Reclaiming Mouralherwaqh: Wiyot Tribe Takes Coastal Property for Cultural and Water Quality Protection | Humboldt now

Under the leadership and stewardship of the Wyot tribe, the site prioritizes ecological restoration. The property is located at the base of Humboldt Hill in what is today known as King Salmon and represents the first forest land returned to the tribe.

The acquisition project was conceived and led by the Wyatt Tribe with supporting partnerships from Cal Poly Humboldt, the Humboldt Bay Conservancy and Friends of the Dunes. It was made possible by a $1.2 million grant from the state’s Ocean Conservation Council (OPC). Proposal 1 Grant Program. As part of a broader effort to accelerate nature-based solutions to climate change, the OPC grant, which represents the first time the State of California has granted tribal ancestral lands, provided funding to the tribe to acquire it from a private landowner. Goals.

A forest of Sitica spruce was found in Moralherwach (Photo: Adam Kanter)
A forest of Sitica spruce was found in Moralherwach (Photo: Adam Kanter)

The property is surrounded by residential development on Humboldt Hill and is one of the last undeveloped tracts of undeveloped land and coastal saltwater land on the historic coast of Whig (Humboldt Bay). Wyot traditional and local history says that this place is the “home of the wolf.” Village Place Name – Mouralherwaqh -Wyot matriarch Birdie James commented to JP Harrington in the early 20th century: “It used to be fresh water but it was pumping up that silt.” [slough] There is no clean water there and the ducks go there to drink. The late and respected Wyatt citizen and Councilwoman Linda Lange reflected on this knowledge and history as she supported the tribe’s efforts to acquire the property. She described the place as a place she often visited as a child.

Due to a legacy of settler-colonization and land theft, the Wyatt tribe currently owns less than 1% of their ancestral lands. This ground-breaking project will increase the tribe’s land holdings by 10%. The property is over 13 acres of big sage and cattail-dominated freshwater wetlands surrounded by a mature Sitka spruce forest that serves as a launch site for egrets and herons. Mouralherwaqh hosts one of the southernmost reaches of the Sitka Spruce Forest on the Pacific Coast and represents the Wyot’s ancestral forest lands that go back to the tribe. Spruce root is essential to Wiyot basketry and, until this acquisition, was a cultural commodity that could only be found on tribal-owned lands through collective management agreements or violations. Along with many traditions, the return of Mouralherwaqh allows for the transfer of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) from ancestral forests, berry and hazelnut picking, hunting, gathering and mushroom foraging to future generations of the Wiyot people.

About the acquisition, Wyot Tribal Chairman Ted Hernandez said, “This is another big milestone for the tribe and I am proud that the Wyot are leading the way. In order for all things to heal in this world, the natives must reclaim their spiritual lands and ritual lands. When you step on this property, on this land, you feel like you’re stepping back in time. You look at the property and say – my ancestors made their arrows here, cooked their thorn here, made their dresses here, made their dresses here, had their dances here. It’s like you’re in your own world, you’re in your own peace – being able to see the forest and put your feet down and feel Mother Earth and feel the energy. It’s a completely different place. This is my view as a native that I can take back my homeland that was taken away from my people and now returned.

Mouralherwaqh map

Wyatt’s interest in restoring Moralherwak stems from earlier efforts by the Wyatt Department of Natural Resources (WNRD), led by Adam Kanter, to map this biodiversity hotspot through a 2015 Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Geospatial Program grant. Culturally important ethnobotanical species and plant communities around the Wyot Ancestral Territory. The package was When it came on the open real estate market in 2021, it became a priority for purchase due to the many important cultural species found there, in addition to being part of the culturally significant village area of ​​Moralherwakh. The Wiyot Tribe developed a partnership and proposal to achieve the acquisition through the OPC program.

After the purchase, the tribe will work to develop and implement an ecosystem restoration and management plan that prioritizes cultural relationships and water quality protection. The planning effort will include extensive community engagement to involve tribal citizens in planning the future of this unique site. The plan will be led by the Wiyot Tribe and tribal staff with the initial goal of getting Wiyot citizens to begin the visioning process. Some initial priorities for future work on the property include invasive species removal, watershed and water quality restoration, sea-level rise adaptation planning, cultural history interpretation, plant, wildlife, and bird monitoring, and cultural plant propagation and enhancement.

Cal Poly Humboldt played a supportive role in the project by planning to include student and faculty participation in the project. Laurie Richmond, Environmental Science and Management (ESM) professor, said, “What I’m most excited about about this project is the unique partnership that was created between the tribe, the academic institution, environmental non-governmental organizations and the state agency – all of these different entities were working on it. To collectively support the Wyot Tribe’s vision and role as the original stewards of the Whiggin landscape. Cal Poly Humboldt is credited with playing a supporting role in the effort.

This partnership was born from Cal Poly Humboldt Sea Level Rise Institute Among them are Adam Kanter (Director of Natural Resources for the Wyot Tribe) and Laurie Richmond (Cal Poly Humboldt Professor) as co-chairs. The acquisition will increase the tribe’s sea level rise resilience (SLR), making the tribe’s high-elevation catchment lands less vulnerable to inundation and providing an opportunity to develop nature-based SLR resilience measures in the lower reaches.

The project provides a unique opportunity for Cal Poly Humboldt researchers to participate in a tribally-led acquisition and restoration project. Students, faculty, and staff from the ESM Department, Native American Studies Division, Food Sovereignty Lab and Traditional Ecological Knowledge InstituteAnd Natural Resources, Science and Engineering Program of India They engage in research and ecosystem restoration planning related to topics such as food sovereignty, food distribution, legal and financial issues, water quality, wetland and forest restoration, and more.

“Cal Poly Humboldt is a pioneer in connecting traditional ecological knowledge and Indigenous science with land management and restoration practices,” said Dr. Kutcha Riesling Baldi, Native American Studies Department Chair and Associate Director of the Food Sovereignty Lab. These partnerships between Cal Poly Humboldt and Wyatt are inspiring the next generation of scientists through hands-on learning that centers tribal voices and supports community goals. We are excited about how this project will shape best practices for working with tribal communities.

The Ocean Conservation Council (OPC), a cabinet-level state policy arm of the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), provided Proposition 1 funding for this project through a targeted coastal environmental justice request. The inquiry provides, for the first time, a specific path to government investment in multi-benefits that improve water quality, ecosystem health and climate resilience for communities burdened by environmental injustice.

“We are grateful and humbled to play a role in returning this land to the Wiyot Tribe,” said OPC Deputy Director Jane Eckerle. “This acquisition advances OPC’s strategic priorities to improve equity and environmental justice, but most importantly, it is a milestone in connecting the tribe to their ancestral lands and waters and using traditional knowledge and practices to restore and conserve nature on the coasts.”

As the Tribal Council actively participates in project development and the vision for Moralherwaqh in the future provides tribal members with a culturally important gathering place and as an important ecological resource, the benefits from the project can be multiplied for generations. This project supports the community’s commitment to protecting and preserving biodiversity by protecting and restoring coastal uplands, improving water quality, and removing invasive species. By 2030, 30 percent of our lands and coastal waters.

“Restoring ancestral lands and protecting culturally and ecologically important sites are key words of the California Natural Resources Agency’s pursuit of nature-based solutions,” said Geneva Eby Thompson, CNRA Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs. “We are grateful to the Wyatt Tribe for its leadership in protecting Moralherwak and its valuable resources and are happy to see these lands returned to the tribe and stewardship.”

Humboldt Baykeeper provides water quality and vegetation expertise and contributes to efforts to improve water quality at the site. “We are honored to return this special place to its early stewards and help restore its coastal wetlands, streams and plant resources,” said Jane Kalt of Humboldt Baycare. Guidelines related to the process of land protection.

This project and purchase was possible only with support from various parties. The Humboldt Area Foundation and the HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation each provided funding for a current evaluation of the site. In addition, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Humboldt County, City of Eureka, Pacific Bird Habitat Joint Venture, and Pacific Watershed Partners provided support and/or technical guidance for the project. Maria Rodriguez, program manager for this grant and lead for environmental justice and equity at the Ocean Conservation Council, was instrumental in moving the procurement process forward and helping to bring this project to fruition.

The project team is grateful for all their support. “We hope this project will serve as an example of how tribes, academia, and non-governmental organizations can work with regional agencies to facilitate the return of indigenous lands to their former stewards for the benefit of the environment and the climate, as well as the natural resources of communities historically marginalized by settler-colonial rule,” said project leader Adam Kanter. and achieving environmental justice and the structures of difference that sustain them.Returning the enduring cultural landscape and moral herwak to the Wiyot people is an exciting step toward healing the past that will burn for generations on the Whig and North Shore.

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