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Ancestral Land Returned To Native American Tribe

Recently, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced that it will transfer over 40 acres of the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery to the Fort Independence Indian Community, marking CDFW’s first-ever land return to a California tribe.

Fort Independence Indian Community, a federally recognized tribe of Paiute people, has long protected and nurtured the ecosystem of the land – and with the return of the land, will be able to renew traditional, proven management of the land to create a healthier environment.

This marks another milestone in the partnership between California tribes and the state as the entities work together to build bridges and heal from the past, said officials. The Fort Independence Indian Community have lived on and stewarded this land since time immemorial – and in restoring their relationship with the land, not only will the land benefit, but so will all communities of this area and across the state.

“Water is an integral part of Paiute culture, history and social structure,” said Tribal Chairman Carl Dahlberg. “Our Indigenous Paiute members settled on the banks of the Oak Creek since time immemorial and these lands have always been sacred to our people. Our worldview values the delicate ecosystem which connects us to this land which traditionally was a cultivation site for indigenous plants, such as taboose and nahavita. This property is inextricably intwined into who we are as Paiute people and we hope to bring this knowledge and history back to the community through the preservation of the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery.”

“California Native people have a deep and meaningful relationship with the lands and waters of what is now California, and every step the state can take to restore this relationship is another step toward healing,” said Tribal Affairs Secretary Christina Snider-Ashtari. “We celebrate with the Fort Independence Indian Community and will continue in good faith to support and uphold tribal reunification with their homelands, cultures and practices.”

As part of the administration’s efforts to examine and address historical wrongs and promote access and inclusion for California Native peoples, Governor Gavin Newsom has worked collaboratively with tribes to establish a historic $101 million Tribal Nature-Based Solutions Program. The program supports tribal initiatives that advance the well-being of their communities and help achieve California’s world-leading climate and conservation goals, and can be used for community and workforce development initiatives, and for the purchase of land. The grant program builds on the Governor’s direction for state entities to work cooperatively with California tribes that are interested in acquiring natural lands in excess of state needs, and support California tribes’ co-management of and access to natural lands within a California tribe’s ancestral land.