Featured News, Siskiyou

Shasta Tribe Reclaims Ancestral Lands as Klamath River Dams Come Down

The move to return lands to the Shastas is supported by Siskiyou County. In November, the county board of supervisors unanimously voted to send a letter of support to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on the tribe’s request.

In November 1851, several bands of Shastas, known as the “Upper Klamath” of the Shasta and Scott rivers, signed the third of 18 treaties negotiated with California tribes by agent Redick McKee. However, the U.S. Senate never ratified this treaty or the other 17, instead keeping them hidden for decades. Consequently, the Shastas, along with several hundred other California tribes, had to defend their territories against an increasing influx of gold miners, farmers, loggers, and other settlers, with minimal federal protection.

Currently, there are no plans to develop a casino, according to a tribal spokesperson. Instead, efforts will focus on restoring traditional food sources, medicinal and ceremonial plants to the land, and re-establishing basketry plants. These activities are anticipated to create jobs and business opportunities, as well as provide a reliable source of healthy foods. The Shastas also historically relied on salmon, and once the population has been restored, they may resume traditional fishing practices.

In a historic move, the Shasta Indian Nation is set to reclaim approximately 2,800 acres of their most sacred and culturally significant lands, which were submerged by the Copco I dam in the early 20th century. The land return, announced by California Governor Gavin Newsom, coincides with the ongoing removal of four dams along the Klamath River – the largest dam removal project in U.S. history.

The Shasta people have inhabited the region surrounding the Klamath, Scott, and Shasta rivers in Northern California since time immemorial. However, the arrival of gold miners, settlers, and the construction of dams in the early 1900s resulted in the loss of their ancestral lands and the displacement of their community.

The dam removal project not only aims to restore the river’s ecosystem and revive salmon populations but also to rectify historical injustices faced by the Shasta people. The returned lands, known as “Parcel B,” along with the sacred site of K’učasčas, will be officially handed over to the tribe upon the completion of the dam removal later this year.

Despite not being federally recognized due to historical circumstances, the Shasta Indian Nation has been actively working towards cultural revitalization, education, and landscape stewardship. The tribe plans to establish a cultural center, public trails, and restore traditional plants on the reclaimed lands, creating job opportunities and promoting a healthy food source for their community.

Shasta Indian Nation Chairman Janice Crowe described the land return as a turning point in the tribe’s history, stating, “This is justice for Shasta people.” The tribe looks forward to rebuilding their connection to their ancestral lands, culture, and ceremony, weaving a new story for future generations.

The land return marks a significant step in the California Truth and Healing Council’s efforts to address the state’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, following Governor Newsom’s historic apology to California tribes five years ago.

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  1. Carolyn L Zaremba

    I have a friend, an artist, who is a member of the Shasta Nation by way of his mother. This is so huge for him and for the rest of the Shasta people. It’s about time.

  2. Ken Noble

    Thank you Jay Martin. You provide an incredible service for your readers.

  3. Thank you all for the work on getting our tribal lands back..My ancestors are doing the spirit dance ..My mother was Shasta and was fostered out to a white family when her mother died. Many kids had to find homes after the tribe was shattered by Gold Mioners , Settlers and Federal Government..Having some land to restore some of our forgotten traditions is a big step forward.. Thank you all

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