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Maidu will once again be the stewards of their ancestral land, Humbug Valley

Samantha P. Hawthorne
Staff Writer
12/12/2013
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On Nov. 17, Kenneth Holbrook, executive director for the Maidu Summit Consortium, introduces the people who helped earn a recommendation for the fee title to Humbug Valley. Photos by Samantha P. Hawthorne

More than a century has passed since the Mountain Maidu were forced from their home in Humbug Valley to make room for Pacific Gas and Electric’s hydroelectric project expansion. In the last 10 years, the Maidu Summit Consortium has vied for ownership of its ancestral land, and on Nov. 14 their hard work and dedication finally paid off.

During the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council’s last board meeting, directors recommended that the Summit be named as the prospective fee title donee for the land, known to them as Tasmam Koyom.

 

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Maidu Summit Consortium vice chairperson and longtime Humbug Valley advocate Beverly Ogle receives the Warrior’s Bow for the dedication she has shown to her people.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham said that doing so would give all parties involved “a historic opportunity to learn from each other and to build a legacy alliance for the protection and enhancement of the Humbug Valley using traditional ecological knowledge as well as the best modern science.”

Under the recommendation, the Feather River Land Trust and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will serve as joint holders of a conservation easement. According to the board’s presentation, the groups will be responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive land management plan that includes a final budget and timeline for completion.

Although “the real hurdle is behind” them, said executive director Kenneth Holbrook, the Summit still has many concerns to address. Before being granted legal rights to the property, the California Public Utilities Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have to approve the Summit’s long-term management plan and negotiated conservation easement.

Holbrook said the next steps will involve formulating a long-term management plan and hiring an experienced project manager. The Summit will be conducting interviews for the position in the winter.

The Maidu envision the land being used as a place to educate tribes about Maidu culture so they can keep the history alive for younger generations.

The recent Chips Fire devastated the area and the Maidu plan on restoring it through traditional ecological knowledge. The Society for Ecological Restoration describes TEK as “the product of careful observations and responses to ever changing environmental and socio-economic conditions.”

The knowledge used in the restoration process is derived from centuries of experience taking care of the land and passing that knowledge from generation to generation.

“We want to have a more organic approach to restoration. Maidu people would remove biomass through manpower and distribute it in ways that would benefit the forest. We feel this would be the best way of restoring the area,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook said that it is very rare that native tribes will be granted their land back, and when it does happen, they are granted much smaller parcels. He added that, to his knowledge, it is unprecedented that a nonprofit representing a tribe would be granted such a large “and desirable” piece of land.

The Stewardship Council was established in 2004 to oversee distribution of more than 140,000 acres of PG&E-owned land as part of the utility company’s bankruptcy settlement. Since the land in Humbug Valley is outside of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission project boundaries and is not currently being used, nor is it expected to be used in the future for utility operations, it is available for fee title donation.

Holbrook said he has been involved in PG&E’s pending land divestment process since before the Stewardship Council was even in the picture.

 

Celebration

To celebrate the huge milestone in Maidu history, local Maidu tribes met Nov. 17 to show their appreciation to those who worked diligently to obtain the land. The celebration included traditional Maidu music, speeches from many of those involved in the process and a special acknowledgment to vice chairperson and longtime Humbug Valley advocate Beverly Ogle.

Ogle, who spent her childhood playing in the meadows of Humbug Valley, was presented with the Warrior’s Bow. Holbrook said the bow is “a very lofty lifetime achievement symbolizing character, leadership and tenacious dedication to the well-being of one’s people.” She is the first woman in this region’s history who has been awarded with the bow.

Bob Burns, an elder of the Wintu Tribe, prompted the dedication; however, he was unable to attend the ceremony. Instead, Brenda Heard of the Tasmam Koyom Foundation and an alternate board member of the Maidu Summit Consortium presented it.

With tears in her eyes, Ogle accepted the bow, and in her speech exclaimed, “Humbug Valley is once again Mountain Maidu land!” She added that the first thing she did following the Nov. 14 meeting was return to the land and “tell the valley — the forest, the birds and the meadow — that Humbug Valley is once again Maidu land.”


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