California Returning 39,000 Acres to Native American Tribes

California Returning 39,000 Acres to Native American Tribes

California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits Native American planting sites with members of the Yurok tribe. (Governor's Office)

Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin


Updated: 5/7/2024


California is helping to return about 39,000 acres to Native American tribes through a grant program, the governor’s office announced April 26.
The effort is part of a first-in-the-nation plan to “address historical wrongs committed against California Native American tribes,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
The state has awarded more than $100 million for 33 tribal land projects through the program, which was set aside in the state budgets of 2022–2023 and 2023–2024.
The grants can be used for ancestral land return, restoration, workforce development, implementation of traditional ecological knowledge and tribal expertise, habitat restoration, and climate and wildfire resilience projects.
“These awards are an acknowledgment of past sins, a promise of accountability, and a commitment to a better future—for the land and all its people, especially its original stewards,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement.
According to the California Natural Resources Agency, most of the grants were awarded to tribal projects in Northern and Central California.
“Today marks a pivotal moment in our journey toward healing and reconciliation,” Kevin Osuma, chairman of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, said.
The award is a financial contribution and a symbol of solidarity, a recognition of rights, and a commitment to stewarding their ancestral lands, he added.
In addition, the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians said they are committed to preserving the natural resources and cultural heritage of their people.
“We look forward to working closely with the state and local communities to ensure that this land is protected and cared for in a sustainable manner,” Dino Franklin, Kashia Band of Pomo Indians tribal chairman, said.
Early funding went to shovel-ready projects for the Hoopa Valley Tribe. The tribe acquired nearly 10,400 acres of forested property with the funds. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for this ancestral land return is set for May 14.
Many of the projects will also help bring the state closer to its goal of conserving 30 percent of lands and coastal waters by 2030.
The state is working with California Native American tribes to return ancestral lands to tribal ownership and to support the management and access of lands by tribes.
Mr. Newsom issued an apology to tribal people in 2019 through an executive order on behalf of the state to the California Native American people for “many instances of violence, mistreatment and neglect inflicted upon California Native Americans throughout the state’s history.”
He also created a “Truth and Healing Council” to provide a way for the Native American community to clarify the record and provide their historical perspective. It was the first time a state had taken such action to acknowledge wrongdoing through executive order, he said.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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