California has the highest Native American population in the United States and the myriad cultures are evidenced by the 109 federally recognized tribes, including tribes with lands that cross state lines. Yet if you live in the Bay Area, you most-likely live on traditional Ohlone or Miwok lands, where most of the tribes are not federally-recognized and therefore do not have access to associated health, housing, and education benefits. In order to access resources and facilitate their role as stewards of their traditional territory, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band created the Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT). Gaia Passages’ own Board Director Lauren Dietrich Chavez shares her lessons learned working with AMLT to repair and restore balance to the land. – Editor

One of the most enriching climate actions we can take is to enhance local biodiversity. Wisdom for how to thrive in this place–imprinted experience of living through varying local conditions for millions of years–is contained within the genes of the wild ones native to this place. Landscape-scale restoration work provides food and habitat for a host of specialized insects, birds, and small mammals, who gradually make the land more hospitable to those higher up the food chain. Native plants are our allies and need our support in rebuilding the foundation of thriving ecosystems.

The Amah Mutsun Land Trust has been actively working on ecological restoration in their tribe’s ancestral territory for most of the last decade, in collaboration with California State Parks and other land managers. In the current project, plant beds are tended, and mature seeds will be harvested and sown at Quiroste Valley Cultural Preserve (QVCP) in Año Nuevo State Park for coastal prairie restoration. The plants established at Cascade Ranch and QVCP will go on to produce seeds and other ethnobotanical materials for the Tribe to use in restoration projects and for other cultural purposes over the long term.
On my first morning of volunteering, arriving at Historic Cascade Ranch after a sunrise drive, I sat for several hours at a table between a greenhouse and a riparian zone. The task at hand was separating baby yarrow plants with gentle fingers and tweezers, and replanting them into individual plugs where each would grow more robust prior to planting in the field. Yarrow is one of my favorite herbs, and it was such a treat to bless so many young ones! The sun grew stronger, a slight breeze danced the smell of the sea across the land, and Swainsons thrushes sang my favorite song from the willows, as other volunteers and AMLT native stewards arrived.
It’s an honor to propagate plants with high ecological value and cultural relevance to the people whose ancestors have lived in harmony with this land for generations, while weaving my own life into greater harmony with people and place.
Gaia Passages makes annual contributions to support tribal stewardship of the lands on which we run programs.
Join us in this support: Santa Cruz, Gilroy, Salinas:
East Bay:

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