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Open Letter: Albany Officials Should Give Back Ohlone Land, Support Indigenous Rights

Albany Patch welcomes guest columns and letters to the editor via email at albany@patch.com. Click the "Keep me posted" button below this story for an email update when we write about development at University Village.

[Editor's Note: Two activists for indigenous rights, who have asked the city to give back land they say belongs to the Ohlone people, and requested that the city sign on in support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, shared this open letter to Albany officials with Albany Patch. A video of some of their remarks to Albany officials, at meetings in July, is attached to this post.]

RECOMMENDATION:
Recognize and endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in respect to returning the land to be used for the University Village Mixed Use Project to the Ohlone People, and send a letter to United States Secretary of the Interior, Kenneth Lee Salazar.

BACKGROUND:
On June 29, 2006, the United Nations Human Council adopted the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration respects the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and recognizes subsistence rights and rights to land, territories and resources. 

The city of Albany is the homeland to the Ohlone People, whose ancestors have lived for over 10,000 years. The University Village Mixed Use Project requires land that traditionally belongs to the Ohlone People to be used for economic development. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) would enable the Ohlone People to engage the City of Albany and the University of California, Berkeley, in a way that "promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development." The UNDRIP is in the same spirit with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and UN Charter, which all members must reflect in their national laws.
We also request the City of Albany send a letter to Secretary of Interior Kenneth Lee Salazar.

Write, email and call Mayor Farid Javandel and Councilmember Robert Lieber and request the City Council endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and return 100 acres of land to the Ohlone People. The University of California, Berkeley, should collaborate with the Ohlone People in returning the 100 acres to the original inhabitants of the East Bay. The next council meeting will be Sept. 4, 2012.

Mayor Farid Javandel
Voice Mailbox: 510-559-7250      
Fax: 1-510-528-5797 (City Hall)
Email: cityhall@albanyca.org

Councilmember Robert Lieber
Mobile: 510-703-1876      
Fax: 510-528-5797
Email: liebtaub@sbcglobal.net

Attend a City Council Meeting
Council Chambers, City Hall
1000 San Pablo Avenue
Albany, CA 94706


--Quanah Parker Brightman, United Native Americans Inc., President, and Hinhanska Haney, United Native Americans Inc., Ambassador

Alan Eckert July 20, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Should the land be given to just any of the Ohlone members, or only those descendents of the Chochenyo? The Muwekma Ohlone don't have federal recognition yet. Wouldn't that give a stronger argument as to why the land should be given back? I would recommend adding a lot more to the United Native Americans Inc. website before you do anything. It is seriously lacking in material that would help people understand those behind this push. All there is now is a short Youtube video discussing the Alcatraz occupation in the 70's. http://www.unitednativeamericansinc.com/ More transparency please.
montymarket July 20, 2012 at 06:39 PM
100 acres in Albany. Now, where could the first nation find 100 acres in Albany; what plot of land in Albany is 100 acres? North: no; East; no; South, no. Well, that leaves...? Hmmm. Wonder where....
Michael Barnes July 23, 2012 at 06:32 AM
Bill, I find this a little scary, but I think we agree for once. Your point is right on. Although the City of Albany's website lists the size of the city as 1.7 square miles, that includes the waterfront and race track. The heart of the city is probably closer to one square mile, which is 640 acres. So 100 acres is about 1/6 of the populated area of the city. Even if you go with the bigger number of 1.7 sq miles, which is 1088 acres, 100 acres is almost 10 percent of that figure. And then there is that small problem that the city doesn't own the land, so the city council isn't in the position to give land away in the first place.
Doctor Detroit July 23, 2012 at 07:59 AM
Yes. <start sarcasm> Give the land back to the Ohlone people, who will probably start a casino on the land backed by foreign investors. Yoohoo! That'll be a great idea. <end sarcasm>
Tatter Salad July 23, 2012 at 08:49 AM
Ohlone is a vague term, may as well give the land to the Black Foot; there's more of them in existence, and they don't have Casino's going for them. Albany is within the former territory of the Huchuin, who spoke Chochenyo or Chocheno, one of eight Costanoan languages. Huchuin territory extended from Temescal Creek in north Oakland to Wildcat and San Pablo Creeks in the city of Richmond. Intensive Franciscan and Hispanic occupation of this area began in 1770's, and lasted a century, and radically transformed the area; - if you have a bone to pick, write a letter to the Pope; his team sponsored the 'conversion.' They had a simple view of 'natives', they weren't to be considered 'human.' They should be treated as one might treat a mule. Pissaro's team laid down that policy, with a Papel edict spelled out in Latin by an emissary from the Pope aboard Piloto Mayor as it was anchored off the coast of Mexico (as they finished off the Incas): 'If Natives were baptized, they wouldn't go to 'human heaven' or 'animal heaven', but a unique heaven in between. (That original document in Latin is among the Mexican Manuscripts at the Bancroft). BTW: No tribe that was 'blessed' by a nearby Mission ever survived. You want ALBANY to take ownership FOR what the Franciscans and the Spanish did?! Yeah right.
paul1 July 27, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Whatever the historical chain of events is that led to the current "ownership" of the land, they are directing their request/demand at the current owners. That is a sensible approach, since none of the history you've characterized would change anything about the process the indigenous people would need to undergo to get it back again. So aside from being unnecessarily cynical, your points are irrelevant to their purposes.
etuuxwilliwashem July 29, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Tatter Salad, your facts are entirely wrong. Several tribal communities of Ohlone people who survived the Missions exist today. People survived, but because of horrible misconceptions, like sadly the ones you seem to be keep to hold onto, our story was attempted to be silenced. That attempt to silence us has drastically failed, because 200+ years since Spain arrived we are still living in traditional lands of those before us. Casinos? Really? That is the last thing on our minds. Try basic human rights. Protection of sacred sights. Language preservation. Give to to the Black Foot, because there's "more" of them? Wow. This is just tragic. Whoever you are, inform yourself. I can't believe I just spent two minutes of my time writing this to someone who seems so ingnorant and ridiculous.
Tatter Salad July 30, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Have you ever talked to an 'Ohlone?' That refers to a region in which 6 different tribes existed, which fought among themselves for hunting/gathering rights. They.... were wiped out. There was NO Ohlone tribe, EVER. It's like saying that you are 'Latin' ... give me land and money for what the French did to my species.' It's not possible... or have ANY connection to moral obligation... unless those being taken to task are in Vatican City, and we begin doing DNA tests on remains (which were numerous, analyzed by Waterman), and those raising their hands as 'Ohlone' submit their DNA. So yes, the Black Foot survive today because they had nothing that any other tribe or religious group (Jesuits) wanted, and they are as close to being 'Ohlone' as anyone you can find. (I'm part Black Foot btw. -Send me the deed)
Robert Marshall August 16, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Actually, the Blackfeet has the Glacier Peaks Casino, in Browning. They also used to run the Discovery Lodge Casino, in Cut Bank. However, that one is closed. BTW: The tribe goes by Blackfoot (or Blackfeet, which is interchangeable), not Black Foot. And it's interesting that you mention multiple tribes under the Coastanoan banner, suggesting the Blackfeet are different. In reality it's a Confederation of tribes, of which only the Siksika are true Blackfeet. I realize many of your posts are done with tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, but incorrect facts don't help anyone.
Charles Dickens August 18, 2012 at 06:17 AM
I believe the authors are the two young braves who spoke so eloquently at the City Council meeting and were ignored along with the other 100 or so people who spoke out in opposition to the UC Development Project. I am glad they were there to provide an example of what men can be, in contrast to the UC-P&Z-FratBoy-Lawyer coalition of suits, and Francesco, who interrupted them by shouting out "you're wasting our time." Thank you for your leadership, eloquence and dignity; they are sorely needed in this town.
Emilie Raguso August 30, 2012 at 07:23 AM
Looks like the council is taking up the issue of indigenous rights in September -- agenda here: http://patch.com/N-dYP9

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