seem so nice in public. In fact, I was never contacted officially by either organization…. Just the Gould’s through private messages… probably the most unofficial way you could possibly get in touch with someone. [Is there a less official way?]

I was also disappointed, because our stated missions are very similar; and I thought we would be able to work cooperatively on a project or mission, together.

It concerned me a lot. Raised some red flags. Like, I’ve said before, I eat [jerks] for breakfast. I have a strong background in research, specifically legal research. But I can usually track down anything. Anything you want. Anything kind of information. You want a person? Need me to give them a message?

I got you. That’s what I do, boo.

So I looked more closely at the Confederated Villages of Lisjan, INC. (“CVL”); and Sogorea Te Land Trust, INC. (“STLT”); and I identified several core weakness in their administration. But the lack of transparent governence of what are supposedly public corporations was what struck me the most.

  • No public elections for officers. Where’s the election announcements, or results?
  • No list of groups in the Confederacy. No Articles of Confederacy signed by the Parties to The Confederacy.
  • Governing Body/Board meetings non-existent or not publicized. No minutes available.
  • History of hijacking causes [Glen Cove], and obstructionist behavior [West Berkeley], resulting in legal fees and costs that have to be paid by other tribes, and city governments.
  • No land in title to Sogorea Te Land Trust, despite that being their stated Mission. Identifying several places where gardens are being grown, but those lots are not owned by The Trust, they look like they’ve been co-opted, in my opinion.
  • Lack of timely responsiveness to official requests for information. Just lack of responsiveness in general.
  • Very little information about CVL or STLT available publicly through their website–more time spent selling their image than producing meaningful, educative content, despite having paid staff and a large cadre of volunteers with the skills to do it. [This is a big deal, actually. When you look at how much information Tribal Governments and even smaller Non-Profit Organizations put up on their websites.]
  • The fact that Lisjan isn’t even an Ohlone word. It’s a Maidu place name for Pleasanton, California. This almost seems nit-picky, but it bears more weight when you consider the nearest Maidu-speaking group lives ~100 miles North of Pleasanton.
  • Other historical and factual inaccuracies (like misrepresenting the location of the West Berkeley Shellmound.)

So, after thinking about how to respond for a couple months. I decided to tell you all of this.

And then, I went back home (like Corrine Gould told me to do) and I brought back pictures of our Tribal Elections for Chairperson and Secretary/Treasurer so I could show you what a legitimate Tribal Government looks like.

And some of you replied, and some of you wanted alternatives to Paying Shuumi.

So here we are.

I am not affiliated with, or paid by, any of the organizations mentioned in any portion of this article.

Considering Alternatives to Paying Shuumi

When we consider alternatives to paying Shuumi; we must examine Why we want to pay Shuumi first.

Let’s go over 6 common reasons why people want to pay Shuumi:

Reason 1: It’s Trendy

Giving is Trendy. Paying Shuumi has become popular. Everyone wants to engage in performative actions that require relatively little work and cost.

But, work a little harder, here. You’re off to a great start.

Try doing some research and find a local organization that has a clear project which needs funding. I’m talking about a legit proposal:

  • Goals that are achievable; Objectives which are tangible, and measurable.
  • Information about existing Sources of Funding, Proposed Sources, Fundraising Activities
  • Timeline which defines Expected Dates of Completion, Deadlines for parts and all of the project. Planning Rubric.
  • Expected Outcome of the project as a, tangible, measurable thing.
  • Any planned follow-up, or Phase 2, etc.

I would look for projects which focus on habitat restoration, because that has everything to do with bringing back Native Plants and girding against the very real, and ever-faster rising seas.

My one recommendation would be to talk to Franciso Da Costa, of Environmental Justice Advocacy (based in the SF Peninsula.) He will know of several worthy projects, that are not just environmental, that you would probably be interested in, if you’re interested in this.

Reason 2: Guilt

You’re no good to us if you just wallow.

Hey–I mean, you killed us. You put us in boarding schools. Tried to breed the savage out of me–I mean, us. Did horrible things with our bodies, before and after we were dead… You created every facet of the country around us for your personal pleasure and privilege, which, sickly, included what you did to us.

It’s inconceivably dark, and gross, and bloody, and horrifying. There was screaming. And flames. And death.
Merciless, brutal, painful, agonizing death.

And, not the quiet kind.

The screaming, shrieking, babies crying, bones crunching, death whimpering kind of death that feels like you’re gripping an ice cold sponge with white knuckles and you can’t tell when you started holding your breath, but it burns, now that you think of it all.

I get it.

You should feel a least little guilty for what your grandfathers, great-grandfathers, great-great-great-grandfathers did. Pretty much any white person who can tie their lineage back to America in the 1850’s is at least 1/8 guilty.

But it’s the Corporations, Cities and Local Governments who feel the greatest burden to participate in this optic-driven display of platitude.

This is a cycle that needs to be broken.

You’ve already done the first step. Which is acknowledging your implicit participation and benefit from the aforementioned country created for your personal privilege and pleasure.

But, don’t hang around in guilty town too long, there’s work to be done.

If you’re feeling guilty, read more. Try to understand the struggles of today, learn about the things you take for granted, consider devoting some of your time to the service of others.

Meals on Wheels is great. Local Animal Shelters are fun. Senior Centers always need help. I’m not kidding. These are all great choices to help you help yourself by helping other people.

Cities can start by building housing for Native American, their descendants, and everyone else who is homeless. They can also make cooked meals available at least one a day, and provide shelf-stable goods for the rest of the day. Counties can provide health services. Regular citizens can express their interest at council meetings, and volunteer to help get it done.

Start there. See the positive changes from devoting yourself to service; then re-evaluate where you’re at and check out what you can do to help, more specifically, now that you’re running on all cylinders.

Reason 3: To Support the Woman-Led Revolution!

This is all about women; and the woman-led revolution. I know I present all the way like a big, hairy, scary man. But I’m not. I’m an ally, and a safe person. And I live my life to advocate for people who get shit on all the time. And that includes anyone who identifies as a woman. Whom the zeitgeist seems to despise, because every American putdown has something to do with putting down women. Which is just sexist, and wrong; and I wish I had a list of equivalent phrases to use. (Because I actually enjoy vulgarity–don’t judge.)

Women have always been more calm, more measured, more considerate of group dynamics, and have always been the voice of reason in my experience working in large groups, and non-profit corporate atmospheres.

And I want to do what I can to boost the confidence of the Strong Women in hiding around me, as well. Which is every woman, really.

This is not lip service; I really believe this.

And I do by this including women in the decision-making process; actively seeking their opinion, and ideas, and listening to them. Breaking out of the male-driven workplace and the male-centric decision-making and leadership process is something that I can have an influence on; because usually people end up looking at me to lead in a group….

And that’s where I have the opportunity to turn, and look at her, and ask, “What do you think about this?” And, I tell you, she always has a completely different perspective and a better way to solve the problem. (Men, please. Just shut up, and stand aside sometimes.)

So this whole entire situation is really throwing me for a loop. Because I want to support the Woman-Led Revolution! Badly.

So my recommendation for this is to find projects which will nurture the youth. Like the:

In addition, you can also purchase or donate money towards scholarships at other local programs for youth.

Reason 4: You Want to Do Something for Native Americans

For those in the back row: WE DO NOT ALL GET “THE CASINO MONEY”.

-This article, by Gabriel Duncan.

We do not all share money. If you give your money to one corporation, there’s no guarantee that will actually have the affect you wanted it to have when you “paid your land tax”. It’s not that easy.

You need to focus on addressing the systemic issues fundamental to our present day disposition.

Use your money and power and privilege–and power of privilege–to affect some change, now. The question is: which part do you want to address? Which part can you affect?

This is more of a “Circle of Influence” question than anything else. But the point is, pick things which are intertribal, and which will help everyone.

Reason 5: You Want to Decolonize This Place

Oh, you’d like deconstruct the modern colonial society we call America? Aha, comrade…

Participate in your government and take it over from the inside-out. Use the Hostile Corporate Take-Over method. Stock those board rooms, and council chambers. One petition, one vote, one person at a time.

You’re only playing identity politics because you’re not savvy enough to play party politics… yet. You need to upgrade your game. There’s a difference between organizing for change and looking like a pitchfork, and tiki-torch carrying mob.

Read Robert’s Rules of Order. Learn how to use the process in your favor. You can play card games like Bridge or Rummy to get the idea of meetings work. Because Council Meetings are turn-based, basically.

Use the Open Mic part of the Council Meetings to say something meaningful, and actionable.

Don’t show up to say no one ever listens to you, and that you aren’t allowed or invited to participate, and then walk out. Stay for that shit. Take a seat. And get used to it. Because this is not a quick in-and-out type of gig. It’s a legit grind.

Stock the committees with your people. Show up to every meeting. Talk to your elected officials. But be respectful. Seriously. You have to learn how to work with people you hate to get things done. Don’t snipe in private messages because it hurts your integrity when someone comes out with receipts of you calling someone a “f—ing karen”, or something.

I actually was taught all of this by a Strong Woman named Beck Stroud.

Reason 6: You Want to Resist!

Support actions by providing Medical Services, Ambulatory Services, Providing Gas Masks, Faceguards, Fresh water, Ice, Food, Tents, Blankets, Clothing. Medical supplies like bandages, ice packs. Rides to and from public transit/out of danger.

Show up to the actions and stay on the outside, let people know who you are, and where you are, they will come to you, make sure you are wearing bright colors, and are clearly not a part of any melee.

Train to be a National Legal Guild, Legal Observer.

Donate money to organizations providing Bail Money, and Legal Fees Support for the actions you believe in. But be very careful any time you give money. Make absolutely sure you know where it goes, and what it will be used for.