Earlier this week, the Save the Redwoods League returned a 523-acre parcel of redwood forest to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council.
The forested area will also be renamed Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ (’pronounced tsih-ih-LEY-duhn’) which means “Fish Run Place” in the Sinkyone language. Located in northern California along the iconic Lost Coast, the area houses several endangered species, such as steelhead trout, coho salmon, spotted owl, and yellow-legged frog. It also includes 200 acres of old-growth redwoods along with several other trees and understory plants.
In 2020, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) Company, a California public utility whose equipment has sparked several wildfires in recent years, funded the League’s $3.55 million purchase of this parcel of land (then known as Andersonia West) through their environmental mitigation program. PG&E also established a $1.3 million endowment to support the Council’s efforts to continue protecting this parcel of land.
Council representatives, some of whom have Sinkyone ancestry, say that “recognizing Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ as a Tribal Protected Area reaffirms the inherited responsibility tribes have to maintain and revitalize [their] relationships with the land, air, water, spirits, and all forms of life within our cultural landscapes. Tribal culture and land protection are inextricably linked; Indigenous cultural lifeways depend upon the health of the lands and waters.”
This is not the first time that the League and Council, which is comprised of 10 Tribal nations, have worked together. In 2012, the League transferred ownership of a 164-acre piece of land that had been acquired in 1997. The Council has been granted a conservation easement for this smaller parcel and Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ to continue supporting its efforts.
“Returning these lands to tribal stewardship not only secures the well-being of the forest and sensitive wildlife habitat, but it also supports cultural revitalization and healing of the land and the people who are connected to it,” says the League.
In Mendocino County, the League has been involved in protecting more than 34,000 acres of redwoods, and engages in “land back” efforts that restore guardianship to Native groups and continue to garner larger protections for lands that hold cultural and ecological importance, but also foster opportunities for Indigenous communities and their lands to heal.
According to Crista Ray, a Sinkyone board member of Sinkyone, Cahto, Wailaki and Eastern Pomo ancestry, and tribal citizen of Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, “Having a place that still has redwoods, still has a connection to the land, to me lets me know that we have sacred places that are protected for my children and grandchildren and the future of our tribal people and our Native people in California. A place to go to, a place to remember.”