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Sacramento, Northern California tribes seek land back for 'cultural survival'

Emma Hall, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO — Along the gentle rolling foothills nearby Nevada City is a village known as Yulića.

Across the 232 acres of this land, there are man-made ponds, two creeks that barely trickle through and, on top of a small mountain, a medicine rock used to grind medicine by Nisenan people.

This was once Nisenan land.

Today, the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan tribe is raising money to purchase the land back.

The tribe is working with the California Heritage Indigenous Research Project, a nonprofit advocacy group that preserves Nisenan culture and supports the tribe in restoring federal recognition. The nonprofit is currently fundraising over $2 million to purchase the land.

The Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe aren’t the only Sacramento-area tribe with land back endeavors. In April, the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians successfully reclaimed their ancestral lands by purchasing 2.39 acres of land at 301 Capitol Mall in downtown Sacramento.


Dustin Murray, Shingle Springs’ tribal administrator, said the site is located near the tribe’s original village, Pusúune. While there are still no long-term plans for the property, Murray said the tribes hopes to feature the tribe’s history on the site.

“Being so close to our ancestral waterways is going to be a pretty significant site to be able to gather,” Murray said. “Having that presence as a tribal community, in an important city like Sacramento, makes a statement.”

Wilton Rancheria, located in Elk Grove, reclaimed 77 acres of ancestral land from the federal government. Jesus Tarango, Wilton’s chairman, called the purchase the tribe’s “biggest flex in sovereignty.” Tarango told The Sacramento Bee this purchase could start the healing process for the tribe.

Tribes often have difficulty getting access to ancestral spaces for cultural gathering, dancing and ceremony, Murray said. But with their village reclaimed, there are opportunities for education.


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