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The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) said it is launching a $100 million program to help the state’s tribes advance nature-based solutions priorities for their communities, including the reacquisition of ancestral lands.

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The Tribal Nature-Based Solutions grant program, announced last week, will provide funding for tribes to purchase land that was lost to them through colonization and other forms of dispossession. This land can then be used for a variety of purposes, including: 

  • Restoration of traditional cultural practices
  • Protection of endangered species
  • Development of renewable energy projects
  • Creation of green jobs

The program will also provide technical assistance and training to help tribes manage their ancestral lands in a sustainable way.

"This program is a long-awaited opportunity for California Native American tribes to reclaim our ancestral lands and steward our natural resources for future generations," Yurok Tribe Chairman Robert Grijalva said in a statement. "We are grateful for the CNRA's support and look forward to working with them to implement this important program."

The reacquisition of ancestral lands is a priority for many tribes seeking to create economic opportunities for their members, as well as cultural and spiritual spaces.  

Last month, the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin purchased a 26-acre parcel of land in rural Marin County in an area that was once Coast Miwok territory. Last August, the Wiyot Tribe celebrated the purchase of 46 acres of northern California coastal wetland. The land, known as Mouralherwaqh or wolf’s house, will be preserved for cultural significance to the Wiyot Tribe and the environmental importance to the area.

"The reacquisition of ancestral lands is essential to our ability to maintain our cultural practices and pass them on to future generations," Chairman Brian Wallace of the Round Valley Indian Tribes said in a statement. "This program will help us to reclaim our heritage and build a brighter future for our people."

The chairman of another tribe in California called the program a “critical step” toward healing. 

"This program is a critical step in the process of healing the wounds of colonization and restoring our people to our rightful place as stewards of the land," Chairman Anthony Pico of the Cahuilla Band of Indians said in a statement. 

The program is open to all California Native American tribes. Applications for time-sensitive shovel-ready projects are due by August. 28; standard applications are due September 29, 2023. More information is available on the California Natural Resources Agency website.