On a cool morning in December, Johnella LaRose stands in a 2-acre field in east Oakland, overseeing a group of volunteers preparing a section of this land that the Sogorea Te Land Trust stewards for the arrival of a shipping container. LaRose is dressed to work, wearing jeans and boots that look broken in.
The container will serve as storage for farming equipment, she says, and in case of a natural disaster, as a safe shelter for people to gather, sleep, and access resources.
LaRose is co-founder of the Sogorea Te Land Trust, an intertribal women-led organization that is in the final stages of securing nonprofit status. It’s working to acquire access—and ownership—to land in the Bay Area, where Ohlone people have lived for centuries.
The goal, says LaRose, is to establish a land base for the Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone people, whose ancestral territory includes cities in the East Bay. “The land gives us everything that we need in order to survive,” says Corrina Gould, a Lisjan Ohlone leader and the other co-founder of the land trust. “That’s how people lived for thousands of years on our land and other Indigenous people’s land. … You work with the land so that it can continue to provide, but that you honor that relationship by not taking too much.”