Making Land Acknowlegment statements meaningful: When Sac Zoo moves to Elk Grove, will the Land Park site be part of 'Landback' movement?

If the Sacramento Zoo moves to Elk Grove, would the Sacramento City Council be willing to return the Land Park location to Native People as part of the growing Landback movement? | 

In the last several years, many government meetings have started with Land Acknowledgment statements. These statements acknowledge the original inhabitants of the area where the meetings, most often city and county governments, are conducted.

Last year, the Elk Grove City Council decided to make a statement at the start of each regular meeting. In the video below, Elk Grove Vice Mayor Rod Brewer reads the city's statement during the March 13 meeting.

While the reading of land acknowledgment statements is en vogue, particularly in Democratic majority cities, there is another movement that could test city governments. It is the Landback movement, in which property, particularly in urban areas, is being returned to native peoples.

An example of Landback happened recently in Berkeley, Calif. Last week, the Berkeley City Council approved the transfer of a 2.2-acre site.

As reported by the Associated Press, "a three-block area Berkeley designated as a landmark in 2000 - will be home to Native medicines and foods, an oasis for pollinators and wildlife, and a place for youth to learn about their heritage, including ancient dances and ceremonies."

The site is currently a parking lot. Before colonialism, the site was a shell mound for the Ohlone people.

The city of Sacramento is facing a real-life test to determine how committed it is to the meaning of its land acknowledgment statement. The test involves the move of the Sacramento Zoo, which is located on about 15 acres of prime Land Park real estate.

When the zoo moves to Elk Grove, will the Sacramento Mayor, whoever it is then, and the city council be willing to return the land to native people, presumably the Miwok? 

Or, given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for developers to reappropriate the site for high-end housing in one of the city's most desirable neighborhoods,  it's probably too lucrative for politicians to not sell the land to developer patrons and instead turn its back on native people and not return what was stolen from them.  

Furthermore, if the relocation falters and the city of Elk Grove cannot arrange the $400 million financing to build the zoo, would Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen entertain returning the 100 acres to its original Miwok inhabitants? 

After all, at the start of each meeting, the city acknowledges that it is conducting the people's business on stolen land, so what better way to make good on the words than returning a small portion of what was once theirs?  

Depending on the outcome of the proposed zoo transfer, a mayor and city council in Elk Grove or Sacramento will have taxpayer-owned property available for return. If these politicians are genuinely committed to their land acknowledgment statements, they will return these properties, which were stolen by European settlers who decimated their people and culture.

Returning either of the valuable parcels is an opportunity to validate the meaning of land acknowledgment statements. If they chose to hold on to these taxpayer-owned lands for some developer to build McMansions and not return them to their rightful owners, these land acknowledgments are nothing more than feel-good statements.  


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Sid Vicious said...

Maybe Mayor Bobbie can step in and help the Hmong recover the land they were driven from in China. Whoops, what am I thinking, the mayor can't stand the patriarchal Hmong community!

Golden Skillet said...

I believe in the last meeting, a member of the public stated something along the lines of, "If you really care, you would give it back"

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