By Dorothy Alther, Executive Director

On September 22, 2020, Governor Newsom signed “A Statement of Administration Policy on Native American Ancestral Lands” acknowledging and reiterating that Native Americans occupied California long before statehood and were forced to relinquish their lands and sacred sites,  through violence or other means, to the newcomers descending upon the state. The Policy’s purpose is to “partner with California tribes to facilitate tribal access, use, and co-management of State-owned or controlled natural lands and to work cooperatively with California tribes that are interested in acquiring natural lands in excess of State needs …” This defined purpose is to be accomplished through facilitating Native American access to their sacred and cultural sites located on state lands, improve the ability of California Native Americans to engage in traditional and sustenance gathering, hunting and fishing; manage state lands through co-management agreements that utilize “Traditional Ecological Knowledges” and foster “opportunities for education, community development, economic diversification, and investment in public health, information technology, and infrastructure, renewable energy, water conservation, and cultural preservation or awareness.”

This directive to state agencies means that Native Americans will hopefully no longer be denied access to their sacred and cultural sites on state lands in order to carry out their traditional practices. Native gathering, and substance hunting and fishing will be easier to engage in on state lands. Tribes will be allowed to voice and be involved in applying their traditional knowledge of maintaining natural resources on state lands through co-management agreements with state agencies. Most importantly, tribes may acquire excess state land not needed for a state purpose, meaning areas of cultural importance may be returned to Native American ownership.