By Johanna Ochoa
More than 150 years after the ancestral homeland of the Ohlone indigenous was brutally taken, the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone is working on the rematriation of their homeland to give back what was seized from the community.
“Rematriation is important especially for our efforts to reanimate our culture and spiritual practices and for our desire to reestablish our tribal community. In a sense, living in our ancestral homeland and in direct contact with the land of our ancestors will make us more whole as Native people,” said Jonathan Cordero, Founder and Chair of the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone (ARO) .
“Rematriation,” as opposed to “repatriation,” is used by some Indigenous groups to refer to reclaiming ancestral remains, spirituality, culture, knowledge, and resources.
The Ramaytush are the San Francisco Peninsula’s original inhabitants. The Ohlone Community numbered around 1500 people before the arrival of the Spanish, but by the conclusion of the Mission Period, just a few families remained. Only one lineage has been identified as surviving descendants, with some of them making up the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone.
The main purposes and responsibilities of the ARO are the rematriation of land, cultural revitalization, research, education, and consultation; and caring for the earth and for the people who reside in their ancestral homeland.
“Stewardship of our lands, while one of our primary responsibilities, does not necessitate the rematriation of land but does make it more feasible. The ideal of rematriation, the call to ‘rematriate the land,’ can become a burden for native peoples if the act of rematriation is not accompanied by the capacity (i.e., the financial, economic, and human resource) necessary to steward the land,” Cordero assured.
The majority of its projects involve restoration. One example is Rising Acres, a 38-acre farm along the lower end of San Gregorio Creek, where the association restored the natural and native ecology using ecologically sound farming methods that maintain soil and water health in a manner consistent with native values and practices.
Since its foundation in 2009, they have been trying to be active in the community with participation in different organizations.
“We were honored to co-author the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Proclamation and to participate in the formation of the American Indian Cultural District. We are working with some incredible individuals, organizations, and agencies along the San Francisco Peninsula and beyond, such as the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Exploratorium, and the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District,” Cordero said.
The Association has the desire to work with Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, an indigenous women-led land trust that recently bought its first house, with the objective of creating housing for urban Indigenous people.
“Sogorea Te’ is a model for our organization. Corrina Gould and others have been doing this kind of work for a while now, and we are learning from them. Since our non-profit is new, we have not yet had the opportunity to work with Sogorea Te’ on a project, but we fully support their work and look forward to working with them in the near future,” Cordero said.