Esselen tribe in northern California reattains ancestral land

It has been 250 years since their land was taken from them in northern California. Then, a quarter…

It has been 250 years since their land was taken from them in northern California.

Then, a quarter of a millennium ago, external forces came to the land that was home to the Esselen tribe:

When Spanish soldiers built a military outpost in Monterey and Franciscan padres founded the Carmel, Soledad, and San Antonio missions nearby, the Esselen tribe — who had lived in the area for 8,000 years — was decimated.

Bay Area News Group

The interlopers interfered with the Esselen families. They separated members of families and sent them to the missions where they would be baptized and remade as Catholics. By the end of the 18th century, the Esselen people “were stripped of their culture, their language and their lands.”

But on July 27, 2020, some of this land returned to their possession. The Esselen Tribe of Monterey Country just bought 1,199 acres of land in Big Sur. This purchase is a component of a $4.5 million acquisition. Both the state of California and an environmental group based in California are involved.

The new purchase will mean good news for local flora and fauna. In particular, varieties of fish, birds, and trees will all have a better chance at conservation:

The Little Sur River is a big deal for steelhead, and the property is a big deal for condor reintroduction and redwoods. The property is spectacular, and on top of that it repatriates land to a tribe that has had a really hard go of it over the years. To be a part of helping a tribe regain its homeland is great.

Sue Doroff, the Western Rivers Conservancy president

The land will never be developed into lots. It will serve the wildlife, and the Esselen tribe “will share it with other Central Coast tribes like the Ohlon, the Amah Mutsun and the Rumsen people who also were decimated during the Mission Era.”

Esselen Tribe of Monterey County’s chairman, Tom Little Bear Nason, said that acquiring the land is “the highest honor”:

The land is the most important thing to us. It is our homeland, the creation story of our lives. We are so elated and grateful.

Tom Little Bear Nason

With the newly acquired land, the Esselen tribe will be able to perform their ceremonies and sustain their culture. They can now “hold on to [their] culture and [their] values” in privacy and without any further disruption, forever.

Article source: Bay Area News Group

Featured image source: Doug Steakley/Western Rivers Conservancy

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