Wiyot Tribe Celebrates the Return of Coastal Land

August 22, 2022


Jenn Eckerle, jenn.eckerle@resources.ca.gov
Maria Rodriguez, maria.rodriguez@resources.ca.gov

Wiyot Tribe Celebrates the Return of Coastal Land
46 acres acquired in partnership with the Ocean Protection Council

Humboldt County, Calif. – In a ceremony held last Friday in Humboldt, the Wiyot Tribe and its partners, including the Ocean Protection Council and Cal Poly Humboldt, celebrated the purchase of one of the last pieces of undeveloped coastal wetland and upland near the bay. The 46 acres, known as Mouralherwaqh or wolf’s house, will be preserved for the cultural significance to the Wiyot Tribe and the environmental importance to the area.

Wiyot Tribal Chair, Ted Hernandez cutting the ribbon at the August 19, 2022 land return ceremony. Photo: Jenn Eckerle

During the ceremony, Wiyot Tribal Chair Ted Hernandez, emphasized the momentousness of the land return, “This is how we make change in today’s world.”

The Tribe acquired the land with support from the Ocean Protection Council (OPC), a cabinet-level state policy body nested within the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA). OPC awarded Proposition 1 funds to the project through a targeted coastal environmental justice solicitation. The solicitation provided a first-time dedicated pathway for state investment in multi-benefit projects that improve water quality, ecosystem health, and climate resilience for communities burdened by environmental injustice.

“We are grateful and humbled to have played a role in returning this land to the Wiyot Tribe”, said OPC’s Deputy Director, Jenn Eckerle. “This acquisition advances OPC’s strategic priorities to improve equity and environmental justice, but most importantly, it’s a significant milestone in reconnecting the Tribe to its ancestral lands and waters and using cultural knowledges and practices to restore and conserve nature along the coast.”

Benefits from the project are likely to accrue for generations as the Tribal Council actively engages in project development and provides input for future visioning of Mouralherwaqh as a culturally important gathering place for tribal members and as a vital ecosystem. By protecting and restoring the coastal uplands and wetlands in the area, improving water quality, and removing invasive species, this project also supports the state’s commitment to protect biodiversity and conserve 30 percent of our lands and coastal waters by 2030.

Sitka spruce forestland found at Mouralherwaqh. Photo: Jenn Eckerle

The return of ancestral lands and conserving culturally and ecologically important places are core commitments of the California Natural Resources Agency in our Nature-Based Solutions work,” said CNRA’s Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs, Geneva E. B. Thompson. “We are thankful for the Wiyot Tribe’s leadership in the protection of Mouralherwaqh and its important resources and excited to see these lands returned to the Tribe and their stewardship.”

The Tribe will work with Cal Poly Humboldt, Humboldt Baykeeper, and other partners towards the ecocultural and environmental goals for the land. Together, they will develop and implement a restoration plan for the site prioritizing cultural connection and water quality protection.


About the California Ocean Protection Council:

The Ocean Protection Council’s mission is to ensure that California maintains healthy, resilient, and productive ocean and coastal ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations. The Council was created pursuant to the California Ocean Protection Act.

For more information about the land return visit Cal Poly Humboldt’s website.

Photo Gallery:

Ted Hernandez, Wiyot Tribal Chair, leading tribal members in the opening ceremony. Photo: Maria Rodriguez

(From left to right) Michelle Vassel, Wiyot Tribal administrator, Jen Eckerle, OPC Deputy Director, Ted Hernandez, Wiyot Tribal Chair, and Geneva E. B. Thompson, CNRA’s Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs. Photo: Maria Rodriguez

Salmon being prepared by the Wiyot Tribe for the celebration feast. Photo: Maria Rodriguez

Geneva E. B. Thompson, CNRA’s Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs, speaking at the land return ceremony. Photo: Maria Rodriguez

Categories: Equity and Environmental Justice, Press Releases, Strategic Goal 2: Equity, Tribal Engagement