California Indians Could Regain Ancestral Lands

Ron W. Goode, Tribal Chairman for the North Fork Mono Tribe, leads an educational field trip teaching children about California Indians and the land near one of the tribe's restoration sites at Lost Lake in 2010. (Photo: John Mink / Center for Multicultural Cooperation)

Some California Indian tribes have the potential to regain their ancestral lands and restore age-old relationships between people and the environment in the Golden State. An unlikely turn of events has opened up this historic opportunity. PG&E’s 2001 bankruptcy resulted in the formation of the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, a nonprofit designed to distribute lands PG&E agreed to donate as part of its settlement agreement.

However, tribal entities are not the only parties interested in these properties. Federal and state agencies, county governments and other interested organizations are submitting competing bids. Earlier this month, the Stewardship Council’s board of directors met to decide who will receive the latest round of divested lands – unfortunately, none of the board’s recommendations side with traditional tribal owners this time. Hopefully, the Stewardship Council will do better for the tribes in our state in the future.