It might have taken 250 years, but the Esselen tribe finally reclaimed its northern California ancestral homeland where its culture will be celebrated and nature protected.
“We’re the original stewards of the land. Now we’re returned,” says Tom Little Bear Nason, chairman of the Esselen tribe. “We are going to conserve it and pass it on to our children and grandchildren and beyond. Getting this land back gives privacy to do our ceremonies. It gives us space and the ability to continue our culture without further interruption. This is forever, and in perpetuity, that we can hold on to our culture and our values.”
The Western Rivers Conservancy, a Portland-based environmental group, took part in the negotiations to secure the purchase of the land. As part of the deal, the 1,200-acre ranch will be used for educational and cultural purposes and will constitute a haven for endangered wildlife – like the California condor, the red-legged frog, and the imperiled steelhead trout – and for old-growth redwoods. “To be a part of helping a tribe regain its homeland is great,” says Sue Doroff, president of the Western Rivers Conservancy.