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Land Management

Hundreds of acres restored to local tribe

Independent Coast Observer of Gualala, California

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Conservation deal

Six hundred and eighty-eight acres of land, stretching a mile up the coast from the northern edge of Salt Point State Park, will be restored to the Kashia Band of Porno Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria in a land deal between the tribe, Sonoma County, the Trust for Public Land and a branch of the Richardson family.

The deal is expected to be finalized by mid-November, said Brendan Moriarty, who managed the project for the TPL. In total, the acquisition will cost $6 million, the final $2.9 million of which will be provided by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday.

The acquisition includes a conservation easement, which specifies there can be no development on the land except for a mile long bluff top trail for public use. The property will be added to the patchwork of public lands and easements from Bodega Dunes to Gualala Point Regional Park, which protect the majority of the Sonoma coast. The bluff trail will eventually connect with the California Coastal Trail, with a trail head at Salt Point and a separate staging area for those who want to only walk on this land.

"It's a momentous occasion for us," said Reno Keoni Franklin, chairman of the approximately 1,000-member Kashia Band of Porno Indians. They used this land for more than 12,500 years until the 1860s, when three Kashia men were hung south of the property without due process in a mass hanging, explained Franklin. The tribe then moved inland and could only access the coast in secret or with permission of the owners, he said.

"Here we are today at the doorstep of changing that, of righting that piece of wrong and adding a beautiful piece to the history that you all share with me and my tribal members and elders in the audience," said Franklin as he urged the supervisors to authorize the deal.

Once the tribe regains the land, dubbed the Kashia Coastal Reserve, they will use it as they did before 1860 by practicing their culture and traditions on the land. They will gather food and perform coming-of-age ceremonies, said Franklin. This land will be used to educate people about our community, he said. Owning a piece of coastal land has been in the back of every Kashia mind for 100 years. "I am very thankful to our elders. They made this all happen."

Moriarty said the Richardson siblings grew up close to the Kashia and went to school with them. The family approached the tribe eight or 10 years ago and started a dialogue about selling the land and the price was decided in a handshake agreement within the last year, said Franklin. The reserve is beautiful, he said. The family has done a great job maintaining it and the forest and creeks are healthy. Franklin described a trip to the eastern part of the land filled with oaks, saying the women saw the trees and were immediately enticed by the acorns. The whole area is also filled with medicinal and traditional plants.

The tribe will restore the land to its pre-con-tact conditions by creating a timber management plan to clear out smaller trees and underlying brush, he explained. He estimates it will take around 50 years to restore the forest.

The General Council, made up of the members of the tribe, will have to approve the plan as they have all the previous steps towards the land acquisition. The timber sales will be used to pay back the $650,000 the tribe took out to pay for the land.

"This is a momentous day for the County of Sonoma," said Supervisor Efren Carrillo whose district includes the newly acquired land. "Yesterday [Oct. 12], we celebrated Indigenous People's day and today we have the opportunity to truly celebrate it once again."

The most beautiful experience Franklin has had in his one and a half years as chairman was "when we had our first gathering out there [on the reserve] to pray and offer food before the Sonoma Board of Supervisors meeting."

Listening to the six language speakers and many elders present and seeing the children on the land filled him with hope and pride.

"I want all of our people to have that experience. To look out at the ocean and realize this belongs to them. They're not going to be killed and they're not going to be persecuted. This belongs to them."

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Original Publication Date: October 23, 2015

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