The Esselen Tribe of Big Sur regain some of their land -The Optimist Daily and other sources


This is not about our Peninsula, nor the Pacific NW. But the story how this tiny West Coast tribe, almost wiped out and by most people, assumed dead and gone, have revived themselves and their lands, is a story worth telling. As many of you know, there is a famous “new age” retreat here, primarily by and for wealthy white people, (I only reference the images on their web site that are almost uniformly white) called the Esselen Institute. There is no mention on their web site that their name is derived from the native tribe who’s land they sit on. No honor to the tribe at all.

 

The coast here is supremely rugged, and the people who chose to live here must also have been very experienced in living in this unique environment. They were, by all accounts, a gentle and peaceful people. Not a warrior tribe. They unfortunately apparently trusted the Spanish who turned against them quite quickly.

Anyone who has visited the coast of Monterey and south, can only imagine what it must have been like being able to subsist off vast amounts of seafood, shellfish and rivers teaming with salmon, along with acorns, camas, and other flora further inland . The rivers there held runs (and still do) of steelhead. According to the Western Rivers Conservancy, who bought the land and donated it to the tribe, “The ranch’s ridgetop grasslands and giant redwoods are ideal feeding and nesting habitat for California condor, and wildlife biologists predict the land will become part of the expanding range of recovery for this endangered bird”

All of this in one of the most hospitable climates outside of Italy. In my mind, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and an astonishingly welcome place for human habitation. It is no wonder why these people settled here. Now, a small correction to the incomparable suffering of these people over the last couple of hundred years, as they were driven out of their homes to be enslaved by Spaniards, beaten by priests, and ignored and murdered by whites, looking to settle their land, is being righted.

According to Wikipedia: “About 460 individuals have identified themselves as descendants of the original Esselen people and banded together to form a tribe.” After an extended battle for the ability to be accepted as a tribe, due to the work of the Western Rivers Conservancy, land along the Little Sur river have been bought for them.

We are living in an age of recovery. While recovery of natural habitats is important, as important is the recovery of native peoples to the lands they lived on, in a balance with nature, for thousands of years. Their struggle and their true love of their lands continues to be a guidepost for those of us moving from a culture of imperialism, war, racism and conquest, to one of balance, cultural diversity and peace. The work has barely begun and has a long time before it can be called, “complete”. If ever.

View of Adler Ranch, Big Sur, California Photo by Doug Steakley

 


The story below would be more accurate if it had said, “…were forcibly removed from their lands and enslaved in Spanish missions.” That is the truth of the matter.

After 250 years, the Esselen tribe has reclaimed their homelands

In 1770, the people of the Esselen Tribe of northern California were forcibly removed from their lands and brought to Spanish missions. But now, after more than 250 years, the Esselen tribe is landless no more.

This week, the Esselen tribe finalized the purchase of a 1,200-acre ranch near Big Sur, along California’s north-central coast, as part of a $4.5 million acquisition that involved the state and an Oregon-based environmental group. The deal signifies a return to their ancestral homelands. It is also a big win for environmentalists as the tribe will conserve old-growth redwoods and endangered wildlife such as the California condor and red-legged frog, as well as protect the Little Sur River, an important spawning stream for the imperiled steelhead trout.

 

https://www.optimistdaily.com/2020/07/after-250-years-the-esselen-tribe-has-reclaimed-their-homelands/

and

http://www.westernrivers.org/blog/entry/protectingacriticalstreamintheheartofbigsur

 

 

 

 

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