Pilot Program

Right Relations is a 9-month, cohort-based pilot program to build alliances with local Native American communities. The goals are to catalyze collective action for local Native lands and communities in the San Francisco Bay Area and to build the region’s capacity to strengthen Tribal sovereignty. Designed specifically for TOGETHER Bay Area members in partnership with Redbud Resource Group, the pilot program is focused on learning, action, and community. Participants will learn and grow individually, organizationally, and collectively through curated experiences including: 

  • In person field trips to locations significant to local Native communities. Build connections to the hosts, fellow participants, and the land.
  • Online trainings to learn about the impact that colonization continues to have on California’s people and ecosystems. Reflect on your own impact, and learn how to support Tribal sovereignty.
  • Expert conversations with local Native leaders to discuss the work they are doing to strengthen sovereignty, culture, and our shared ecosystems. Learn how you can stop harming and start helping.

The Right Relations pilot program ran from September 2022 – June 2023 and was open to all TOGETHER Bay Area member organizations. There was no cost to TOGETHER members to participate. 

The pilot program is generously supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Sobrato Philanthropies

What does it mean to be in right relations?

Being in right relations means to embody respect and reciprocity in order to foster healthy relationships with our plant, animal, and human relatives. It means to move through the world with an awareness of your impact on the communities and ecosystems with which you share the earth. To maintain right relations, consider how your actions impact others, be generous with your time, energy, and resources, and help maintain balance in the natural world.

For many Native people, being in right relations is an integral part of life. Weavers practice respect and reciprocity with their plant and water relatives to ensure they have quality materials to create with, without harming the ecosystem. Traditional dancers, language keepers, and healers commune with the environment by practicing ancestral knowledge that is aligned with the needs of the natural world. Being in right relationship with the land, water, plant, and animal relatives helps Native communities strengthen sovereignty, reestablish relationships with ancestral lands, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Pilot program participation

Over 100 people representing 32 organizations applied when we invited TOGETHER Bay Area members to participate in August. To create a meaningful experience for the participants, and a manageable group size for the facilitators, unfortunately we were not able to say yes to everyone who applied. We hope there will be future opportunities for everyone to participate who wants to.

For the pilot program, a total of 25 organizations are participating. Sixteen organizations are participating in the 9-month Going Deep cohort. Each organization has made a written commitment to taking action based on what they learn in the program. The organizations are:

  • Brown Girl Surf
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • East Bay Municipal Utility District
  • Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
  • Grassroots Ecology
  • Green Foothills
  • Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation
  • Lawrence Hall of Science
  • Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
  • National Park Service, four units in the East Bay
  • Peninsula Open Space Trust
  • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
  • Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship
  • Save the Redwoods League
  • Sempervirens Fund
  • Sonoma Land Trust

The Going Deep cohort will participate in three Going Beyond Land Acknowledgement masterclass workshops, two field trips hosted by local Native American organizations, and two roundtable discussions with Native American leaders.

In addition, the following 9 organizations are participating in the Going Lite cohort which consists of three Going Beyond Land Acknowledgement masterclass workshops in the fall of 2022.

  • Bay Area Ridge Trail Council
  • Friends of the Petaluma River
  • Marin Municipal Water District
  • Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and The Bay Trail Program
  • San Mateo County Parks
  • San Mateo County Parks Foundation
  • San Mateo Resource Conservation District
  • The Field Semester
  • Valley Water

You’re invited to read this update from Redbud Resource Group and TOGETHER Bay Area that TOGETHER sent to its mailing list on October 20, 2022. 

Pilot program details

The pilot program is an intentionally designed set of experiences that build on each other over the course of the 9 months.

Opening Together: Going Deep participants will gather online to learn about the pilot program, meet the facilitators, and start building a sense of community. 

Going Beyond Land Acknowledgement workshops: The facilitators will lead three masterclasses for Going Lite and Going Deep participants. Participants will learn a common set of terms and language, and gain a baseline of knowledge which will support future forums for the Going Deep participants. The topics will include Native 101, Colonization in California, and Sovereignty Strengthening Relationships. 

Field Trips: We will convene 2-3 field trips over the nine months to locations within the Bay Area to learn from Native elders and experts. Shortly after each of the three field trips, we will convene Reflect & Learn forums for Going Deep participants to debrief and discuss what we experienced on the previous field trip. The facilitators will answer questions, and resources for additional learning will be shared. These Reflect & Learn forums are opportunities to develop organizational and individual action plans. 

Storytelling Roundtables with Native elders and leaders: Going Deep participants will gather three times over the year to listen to stories told by Native American elders and leaders. This will be an opportunity to learn about Tribal relations missteps, fire stewardship, governments, and economies. 

Closing Together: At the end of the pilot program, we will gather to share what we’ve experienced, review what we’ve learned, and share our organizational and individual action plans. 

Dates and locations:
August 29, 2022 
  • Information Session
  • 12:00-1:00pm via Zoom
  • Attendees: Anyone from TOGETHER Bay Area member organizations who’s interested in learning more about Right Relations
February 28, 2023
  • Field Trip debrief: reflect, ask, discuss
  • 9:00-10:30am via Zoom
  • Attendees: Going Deep
September 29, 2022
  • Opening Together
  • A kick off event!
  • 10:00-11:00am via Zoom
  • Attendees: Going Lite & Going Deep 
March 21, 2023
  • Storytelling Roundtable #1: Right Relations Through Our Waterways
  • 10:30am-12:00pm via Zoom
  • Attendees: Going Deep
October 13, 2022
  • Going Beyond Land Acknowledgements, Masterclass #1, Native 101
  • Learn the basic knowledge about Native communities and explore the strengths and weaknesses of land acknowledgements.
  • 9:00am-12:00pm via Zoom
  • Attendees: Going Lite & Going Deep 
April 18, 2023
  • Field Trip #2: A Visit to Sogorea Té Land Trust
  • 9:00am-2:00pm 
  • East Bay
  • Attendees: Going Deep
October 25, 2022
  • Going Beyond Land Acknowledgements, Masterclass #2, Colonization and Ecocide
  • Learn about the continued colonization in California, following events like the California Gold Rush and the Rancho System.
  • 9:00am-11:00am via Zoom
  • Attendees: Going Lite & Going Deep 
April 25, 2023
  • Field Trip debrief: reflect, ask, discuss
  • 9:00-10:30am via Zoom
  • Attendees: Going Deep
November 15, 2022
  • Going Beyond Land Acknowledgements, Masterclass #3, Sovereignty Strengthening Relationships
  • Learn how to help local tribes and individuals to strengthen their tribal sovereignty.
  • 9:00-11:00am via Zoom
  • Attendees: Going Lite & Going Deep
May 30, 2023
  • Storytelling Roundtable #2: Reclaiming
    Sovereignty Through Cultural
  • 9:00-10:30am via Zoom
  • Attendees: Going Deep
February 21. 2023
  • Field Trip #1: A Return to Ancestral Lands
  • 9:00am-2:00pm
  • North Bay
  • Attendees: Going Deep
June 6, 2023
  • Closing Together
  • Final event of the pilot program
  • 9:00am-12:00pm via Zoom (possibly in person)
  • Attendees: Going Deep

The dates and locations are subject to change. Participants will be notified as far in advance as possible. 

Inspirations and Acknowledgements

The Right Relations pilot program is grounded in needs expressed by TOGETHER Bay Area members. In 2020-2021, a collection of TOGETHER Bay Area members expressed the need to build their capacity to build Tribal sovereignty and transfer resources (financial, staff and consultants, land, power) to Native American tribes and organizations without those resources. Specifically, we heard:

From TOGETHER Bay Area’s Native-led member organizations:

  • We can’t afford to live in our ancestral territory.
  • We want to own, manage, and/or steward land in our ancestral territory.
  • We don’t have the funding or staff capacity to own, manage, or steward lands.
  • The criteria and process for getting a collecting / gathering permit for cultural or medicinal plants from public land management agencies are inconsistent, confusing, and insulting.
  • Our land trust is growing and we want to learn from other land trusts about how to do this work.

From TOGETHER Bay Area’s non-Native-led organizations members – which include Indigenous, Black, People of Color, and white led organizations:

  • We want to return land to the original stewards of these lands. 
  • I don’t know what Tribe I should talk to because there isn’t a federally recognized Tribe where I am.
  • I contacted a Tribe or group but I haven’t heard back.
  • Am I doing harm if I work with two different Indigenous groups?
  • We are confident that there is a shellmound under a parking lot on public land we manage, we want to remove the parking lot, and return the land to the local Tribe.
  • Our staff want to create a land acknowledgement that we use organization-wide, and our Board is resisting it.

Right Relations stands on the shoulders of people who came before us and leaders in the field, including but not limited to:  

We thank David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Sobrato Philanthropies for providing financial support for the pilot program. 

Photos from the first field trip of the Right Relations pilot program. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, February 21, 2023.