Bless and Release: Shuumi and the Process of Repair

The Kataly Foundation
Justice Funders
Published in
5 min readJun 18, 2024

In early March 2024, a 2.2 acre lot in the West Berkeley Shellmound was returned to Indigenous stewardship through the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust — the result of a years-long fight by the Lisjan Ohlone people to reclaim sacred land.

At the Kataly Foundation, we were honored to celebrate and support this historic land back victory. Part of the way we demonstrated our support was through a Shuumi Land Tax contribution in the amount of $20 million in 2022 — the largest cash gift ever given to a Native land trust. I was honored to speak at the press conference held at the Shellmound announcing the return of this land, accompanied by members of Sogorea Te’s leadership, Berkeley’s mayor, local civil servants, and elders of the Lisjan Ohlone tribe.

Lisjan Ohlone elder Ruth Orta at the celebration of the return of the West Berkeley Shellmound.

At the Kataly Foundation, we deeply believe in and are committed to ensuring that people of color — particularly Indigenous and Black communities — have the resources they need to build and lead self-determined lives with sovereignty. We understand that land is the basis for such self-determination. It is with the land that we can feed each other, provide shelter, and create spaces that cultivate safety, belonging, and meaning.

Shuumi means ‘gift’ in the Chochenyo (Ohlone) language, and the Shuumi Land Tax is a voluntary annual contribution that non-Indigenous people living on Lisjan Ohlone territory can make to support the critical efforts of rematriation. As Sogorea Te’ defines it, rematriation is “Indigenous women-led work to restore sacred relationships between Indigenous people and their ancestral land, honoring matrilineal societies, and in opposition of patriarchal violence and dynamics.” In addition to land restoration, Sogorea Te’s Indigenous women-led leadership team works tirelessly on community resiliency through creating urban gardens, youth programming, cultural revitalization, language revival, and passing down spiritual and traditional practices throughout the East Bay Area.

Sogorea Te’ was one of the first organizations that Kataly supported and from the beginning, it was clear that Sogorea Te’ illustrated what it truly means to steward land well, through their stewardship of several other sites throughout the East Bay, planting Native plants, building the first ceremonial arbor in this territory in more than 200 years, making the land accessible to urban intertribal Indigenous communities, and more. The Restorative Economies Fund at Kataly had previously made a grant to Planting Justice for their farm in East Oakland, a project in partnership with Sogorea Te’ . Their work has made clear that land is not a resource to be consumed, but one to be protected, shared, and cared for.

We recognize that the philanthropy sector exists largely as a result of extraction of resources from people of color. This is why we feel it is critical for us — and others — to contribute to and support the work of Sogorea Te’ at the same scale that is commensurate to the hurt and harm that they have experienced over decades and centuries. As an organization based in the East Bay Area, with many of our staff members living here as well, we believe it is imperative to pay Shuumi Land Tax as a way to champion the work and vision of Sogorea Te’ and as a form of repair.

Press conference at the West Berkeley Shellmound, celebrating the return of the land to Indigenous stewardship.

For my part, I want to invite all of us — especially those in the philanthropy sector — to appreciate the importance of paying Shuumi Land Tax.

At Kataly, we act in what we call the spirit of ‘bless and release’ — it is not up to us to decide how the resources are to be used and applied. Instead, we made the contribution with a spirit of solidarity with Sogorea Te’, and trust they will make the highest and best use of the resources available to them, based on what their community needs.

They have more than surpassed the vision of what any of us had imagined.

By staying in a years-long fight, Sogorea Te’ was able to acquire the West Berkeley Shellmound, the site of the earliest known inhabitants of the San Francisco Bay Area. Through this land reclamation, the Lisjan Ohlone space will be preserved and nurtured. There are plans to daylight Strawberry Creek, open a public green space, and develop an educational and memorial center there in the future.

Sogorea Te’ usually does not publicize their donations, but felt that the significance of this contribution could inspire other organizations in the East Bay Area to also consider paying Shuumi Land Tax. Learning about Sogorea Te’s efforts can motivate those with resources to participate in and contribute to this important work. As a spend-out foundation, Kataly was able to make this large contribution in recognition of the hurt and harm that our country, and this area specifically, has inflicted on the Indigenous people. And I call on those who also have access to resources, even if contributions are made in alternative ways, to support the will and heart of Sogorea Te’s work.

Many of our philanthropic events and gatherings begin with land acknowledgments, but we have to go beyond just saying the words. We need to participate in funding land care, restoration, and reclamation — specifically with land that is so central to our everyday lives, and allow its people to care for it according to their vision and create the ceremonial spaces they need. Kataly’s single contribution is just the beginning. More resources will be needed. By paying this voluntary tax, we can repair and move forward — together.

I also want to publicly acknowledge and thank all the women from Sogorea Te’ who came together, in the spirit of land rematriation, to make this land purchase possible. Kataly is grateful to be a supportive partner in this work.

My hope is that many more in the philanthropy sector will continue to show up and lift up the work of Sogorea Te’. If we can honor the spirit and intention of how this land was cared for by those who have called it home for millennia, it could help us heal, help to build relationships, and be a site where we all are invited to gather and belong.

To learn more about Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, please visit the website:

To learn more about the Kataly Foundation, please visit:

Here is the Indigenous Honor & Land Taxes for Foundations resource page on Justice Funders’ website, and a link to JF’s Resonance Framework where you can learn more about how philanthropic institutions can support land rematriation towards a Just Transition in the field.

Nwamaka Agbo is the CEO of the Kataly Foundation and Managing Director of the Restorative Economies Fund



The Kataly Foundation
Justice Funders

The Kataly Foundation moves resources to support the economic, political, and cultural power of Black and Indigenous people, and all communities of color.