A little over a year ago, the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust and its allies began a new campaign to let more Bay Area foundations know about a little-known way of supporting the organization: the Shuumi Land Tax.

The tax asks for an annual contribution from non-Native individuals and institutions living or operating on the traditional territory of the Lisjan Ohlone people, whose unceded land makes up most of what is known as the East Bay. The racial awakenings of 2020 led to many new donors seeking to make some form of amends for the nation’s history of genocide and colonization of Native peoples. The trust, a Native women-led organization working to return land to Indigenous people, and its partners hoped to use that opening to bring additional philanthropic institutions into the fold.

It has taken off. Last year, eight grantmakers paid Shuumi, up from just one before the campaign started, and more are in conversations about starting. The payments totalled $290,000, a welcome source of recurring funds that largely lack the restrictions and requirements that define so much of foundation grantmaking. And the tax, along with similar mechanisms across the country, offers an alternate approach for philanthropy to connect with and support Indigenous-led organizations.

“It’s really created these relationships that are more equal. It’s not a top-down kind of relationship,” said Corrina Gould, co-director of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust and spokeswoman and tribal chair of the Confederated Villages of Lisjan/Ohlone. “It’s refreshing that so many people are taking up this way of giving funding.”

Supporters like the Walter and Elise Haas Fund and Ceres Trust have published blog posts relating why they started paying land taxes to help spread the word. “But in general, we invite foundations and the public to pay Shuumi without investment in recognition,” said Ariel Luckey, Sogorea Te’s development director and part of the team who created the tax, in an email. So far, most publicly known foundations paying the tax are smaller, progressive, family-led institutions.

Read the full article about Indigenous land taxes by Michael Kavate at Justice Funders.