In California, 523 acres of redwood forest have been returned to a group of Native American tribes whose ancestors were forcibly removed from the land generations ago, according to a statement from Save the Redwoods League.
The league, a nonprofit that works to protect and restore redwood forests, purchased the property in 2020 and donated it to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, a consortium of ten northern tribal nations of California recognized by the federal government. In turn, the league was granted a conservation easement, which prohibits commercial timbering, severance, development or public access, according to the league’s project outline.
The land, formerly called Andersonia West, will now be called Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ, which means “Fish Run Place” in the Sinkyone language.
“It’s a gift – a real blessing to our tribes,” Priscilla Hunter, Sinkyone Council President and tribal citizen of the Coyote Valley Pomo Indian Band, told KQED’s Matthew Green. “Our parents and our ancestors are happy and can be at peace, because this is where our ancestors were driven from their lands and had to flee to be killed or taken away. I believe their spirits and our spirits are connected today. today. in a happy time.”
The Sinkyone people have lived in the lands of California for thousands of years, traveling, hunting and fishing throughout their territory. But white settlers arrived in the 1800s and decimated Sinkyone’s population through state-sanctioned killings, starvation, disease and other atrocities, according to the Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ project overview. . Survivors were exiled and some became members of federally recognized tribes.
Settlers extensively logged redwoods, which tribes regard as relatives and sacred beings, according to the league. Today, from southern Oregon to central California, only 5% of the original old-growth forest remains, reports Laurel Sutherland for mongabay.
Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ is home to 200 acres of ancient coast redwoods and federally endangered animals such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.
Together, the council and the league plan to “apply a blend of Indigenous place-based land trusteeship principles, conservation science, climate adaptation and fire-resilience concepts and approaches to help to provide lasting protection and long-term healing for Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ. and its diverse flora and fauna,” the statement said.
“The protection of Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ means everything because that’s how we survived. This is who we were and are,” says Jesse Gonzalez, a tribal citizen of the Scotts Valley Pomo Indian Band and alternate board member of Sinkyone Council in a blog post. “Enough has been removed. If we can do something to help preserve the land, the wildlife, the nature, we want to be part of it. Because it’s us.
This is the second property the league has given to the board. In 2012, 164 acres north of Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ were returned to Sinkyone Council.
“You have a lot of happy Indians around here,” Hunter told KQED. “It’s not often you get land given to the Indians. You know, they always take it.”