When POST was founded in the 1970s to support the work of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, we didn’t realize how extensive and integral our network of partners would become. Many years later, we collaborate with a variety of groups to bring people and talent together around important conservation priorities including land acquisition, restoration projects, vital research and more.
Recently, we have been building and strengthening relationships with multiple Indigenous partners, the original caretakers throughout our region. Last year, members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe invited POST to support the creation of the Muwekma Ohlone Preservation Foundation, a new Indigenous land trust that will help members of the Tribe reconnect with their culture, language, ceremonies and each other on their ancestral lands. Since POST works in and around the Tribe’s unceded homeland, we are supporting them as they create their own independent nonprofit.
“Expanding opportunities for Indigenous practices is crucial to carrying out our mission.”
As a community currently comprising over 600 people who are native to our region, the Muwekma Ohlone’s relationship with Peninsula and South Bay landscapes extends well beyond prehistory. They have cared for and shaped the open spaces POST seeks to conserve since time immemorial, and their impacts are still felt today. However, they remain a landless tribe, disenfranchised after centuries of oppression, displacement and genocide.
Efforts to regain federal recognition of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, which allows tribes to qualify for federal funds and grants among other things, were hampered by misperceptions that the tribe no longer had blood ties to its original members. However recent research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, defies this notion and establishes a direct connection between modern day members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and their ancestors that once inhabited much of the Bay Area.
At POST, we believe that working with Indigenous groups like the Muwekma Ohlone is vital to acknowledging the past, making positive changes in the present and working toward a brighter future for local communities and the lands we all love. As tribal members re-learn the knowledge their ancestors held, they’re teaching us about traditional methods of stewardship. Expanding opportunities for Indigenous practices is crucial to carrying out our mission of “protecting open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all” — and we’re working together to explore how to heal and recover what has been lost.
There is a lot of work to do, and relationships like this are a step in the right direction.
Learn more about the Indigenous communities that lived, and live, in POST’s working area at OpenSpaceTrust.org/NativeLand.
Daniel Olstein, Director of Land Stewardship at POST, also serves on the board for the Muwekma Ohlone Preservation Foundation. He worked with the Muwekma Ohlone to launch their nonprofit land trust and continues to provide guidance on strategy and partnerships, while learning with the Tribe about our relationship with the land and how POST can better engage with Indigenous partners.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 86,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more