The destruction of Native American people and their way of life following contact with non-natives is a tragic part of American History. It is a history that should never be forgotten. However if remnants of our great Tribal societies that once were, are to survive in a modern world, we must move forward and find positive, productive ways to live within the many many constraints of the society we find ourselves in today. Our traditional values have always guided many of the decisions we make for our community today. Land to call our home; food, clothing, education and healthcare for our elders and family; respect for our creator and the land that serves us; our languages and cultural practices; sharing our stories, our culture; our bounty, and our lands, are part of our core values.
In reestablishing a reservation land base, we hope to teach the non-native people how our modern westernized tribal government can use our long standing core values and traditions to demonstrate:
- That Tribal governments belong and are of critical importance in the family of governments in our nation.
- That it is important the land be shared. There is enough land for all types of governments, and the relatively few acres tribal governments control today represent but a minute fraction of those promised under the treaties. If our nation is to heal from the atrocities of the past, we must all share the land and its bounty for the good of all.
- That our multigenerational perspectives as applied to social and environmentally sustainable development practices combined with respect for people and environment can create a new standard for other developments that yields multiple benefits to society and our mother earth.
- That Tribal governments working together with, tribal governments, federal, state, local, governments, local citizens, environmental groups, the religious community, unions, schools, transportation agencies, industry, and private business interests can accomplish extraordinary things for the region that if pursued alone, would not be possible. The restoration and redevelopment of Point Molate is an example of such a possibility.”
-- Merlene Sanchez, Guidiville Tribal Chairperson
Rebuilding a Tribal Government
In 1991, having been terminated for more than 30 years, the Guidiville Tribe regained federally recognized status, and little else. The tribe turned to the daunting task of rebuilding a functioning government that could provide for the many needs of its citizens. After adopting a basic organizational structure, one of the first objectives was to re-create a tribal trust land base.
Identifying an appropriate parcel of land, securing the resources to purchase it, and deeding it back to the federal government to be held as the Tribe’s replacement reservation, remains one of the most challenging aspects of rebuilding a Tribal government. Given that Northern California has some of the most expensive real-estate in the country, securing new trust land with no access to capital in an anti-Indian political environment was a nearly impossible endeavor. Yet, the Tribe had little choice but to try.
The Tribe studied the political realities of acquiring land. They reviewed the Congressional report on termination and restoration prepared by the Advisory Council on California Indian Policy (ACCIP) that recommended the use of federal land or former federal land for restored reservation land. They studied criteria the BIA and other federal agencies were looking for in terms of cooperation, support and acceptance from the local communities when seeking new trust land. Knowing that any new reservation would require the removal of that land from a local jurisdiction, the Tribe also studied local jurisdictions’ concerns related to other tribal land acquisitions. Securing capital to acquire land was perhaps the biggest challenge. The prospect of Tribal government gaming was a way in which other terminated and restored tribes were able to secure capital. After making a determination to use gaming as a way of securing capital for land, they then studied traffic and other environmental parameters that would be necessary to support a gaming operation. They then developed the following criterion to be used as a guide for seeking a new reservation land base:
- Select a parcel large enough to support multiple tribal uses, including housing, cultural practices, agriculture if possible, education and eldercare facilities, and other economic development.
- The proposed land acquisition should be supported by the local community. The Tribe sought a cooperative government-to-government relationship with adjacent jurisdictions.
- The proposed land acquisition should be physically located in an infill area that already had existing infrastructure to physically support commercial activity.
- The land should be physically situated so its development would not damage environmentally sensitive areas or surrounding communities.
- If possible, federal land or former federal land would be ideal. Local governments and organizations tend to view the federal government as more neutral when it comes to changing jurisdiction of land and transferring it to a Tribe. Further, federal land or former federal land not on current tax rolls, was recommended in the ACCIP’s report to Congress.
- The land had to pay for itself. The cost of land, processing it to trust, physical development, capital, developers fees, management fees, mitigations, regulatory compliance, and capital reserves, as well as revenue sharing with the local community had to fit into an economic model.
- The land had to be within the historical range of Guidiville’s ancestors, so as to qualify as a restored reservation for the Tribe.
- The Tribe felt that their criteria was responsible from a fiscal, community, environmental, Tribal, local, and federal point of view. Given the physical and political realities, the Tribe felt this was the best way to approach a land acquisition, even though it limited the number of sites they could ultimately consider.
In 2004, the Tribe entered into negotiations with the City of Richmond and Upstream to acquire the former Navy Fuel Depot at Point Molate and develop a reservation land base. The agreement between the Tribe and the City that followed includes extraordinary measures normally not included in Tribal/City government agreements. These include purchase of the property, City agreement on design concepts, provisions for California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance, revenue sharing, preservation of parks and open space, police and fire services, job training, and payments in lieu of taxes.
Besides meeting most of the Tribe’s land acquisition criteria, the proposed land acquisition at Point Molate provides many additional benefits:
- It is remote and removed from other development, such as schools, neighborhoods, and churches.
- It is large enough for multiple economic, governmental, residential, cultural, and recreational uses.
- It can support the intertribal gatherings that the Pomos historically host (called trade feasts or big times).
- The environment itself is diverse, includes water access, and therefore reflects the diverse terrain traditionally occupied by the Tribe.
- The infrastructure that serves the property, including water transportation access, aligns well with the proposed use.
- The City of Richmond and many residents support the Tribes efforts to acquire the land.
- The proposed meets goals identified in the Base Reuse Plan for the transfer of the base to the City of Richmond.
- The community and the Tribe both need the economic development stimulus and the Tribe can make a positive contribution.
- The Tribe and City have forged a fair and balanced government-to-government relationship that will benefit their respective communities.
- The proposed development is economically feasible and therefore can be financed, even when many other projects cannot.
- A redeveloped and restored Point Molate will benefit the entire region, while providing significant and needed revenues to state and federal government.
- The Tribe has worked diligently, taking into account numerous factors (including environment, other jurisdictions, federal considerations, state considerations, their tribal citizenry, etc.) to find a replacement land base. Though the federal government was found to be at fault for the wrongful termination of the Tribe, and in spite of the atrocities experienced by Native Americans since contact with non-native people, the Tribe will pay for the full cost of purchasing the land, and the subsequent development of the property.
From a Tribal government perspective, the acquisition of Point Molate:
- Re-establishes a trust land base
- Creates an economic foundation for the Tribe
- Offers the ability to house 100 percent of the Tribal membership on site
- Underwrites healthcare and eldercare for all members
- Creates a comprehensive community with community facilities, religious facilities (roundhouse and dance grounds) housing, job training, jobs, business opportunities for members, access to the Tribal government, open space, recreational opportunities, and transportation opportunities all within walking distance
- Creates the opportunity to restore the Tribe as a functioning community
- Underwrites education opportunities for all members
- Provides vocational opportunities for all members
- Provides business opportunities for all members
- Restores a sense of Hope and Pride and Honor
- Brings exposure to cultural activities and intertribal gatherings for members and the general public
- Provides land where the Tribe can restore plant and ecosystem communities for cultural purposes
- Creates a Tribal government revenue base and trust land jurisdiction, which are the foundations of a strong functioning Tribal government
- Provides governmental and individual revenue, security, and resources for future generations