The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians is currently at the table in Government to Government consultation with the state of California in order to ensure protection of their ancestral cultural sites and culturally significant biological resources located within Jackson Demonstration State Forest (Jackson). Our coalition supports the rights of all Indigenous Peoples to manage, protect, and steward their ancestral lands. We believe that in order to restore our forests to health it is vital to rely on the Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Indigenous Peoples. Moreover, we believe that preserving Indigenous archeological sites is a moral necessity. For these reasons, we wholeheartedly support the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians’ Government to Government consultation with the State of California.
Jackson is the ancestral territory of the Northern Pomo and Coast Yuki Peoples. Since time immemorial, these Peoples have gathered acorns throughout the coastal range, fished for salmon in the rivers and gathered food, basket weaving materials and medicinal plants from the coastal forest. When white settlers arrived on the coast of what is today Mendocino County in the mid-19th century, they engaged in a coordinated genocidal campaign against the Indigenous Peoples they encountered. Numerous massacres occurred throughout Mendocino County. Some of the Indigenous Peoples managed to survive by fleeing into hiding in the mountains and hills.
The purpose of this genocidal campaign was to displace the Indigenous population so that white settlers could extract the area’s bountiful natural resources. Simultaneously with the massacre and displacement of the Indigenous Peoples, the white settlers began clearcutting the ancient old growth coast redwood forests that once blanketed the landscape. It is impossible to understand this ecological devastation imposed on our forests without also understanding the correlated genocidal campaign. One could not have taken place without the other.
As advocates for the forest, we believe that it is our responsibility to support the Northern Pomo and Coast Yuki People’s efforts to reestablish themselves. Restoring the forest means restoring its Indigenous Peoples and utilizing their traditional ecological knowledge in forest management. Despite incredible adversity, the resilient Indigenous Peoples of Mendocino County survived and continue to practice their cultural lifeways. However, many of their cultural lifeways are difficult to practice due to their diminished land base. For example, acorns are an essential food source for the Northern Pomo and Coast Yuki peoples. Today it is very difficult to gather adequate supplies of acorns to feed tribal families since so much of their ancestral territory is now in private ownership. Therefore, the Tribe seeks in its current negotiations with the State to gain gathering access to their traditional foods and medicines located in Jackson and are calling for a halt to the application of pesticides to eliminate oak trees.
Most alarming to the Tribe is Jackson forest manager’s history of systematic failure to adequately survey and protect the archaeological sites and ancient ancestral trails in Jackson that illustrate thousands of years of their cultural history. The Tribe seeks to finally protect these sites by having Jackson declared a “cultural landscape” under CEQA and an “archaeological district” under the National Historic Preservation Act and if necessary make amendments to both the CA Forest Practice Act and the Jackson Forest Management Plan to ensure that its cultural resources are more adequately protected. When these laws and regulations were crafted the local Tribes were not at the table for they were fighting against their illegal terminations which left them landless and had to expend all of their efforts regaining their rights as federally recognized Tribes and restoring the basic infrastructures of their tribal communities.
The Coalition to Save Jackson Demonstration State Forest supports these goals as well as the Tribe’s other goals. We will work closely with the Tribe to ensure that the management of Jackson better reflects their needs. We believe that our advocacy and the Tribe’s advocacy our complementary and that we share the ultimate goal of changing the management of Jackson to better reflect the interests of the people. Together, we envision a future where Indigenous culture and heritage are preserved within a forest that is healthy and vibrant.