A Step Towards Healing and Restoration: California to Support the Return of Ancestral Tribal Lands and Lands Management Projects

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: As part of an ongoing truth and healing process, California is supporting the return of over 38,000 acres of ancestral land to tribal stewardship and advancing nature-based solutions projects on tribal lands.

SACRAMENTO – As part of a first-in-the-nation effort to address historical wrongs committed against California Native American tribes, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that the state has awarded more than $100 million for 33 tribal land projects. The funding, which was appropriated as part of the 2022-23 and 2023-24 state budgets, will be used for ancestral land return, implementation of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and tribal expertise, habitat restoration, climate and wildfire resilience projects, and more.

WHAT GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM SAID: “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. Only through partnership with California Native American tribes can we address the climate and biodiversity crisis and build a healthier California.”

WHAT THIS MEANS: As part of the administration’s Native American truth and healing process, the Governor has worked collaboratively with tribes to establish the historic Tribal Nature-Based Solutions grant program. Designed to support tribal priorities – as determined by tribes themselves – 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.

“Today marks a pivotal moment in our journey towards healing and reconciliation,” said Chairman Kevin Osuna, Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel. “This award is not merely a financial contribution; it is a symbol of solidarity, a recognition of our inherent rights, and a commitment to stewarding our ancestral lands. With these funds, we will not only secure the physical boundaries of our land but also lay the foundation for a future where our children, grandchildren and local communities can thrive, rooted in the strength of our heritage.The Tribal Nature-Based Solutions are engrained in our traditional ways of life, and we are eternally grateful for the opportunity, as generational healing requires more than just the restitution of land; it demands the restoration of dignity, the preservation of culture, and the empowerment of our people. Let us remember those who came before us, whose sacrifices paved the way for this moment. Let us also honor our descendants, whose futures we hold in our hands. As traditional stewards, our tribe looks forward to welcoming the general public to experience the beauty, wonder, and wisdom of our ancestral homelands. Eyaay Ahan.”

“This sacred land is for our future generations, and the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians are committed to preserving the natural resources and cultural heritage of our people,” said Chairperson Dino Franklin with the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians. “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.”

“As California works to address the climate crisis, we can learn from the state’s historical wrongs by fully embracing opportunities to equitably and meaningfully partner with California Native American tribes to tackle these shared challenges,” said Tribal Affairs Secretary Christina Snider-Ashtari. “The investments from the Tribal Nature-Based Solutions Grant Program are the first in the nation directly supporting ancestral land return and ensuring tribal stewardship has a critical role in the broader conservation goals benefiting all of California.”

Visiting Native planting sites with members of the Yurok Tribe.

Early funding, as offered to time-sensitive and shovel-ready projects, went to the Hoopa Valley Tribe to acquire 10,395 acres of forested property and return Hupa Mountain to tribal stewardship. The Hoopa Valley Tribe’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for this ancestral land return is scheduled for May 14th.

“Supporting tribal leadership is essential to meet our most important environmental goals,” said Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “This funding for ancestral land return and tribally led nature-based solutions is big step toward conserving 30% of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030, and more broadly to help people and nature thrive together across California. It represents a downpayment on the state’s commitment to strengthen partnership with California Native American tribes in years and decades to come.”

Releasing beavers into the waters on the ancestral lands of the Mountain Maidu people.

BIGGER PICTURE: Many of these projects will also help bring California closer to our ambitious goal to conserve 30% of lands and coastal waters by 2030, also known as the 30 x 30 initiative. The initiative builds on the Governor’s direction for state entities to work cooperatively with California Native American tribes in returning ancestral lands to tribal ownership in excess of state needs, and support California tribes’ co-management of and access to natural lands within a California tribe’s ancestral land.

See the full list of recipients and learn more about today’s announcement here.