Return of the land

Me a costado escribir estas palabras. Contar este cuento. Como capturar y darle su justo honor a esta tierra. En medio de todo lo que esta pasando regreso a la medicina sagrada de la tierra.

It has been hard to write these words. To tell this story. How do you capture and give proper honor to the land? In the middle of everything that is going on I return to the sacred medicine of this land.

It’s been the seasons of too much. Between absolutely everything. The terror and trauma being inflicted on this land and all beings. My dad has Alzheimer’s and is getting progressively lost. While my older brother sits caged up in a detention center in Texas. This current iteration of this dis-eased extractive economy is hurting my soul. And this town, this beautiful Huichin/Oakland keeps painfully shifting into a space that frankly sucks for many of us.

In the midst of it all, there is an image I have been holding onto and conjuring up when it gets to be too much. Several weeks ago I was swimming in a river in Michoacan with a bunch of young family members. I was in the water for a bit when these two nephews (by way of my primo hermano-its a brown thing if you don’t get it) got into the water and they became one with it. Tiny lil’ brown bodies jumping in and out. Diving in, swimming real real fast against the strong currents. So graceful and happy they were that as I observed them, tears came up. I cried because I felt the joy and freedom emanating from their tiny beings. In that moment I prayed to the land to protect them and vice versa.

Earlier this week I found out that my fish swimming nephews, along with their immediate family, had to flee from their home with a few things, escaping an ever increasing violence-filled environment. My soul aches for them and everyone who has ever had to and is currently fleeing their homes. It aches for that precious land they had to leave behind. Will they ever see it again? It aches for that moment of sheer liberation I had the honor to witness.

Corrina Gould, Lisjan Ohlone leader, sharing some prayers at Inter Tribal Friendship House

I share all this because I had the privilege of experiencing something similar when I came back from my time with my fabled nephews. On January 19th an invitation from our Shuumi/Ohlone elders was heeded. The ceremony marked the presentation of land being returned into the capable stewardship of its original people. During the ceremony, a sacred elder of 80+ years  named Ruth shared her gratitude and delight for this passage. And the expression on her face reminded me of my nephews swimming in the river. Freedom expressed in the face of an elder. That is quite a sacred blessing yo.

Setting out on the prayer walk

After we made offerings and prayers to the fire, about 20 or so of us participated in a prayer walk from the location of Planting Justice (the righteous folks who helped make this magic happen) in Sobrante Park on 105th Ave to the Inter Tribal Friendship House on 5th Ave. Yep that’s more than 100 blocks of praying.

The prayer walk marked an historic agreement between Sogorea Tè Land Trust and Planting Justice that begins the transfer of one-half acre of land back to the Shuumi/ Ohlone people. (STLT is an urban Indigineous women-led land trust and Planting Justice is a grass- roots organization dedicated to empowering people who have been impacted by mass incarceration and other social inquities.)

During that walk I got to reflect on this land here in Huichin/Oakland that has been hella instrumental to my transformation into who I am now. I claim being a yerbera and healer in training because that is the essence of who I am, and this land helped illuminate that truth.

The medicine in this land like all land is sacred. Huichin/Oakland though has a real special and just a touch of extra light in its medicine. This light has been cultivated and emanates brightly because of its original people and their descendants, folks like Corrina Gould, Lisjan Ohlone leader and defender of sacred lands, and her family.

Off we went with our signs, our medicines and our prayers. Within a few blocks we passed a cedar tree (our belief is that cedar is a healing tree as it turns negativity into positivity); we all expressed gratitude as we grasped some branches and kept moving. By the time we reached 105th and E. 14th St/International Blvd, I felt a shift within myself. I had been feeling sad about missing my ancestral homeland when this ancestral homeland was finally starting to come home to its original people. And I got to be there, I got to see that light come through. I realized in that moment that I am here in this moment to honor this land along with all of us who were there. And when I honor this precious land, I honor my own ancestors and by extension bring honor to the ancestors of this land.

All along our route we ran into people who liked our signs or would ask us, “What ya’ll about?” or “What is this for?” When we  shared our purpose they would be all about it. Many cars honked along the way. We got to chat with one another. And I got to pass the place where I worked and left months ago to live more fully into my path, past the first school I ever worked at, places I have eaten before, talked to folks on the street, and passed within a few blocks of my home. The journey changed with each step I took.

Cedar tree

Magnolia trees too

Cigarette butts

Litter kinda everywhere at times

Waving hello

Folks yelling from cars

Signs that made me laugh

Being asked how we are doing

The boys who passed us on skateboards, stopping to say what’s up

Seeing that bright light come off of some folks



Honoring land and all relatives


We are in the time of the great healing. Honor it. Tap into it.

Author Profile

Patricia Contreras-Flores
Mestiza Purepecha. Michoacan Mexico born. Bay Area raised.
Yebera. Healer in training. Storyteller. Writer.
Grand daughter of Antonia, Maria, Salvador and Juan.
Daughter of Gloria and Antonio.
Loyal to the soil. We belong to the land.

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