In honor of Columbus Day — or as the left calls it, “Indigenous People Day” — members and supporters of the Indigenous Land Action Committee are occupying UC Berkeley-owned land in protest of the university’s plans to develop it.
The Gill Tract, 104 acres of land located in the city of Albany, is owned by UC Berkeley and is used for its College of Natural Resources. The Sprouts Farmers Market, a supermarket chain based in Arizona, owns a segment of the tract on San Pablo Avenue, as well.
The Ohlone tribe, a prominent Native American tribe based on North California’s coast, have objected to recent development plans at the Gill Tract. UC Berkeley plans to use the land to host a senior center and multiple retail stores. After three years of legal tension, the California Court of Appeal ruled in favor of development on behalf of the University in 2015.
Despite the legal ownership rights and the reaffirmation of ownership from the Appeals Court, activists have been camping out on the plot of land since Sunday. Activist for the Indigenous Land Action Committee (ILAC), Hank Herrera, who also purports to be a member of the Ohlone tribe, expressed his with the project concerns to the Daily Cal.
“It is not private property — well, it is under the current legal system,” Herrera stated. “But in the grand scheme of things, it’s stolen land.”
Phenocia Bauerle, director of the Native American Student Development, believes the university is overlooking the history of the Native American land.
“I think it’s very important for developers, whether (or not) it’s the school … to really take into consideration the land that they’re building and historically what that land is used for,” Bauerle lamented. “Specifically, the very violent history of colonialism.”
Bauerle also acknowledged, however, that the Ohlone is not a federally recognized tribe. If it weren’t for this lack of legal recognition, Bauerle believes that the Ohlone would be regarded as “another form of erasure,” and development on the land would never commence.