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Governor Newsom announces historic land return effort on the 5th anniversary of California’s apology to Native Americans

Posted on June 20, 2024

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What you need to know: Furthering the state’s promise to do better by California Native American tribes, Governor Newsom announced that the state is pursuing the return of over 2,800 acres of ancestral homeland to the Shasta Indian Nation – part of California’s historic reconciliation efforts.

SACRAMENTO – On the 5th anniversary of the state’s apology to California Native American peoples, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the state’s support for the return of over 2,800 acres of ancestral land to the Shasta Indian Nation. This return is one of the largest in state history and part of the state’s ongoing efforts to right the historical wrongs committed against the Native communities of California.

Click to see a video recap of the Governor’s meeting with leaders of the Shasta Indian Nation. 

“This work is a down payment on the state’s commitment to do better by the Native American communities who have called this land home since time immemorial. By listening to and working with tribes across the state, including to return ancestral homelands and restore the environment, we are healing deep wounds and rebuilding trust between our people.”
Governor Gavin Newsom

Earlier this month, Governor Newsom visited the Klamath River dam removal project, the largest river restoration project in American history that will rehabilitate over 300 miles of salmon habitats, and discussed the ancestral land return with leaders of the Shasta Indian Nation.

With the support of the state, the Shasta Indian Nation is pursuing the transfer of 2,820.860 acres of “Parcel B” lands associated with the dams.

“The Shasta Indian Nation is pleased with the Governor’s decision to support the return our ancestral lands and sacred sites. Having access to our ceremonial sites, including the site of our First Salmon Ceremony, is critical to the spiritual and emotional health of our people. The ceremony has not taken place since the lands were taken by eminent domain for the construction of Copco dam over 100 years ago. This is transformative and the beginning of restorative justice for our people,” said Shasta Indian Nation Chairperson Janice Crowe. “We welcome the opportunity to steward our ancestral lands in a manner consistent with tribal values and incorporating tribal ecological knowledge. Land return also allows us to educate the public by completing the Shasta Heritage Trail that incorporates Native art in the design along with informational placards that share the history of Shasta people from Kikacéki.”   

Bigger picture

When Governor Newsom officially apologized on behalf of the State of California to California Native American peoples five years ago – on the future site of the California Indian Heritage Center – he also announced the creation of the California Truth and Healing Council. Through collaborative and consultative work of the Council, the Governor’s Office of Tribal affairs, and tribes across the state, the state has developed a number of programs and initiatives, including: 

“We are proud to support the return of Shasta Indian Nation’s homelands on the fifth anniversary of Governor Newsom’s historic apology to all California Native people for the state’s early destruction of Native homelands, people and lifeways,” said Tribal Affairs Secretary Christina Snider-Ashtari. “We will continue in this work of healing throughout the state by supporting similar restorative efforts and look forward to recommendations from the California Truth & Healing Council’s final report next year.”

This historic transfer marks significant progress in the state’s efforts to return ancestral and culturally significant land to tribes across the state. 

Earlier this year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) transferred over 40 acres of the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery to the Fort Independence Indian Community, marking CDFW’s first-ever land return to a California tribe. Additionally, through the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, the state supported the return of 417 acres of land to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. 

Through the Newsom administration’s Tribal Nature-Based Solutions grant program, the state awarded $107.7 million to fund 34 projects and support the return of approximately 49,345 acres of land to California Native American tribes, including: 

  • The Hoopa Valley Tribe’s acquisition of 10,395 acres of forested property, returning Hupa Mountain to tribal stewardship.  
  • The Tule River Tribe’s acquisition of 14,672 acres of land to support tribal environmental and species conservation. 
  • The Owens Valley Indian Water Commission’s acquisition of 158 acres of Hogback Ranch, and supporting land care, ceremonial work, and agricultural development. 
  • The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s acquisition of 1,100 acres, to support the Tribe’s environmental and cultural priorities. 

As part of similar, larger efforts to help mitigate the impacts of wildfiresclimate change and drought, the state is working with tribes on the Beaver Restoration Program. Just last week, the Tule River Tribe and California Department of Fish and Wildlife released seven beavers on Tule River tribal lands, following last October’s release of seven beavers with the Maidu Summit Consortium.

Developed in consultation with local tribes, these ongoing efforts are designed to support tribes in their conservation, community, and economic development, and will also help bring California closer to conserving 30% of lands and coastal waters by 2030.