The Tolowa Dee-ni' have lived along the Smith River since time immemorial. At Euro-American contact, settler-colonialists forced the Tolowa from their ancestral territory and corralled them on the Smith River Reservation. At the heart of the Smith River Reservation was a property that came to be known as Reservation Ranch. Ultimately, the reservation lands were also stolen from the Tolowa and they were forced off their lands entirely. (See their story map here to read the whole story).
The history of the land after it was stolen from the Tolowa is sadly predictable: In addition to a legacy of devastating for profit agriculture, it continues to be significantly degraded by existing dairy and cattle operations. The details of this degradation are ghastly, from the filling of tidal sloughs with manure to damming estuarine salmon habitat for use as freshwater irrigation ponds. You can review the charges on our past blog post here. Needless to say, all of this is illegal. Finally, state agencies have begun enforcement actions against the owners and managers of Reservation Ranch.
This moment provides a crucial opportunity to make right severe injustice to the Tolowa Dee-ni' and help restore the Smith River. We are asking that the State use its powers to three ends:
Surveying and cataloging tribal cultural resources on the entire property. The Tolowa have been denied access to their lands for more than 160 years and have not had an opportunity to document and protect their legacy here. Enforcement actions offer an opportunity for due diligence, requiring documentation and protection of these cultural resources.
Restoration of the whole estuary. The Smith River is incredibly important to the region’s salmon and native fisheries. This enforcement offers an opportunity to begin a multi-stakeholder estuary restoration program centered around Reservation Ranch.
Return lands to the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation. The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation represents descendants of individuals that once called Reservation Ranch home. The land was stolen from them. It is time to return the land to its rightful owners. Enforcement offers an opportunity to correct this mistake.
Please take action below and share with your community to get the word out! Shu’ shaa nin-la (thank you in Tolowa Dee-ni’).