Redwood forest in northern California reclaimed by Native American tribes


Jan 25 (Reuters) - A native tribal group has reclaimed a redwood forest in Northern California, with a San Francisco conservation group transferring more than 500 acres (202 hectares) to a council that represents tribal nations with historical ties to the area.

Conservation group Save the Redwoods League said on Tuesday it purchased the 523-acre property, formerly known as Andersonia West, in July 2020 and has now donated and transferred ownership of the forest to InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council.

"The Sinkyone Council resumes guardianship of a land from which Sinkyone people were forcibly removed by European American settlers generations ago", the conservation group said in the statement.

Last year, U.S. federal officials met with Native American tribes to gather recommendations as the federal government sought to move ahead with efforts to protect and restore tribal homelands.

The group of 10 tribes that have inhabited the area on the Lost Coast in Mendocino County for thousands of years will be responsible for protecting the land to be renamed as "Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ," meaning "Fish Run Place" in the Sinkyone language.

"Renaming the property Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ lets people know that it's a sacred place; it's a place for our Native people," said Crista Ray, a tribal citizen of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians and a board member of the Sinkyone Council. "It lets them know that there was a language and that there was a people who lived there long before now."

Priscilla Hunter, chairwoman of the Sinkyone Council, said it was fitting they will be caretakers of the land where tribal people were forced to flee before the forest was stripped for timber.

Save the Redwoods League's initial purchase of the forest for $3.55 million in 2020 was funded by Pacific Gas & Electric Company, also known as PG&E.

The utility company has been criticized for destroying many trees in California to reduce chances of vegetation contacting power lines and sparking forest fires.

PG&E said it had also provided $1.13 million in 2021 to fund a perpetual stewardship endowment and to reimburse Save the Redwoods League for staff time spent on collaboration in developing the conservation project.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Sandra Maler

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Kanishka Singh is a breaking news reporter for Reuters in Washington DC, who primarily covers US politics and national affairs in his current role. His past breaking news coverage has spanned across a range of topics like the Black Lives Matter movement; the US elections; the 2021 Capitol riots and their follow up probes; the Brexit deal; US-China trade tensions; the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan; the COVID-19 pandemic; and a 2019 Supreme Court verdict on a religious dispute site in his native India.