The Esselen Tribe of Northern California inhabited the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Big Sur coast for thousands of years.
About 250 years ago, their land was taken from them by Spanish explorers. The tribe remained landless, until last week.
The tribe purchased 1,200 acres with a $4.5 million dollar grant issued to them by the state of California.
The land was owned by Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC), an environmental organization that purchases land with the purpose of finding long-term stewards who will conserve the natural habitat.
“It is with great honor that our tribe has been called by our Ancestors to become stewards of these sacred indigenous lands once again,” Tom Little Bear Nason, Tribal Chairman of the tribe, said in a statement in October.
“These lands are home to many ancient villages of our people, and directly across the Little Sur River sits Pico Blanco or ‘Pitchi’, which is the most sacred spot on the coast for the Esselen People and the center of our origin story.”
The Esselen tribe says the land will not be commercially developed and that the conservation efforts will continue.
In addition, the tribe plans on building a village that other indigenous tribes in the area can utilize. They are also planning to host public educational events to teach others about their culture.
“We are going to conserve it and pass it on to our children and grandchildren and beyond,” Nason says. “Getting this land back gives privacy to do our ceremonies. It gives us space and the ability to continue our culture without further interruption.”