Thanks, But No Thanks (Toxic Land is *not* Land Back)

This is an excerpt of a letter sent to ARPD’s Amy Wooldridge, the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department Director; as well as City of Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ashcraft, Vice Mayor Malia Vella; and Council Members: Tony Daysog, Trish Herrera Spencer, and John Knox White [who made the original announcement concerning the indigenous land management of property on Main Street, between Stargell and Singleton.]

Hey Amy,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I wanted to address two things.

1. The Confederated Villages of the Lisjan Nation, INC. is not a Tribal Government; it is a nonprofit corporation.

The name of the true Ohlone Tribe of this area is the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Fundamentally, the reason why this is true, is because Muwekma has documented their existence as a tribe since before the 1890’s; this documentation includes records such as the “Federal Tribal Rolls”, Indian Census, and more. The Muwekma website has an extensive and thorough breakdown of their attempts to have their tribal recognition restored.

Muwekma has been known as “Costanoan”, the “Verona Band”; and they have self-identified as “Yo soy lisjannes” [“Chochenyo Field Notes”, Harrington, 1921]. Additionally, the present-day Muwekma Ohlone Tribe is comprised of all of the known surviving American Indian lineages aboriginal to the San Francisco Bay region who trace their ancestry through the Missions Dolores, Santa Clara, and San Jose; and who were also members of the historic Federally Recognized Verona Band of Alameda County. [; as well as both their BIA petitions for federal recognition.]

Federal Recognition could help Muwekma in the following ways, as they relate to ARPD, and the City of Alameda’s relationship with CVL:

  • A Land Base would be established for Muwekma in the Bay Area,
    • This may include ANAS/FISC Alameda property; and other open space in the City of Alameda.
  • Land Banks held by agencies like the East Bay Regional Park District will be transferred to Muwekma
  • Muwekma would be endowed with the Legal Standing required to bring suit for the cessation of excavation, destruction and/or development of Tribal Cultural Resources in the City of Alameda–
    • And, this might leave ARPD and the City liable, should they irrevocably devote land and resources to a corporation that is not actually a tribal government (please be careful, because we need our Parks and Rec Department; it would suck if they lost funding because it was reappropriated as restitution, or a settlement.)
  • Theoretically, there should also be a conveyance from Sogorea Te Land Trust to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area at this point–as Federal Recognition would render the necessity/mission of a land trust to hold land for an unrecognized tribe moot.

Aside from the factual issues with recognizing a corporation less than 5 years old as a Tribal Government; there is the political consideration.

Muwekma is a tribal nation that is trying to regain federal recognition. One of the most crucial elements they must prove in their petition is that Muwekma has existed as a continuous group since the last time they were recognized as a tribe; and that the tribal governance structure has retained its political influence on said group. This has been extremely difficult for them to plead at the level the BIA requires. And several prominent politicians have spoken out against what they believe is an arbitrary and capricious refusal by BIA to reconsider Muwekma’s petition for tribal recognition. [This is on top of previous judicial opinions also in favor of reconsideration.] But, there is another way that Muwekma can regain Tribal Recognition; and that is by an Act of Congress.

However, to affect this action, Muwekma must have a broader political influence beyond its own membership. This means they would have to gain wider public support for their cause, in order to effectively encourage congressional representatives to introduce legislation renewing Muwekma’s Tribal Recognition.

I believe that the City of Alameda, and ARPD’s public endorsement of the Confederated Villages of the Lisjan Nation, INC. as an Ohlone tribe is an error which is detrimental to the rights and struggles for recognition and sovereignty of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area insomuch that it lends false validity to a corporation that is fraudulently portraying itself as a Tribal Nation to benefit a small group of people over the needs of thousands of bonafide Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Members.

It also contributes to the erasure of all of the people whose ancestors were ground up to pave Bay Farm Road; grade former train tracks in Jean Sweeney; and fill marshland around Krusi, and Harrington Parks, among others.

It is for these reasons that I strongly suggest ARPD, and The City, reach out directly to the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area before you consider doing anything else.

2. Ongoing Contamination of Soil and Groundwater At or Near Linear Park (On Main Street, between Singleton and Stargell)

I’m concerned about the most recent Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment data regarding Benzene and Naphthalene found in ground water samples around this site. These chemicals were found in 2021 data, and no mitigation activities have occurred, as this site is now open and being investigated. It’s reasonable to assume that groundwater contamination is transient, and could affect Linear Park because it has a drainage ditch well below the surface of the surrounding land, including all sites appearing on the map below. This is the same drainage ditch Tule grows in now.

Additionally, I would like to note that Linear Park itself has been subject to contamination from leaking underground storage tanks (UST’s); which contained gasoline, diesel, lubricating oil, waste oil, and other hazardous materials; which released harmful chemicals, including the two listed above (among others), into the soil and groundwater directly upon the property now referred to as Linear Park.

There are also 26 points within 1,000 feet of Linear Park which have been affected by soil and groundwater contamination, much of the land surrounding Linear Park are subject to Land Use Restrictions expressly against digging/excavating, or using groundwater. Some of these Land Use Restrictions prohibit Schools or Housing from being built on those parcels because of the risk to human health (specifically to children.)

Additionally, there is the existence of the Toxic Marsh Crust, which lies 4-18 feet below the surface of any given point on the map presented here, and presents an unknown and unmitigated hazard to any plant or animal for the foreseeable future. For your reference, the highest water level sampled for this area was given at 3 feet below ground surface (BGS); and the drainage ditches are at least four feet deep.

Please find the attached PDF “CLOS_L_2002-01-14.pdf” which is a letter from the Alameda County Healthcare Services Agency, Environmental Services, Environmental Protection, Hazardous Material Specialist Eva Chu, addressed to the City of Alameda. This document details the contamination at the point where the tule grows in Linear Park, at Singleton and Main Street. This letter notes current concentrations of hazardous materials, and examines how the underground storage tanks were removed, and the land treated.

On top of the soil used for backfill being contaminated, polluted groundwater pumped from the site was sprayed onto the soil to suppress dust during work… further contaminating an area that was supposed to be cleaned.

All of this points to:

  • A strong possibility that the soil and groundwater harbor contaminants dangerous to humans;
  • The certain necessity to test soil and groundwater in this area to determine its safety.

Furthermore, certain safety plans must be created before digging, trenching, or groundwater may be used. The attached report also states that the corrective action for this parcel must be reviewed if land use changes.

Currently this land is technically wetland and flood mitigation for tidal surges which typically flood this area. The proposed use: to grow plants for food, clothing, and medicine to be consumed, inhaled, smudged with (,etc.); is clearly a much different use[–for human consumption vs. flood mitigation]. Therefore the re-evaluation of these parcels is not just a good idea, it is an enumerated necessity, according to Hazardous Materials Specialist Eva Chu.

Please find the attached “Map Showing Past & Present Contamination in City of Alameda Proposed ‘Indigenous Land Management’ Parcels”

It is for these reasons that I strongly object to letting anyone manage any part of, or consume any thing from Linear Park–at all–until the question of contamination has been thoroughly examined, and competently settled.

Thanks for your attention to these matters. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.