For several months I’ve been seeing yard signs in Oakland, where I live, with the word “Shuumi.” I did a little research and learned that it’s an Indigenous Ohlone word that means “gift.” Shuumi, I discovered, is a voluntary land tax paid by inhabitants of unceded tribal land—in other words, almost all of the Bay Area. It’s part of a larger, continent-wide rematriation movement among Indigenous activists, especially women.
Rematriation appears to be a relatively new word; the only dictionary in which I found it is Wiktionary, which gives this definition, with no dates or citations: “A return to a spiritual way of life with respect to Mother Earth.” It was formed in to counter repatriation—return to one’s native land, or “patria”—which has been in English since the 1590s. (Expatriation, which meant “banishment” when it entered English in the 1760s, later took on its current voluntary sense.) The substitution of M for P invites us to consider related words like matriarchy and matrilineal; the novelty of the word tells us to consider a new way of thinking.
“Give Shuumi.” Oakland, California, April 26, 2020. Photo by me.