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Moving from Acknowledgement to Action: Supporting Indigenous Sovereignty

My partner and I recently engaged in the annual ritual that is paying U.S. income tax. Gather your documents, fill in the forms, look for deductions that never seem to be there, watch what you really make become clear…as we approached the finish line, I wondered – how can we reframe the act of paying taxes?  


Then I harkened to a recent moment where paying a tax had a completely different feel, one that not only felt necessary but made a small yet substantive step toward advancing racial equity. I refer of course to NCG’s participation in paying our region’s Indigenous land and honor taxes. We began that commitment as an organization in 2022 and trust me, it’s been both vital and fulfilling. 

Our offices are in San Francisco. But we acknowledge that we are on the unceded ancestral homeland known as Yelamu, homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone relatives who are the original inhabitants of Yelamu aka the Ohlone Bay. As the Indigenous stewards of this land and in accordance with their traditions, the Ohlone peoples have never ceded, lost, nor forgotten their responsibilities as the caretakers of this place. As guests and settlers, we recognize that we benefit from living and working on their traditional homeland and by affirming their sovereign rights as First Peoples. 

But how do we move beyond routine land acknowledgements? In philanthropy, how do we steward resources back to the lands and communities that we have extracted wealth from and those who continue to experience historical inequities? NCG recognizes that we must move beyond principled land acknowledgements into tangible action. What does it mean to move towards right relationships with Indigenous communities? We are figuring it out as we go, and Indigenous land and honor taxes are just one mechanism to do so. 

In 2023, NCG committed 1 percent of all membership revenue towards the three land taxes within our 48-county geography, including Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone-Yunakin Land Tax, and Wiyot Honor Tax. While making the payment is helpful, building right relationships is the fundamental goal. We are trying to be intentional in understanding the context in which each of these funds is being cultivated. We want to build dialogue with these institutions, growing our ability to share their story and the opportunity to invest in equitable futures for these communities.  

For the Sogorea Te' Land Trust, an urban Indigenous women-led land trust based in the San Francisco Bay Area, giving Shuumi is a voluntary annual contribution that non-Indigenous people living on the Confederated Villages of Lisjan Ohlone territory (now known as the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area) can make to support the critical work of land rematriation. Land rematriation, the process of restoring the relationship between Native peoples ancestral lands, is the ultimate mission of Sogorea Te’. They are now stewarding 10 land sites throughout Lisjan territory and building their communities’ capacity to sustain this work for generations.  

With the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone, I learned that the Yunakin Land Tax assists with land acquisition and land management projects, including the Native ecological restoration of the Ramaytush Ohlone’s ancestral homeland. For example, projects like the Indigenous Garden in Golden Gate Park, sit at the intersection of ecology and equity and fulfill the community’s responsibilities to care for the planet and for all Indigenous peoples who live in the tribal territory. 

When speaking with the Wiyot Tribe, they revealed their ongoing journey to full state and federal recognition and the limitations they face accessing revenue sources. The Honor tax provides a revenue stream that supports critical programs and services for the Wiyot Tribe. 

As stewards of wealth that has been accumulated through the continued extraction, the attempted genocide of Indigenous lands and peoples, and total disruption of Indigenous cultures, philanthropic institutions have a particular responsibility to contribute to the healing of the lands they occupy and to enter into a reparative relationship with their local Indigenous communities. I’m willing to bet you may know of a foundation that has taken this step, as the practice is growing, though not nearly fast enough. While we are not a foundation, we hope that modeling this practice builds not only awareness, but action inspires you to take action in solidarity with land rematriation efforts. 

We invite you to also pay your institutional land tax and are happy to be a resource and share resources as you take an important step towards being in right relationship with Indigenous communities. We welcome conversations to support you in your journey to:

  • contribute to local and regional Land and Honor Taxes  
  • build reciprocal relationships to support Indigenous organizing 
  • shift philanthropic narrative to include land rematriation as a key strategy for change work 
  • transfer land ownership to Indigenous stewardship or mobilize additional resources for Indigenous sovereignty 

Resources to learn more: 



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