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Native Americans Reclaim Lands

After 250 years, Big Sur land finally returned to Native American tribe.

The Adler Ranch in Big Sur on the coast of California, south of Monterey.

As part of a $4.5 million land deal, the ancestral homeland of the Esselen Tribe has been returned to its people after being landless for a quarter of a millennium. “We are back after a 250 year absence - because in 1770 our people were taken to the missions,” Tom Little Bear Nason, chairman of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, told the Monterey County Weekly. “Now we are back home. We plan on keeping this land forever.”

The 1,200 acres of undeveloped private property near Big Sur, known as the Adler Ranch, are being transferred to the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving tribal heritage.

The property, on the Little Sur River, is home to old-growth redwoods and endangered wildlife such as the California condor and red-legged frog, which will be protected as part of the deal. Working on behalf of the tribe, Portland-based environmental group Western Rivers Conservancy secured a $4.5 million grant from the California Natural Resources Agency to cover the land purchase.

“We are going to conserve it and pass it on to our children and grandchildren and beyond,” Nason told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “Getting this land back gives privacy to do our ceremonies. It gives us space and the ability to continue our culture without further interruption. This is forever, and in perpetuity, that we can hold on to our culture and our values.” In the 18th century Spanish colonists built a military outpost in Monterey and founded missions in the region where tribal members were captured, baptized and "converted" to Catholicism. By the early 1800s, nearly all of the tribe had been wiped out by disease.

Nason said the now 214-member Esselen tribe will share the land with other tribes originally from the area, including the Ohlone, the Amah Mutsun and the Rumsen people.

"We’re the original stewards of the land," Nasan told the Sentinel. "Now we’re returned."

Original story: SFGate

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