Once upon a time, in the beautiful mountains of Santa Lucia and Big Sur, there lived a happy tribe called the Esselen…until a group of entitled Spanish explorers arrived and kicked them out. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending…250 years later – but hey, better late than ever.
If this world was fair, these people should have gotten their land back for free; but since it’s not, The Esselen Tribe of Monterey County paid $4.5 million with the help of the Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC), an environmental group, to purchase the nearly 1,200 acres that were stolen from them. The WRC acquires land with the purpose of conserving the natural habitat from gritty corporations, and in October the group announced it helped the tribe with a grant that covered the purchase of the land.
“It is with great honor that our tribe has been called by our Ancestors to become stewards of these sacred indigenous lands once again,” said Tom Little Bear Nason, Tribal Chairman of the ETMC. “These lands are home to many ancient villages of our people, and directly across the Little Sur River sits Pico Blanco or ‘Pitchi’, which is the most sacred spot on the coast for the Esselen People and the center of our origin story.”
Both parties agreed that the land will not be part of commercial developments (thank goodness) and that conservation efforts will continue. In addition, the ETMC plans on building a village that other indigenous tribes in the area can utilize, and also plans to host public educational events to teach others about their culture.