SAN FRANCISCO — A Northern California Native American group is getting its ancestral land back.
San Francisco-based Save the Redwoods League announced this week that it had donated 160 acres in northwestern Mendocino County to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council. The donation was made in exchange for a conservation easement that will prevent the land from being developed.
This is the first time that the Redwoods League has entered into a conservation agreement with a tribal group, said Ruskin Hartley, executive director of Save the Redwoods League.
“(The council’s) focus on the traditional, cultural use of the land and our focus on its natural values are in alignment here,” Hartley said Saturday.
The land that was transferred — a forest-rimmed meadow known as the Four Corners that lies next to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park— includes the headwater of the Mattole River, home to coho salmon.
It holds particular significance to Native Americans. It is believed to have served as a tribal meeting place for hundreds of years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. “Our ancestors’ spirits now are dancing in the wind and the trees knowing that Mother Earth will be saved there and protected,” Priscilla Hunter, the chairwoman and co-founder of the InterTribal council, told the Chronicle.
The council represents 10 federally recognized tribes with ties to the region. It aims to restore Native American stewardship over the area and has previously established a 3,800-acre wilderness there.
Hawk Rosales, the tribal council’s executive director, said Sinkyone Indians were pushed off of the lands as white settlers arrived in the mid-1800s.
The federal government transferred the Four Corners land to a member of the tribe, whose descendants sold it in the 1950s to a non-Indian family. Its redwoods were logged.
The Redwoods League bought the 160-acre plot from a private owner for about $750,000 in 1997, Ruskin said.