Coastal Native American Tribe Finally Gets Access to California Coast in Historic Land Sale
After 200 years of being land-locked, the people of the Kashia band of the coastal Pomo tribe finally have access to the California coast again.
After a three-year effort by a coalition of groups that included the Sonoma County government to raise $6 Million, the Pomo were able to purchase the 700-acre, 1-mile strip of California coastline near Stewart’s Point that once belonged to the family of Bill Richardson. Up until now, members of the Pomo tribe had to ask permission to use the land for tribal ceremonies and gatherings, and tribe members sometimes sneaked through fences to conduct traditional coming-of-age ceremonies.
Tribe member Walter Antone grew up on the nearby Pomo reservation, and his father having to ask permission every time they wanted to use land that once belonged to their tribe was hard on him. “Made me feel shutout,” Antone said. “It’s land where we used to go before but now you can’t — we’re fenced off.”
Now the land belongs to the Pomo again thanks to this historic land sale, though Richardson himself will be allowed to live out his days in his family home on the land, and be buried on its hilltop. After him, however, the land’s future is secure as a public space owned by the tribe for whom it is not just a property, but an ancestral homeland.
I love this story. The cynical among you may say something like Sure he was willing to sell for six million dollars. But this was his family’s home, and had been in his family for generations. Believe it or not, there are things that people value more than money. Richardson seems to understand and value the importance of the land to the Pomo, and seems to have a good relationship with them. I see this as a person with privilege finally choosing to do right by an oppressed group. It’s a wonderful example for others to follow.
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