Tribal Engagement

Native American tribes have stewarded the lands and waters of what is now known as California since time immemorial and hold profound understanding of our natural systems. This deep connection includes a sacred responsibility to care for the natural world, ensuring its well-being and the well-being of tribal communities into the future.  

However, the violence, exploitation, dispossession, and attempted destruction of tribal communities perpetrated by the State of California has disconnected tribal communities from their ancestral lands and waters, harming both people and nature. In the spirit of Executive Order N-15-19, which provides a formal acknowledgment and apology  for the State’s historic wrongs and commitment to truth and healing between tribes and state government, as well as Governor Newsom’s Statement of Administration Policy on Native American Ancestral Lands, OPC is committed to ensuring that tribes are meaningfully included in all aspects of our work

Tribal Engagement Strategy and Consultation

OPC Tribal Engagement Strategy

At the January 2023 Council meeting, OPC adopted a first-of-its-kind Tribal Engagement Strategy, which serves as a framework for enhanced communication and partnership between OPC and California Native American tribes on ocean and coastal issues. Directly advancing Objective 2.1 of OPC’s Strategic Plan, “Enhance engagement with tribes,” the Tribal Engagement Strategy was crafted in close collaboration with tribes, including multiple rounds of consultations and listening sessions. 

The Strategy provides specific actions that OPC will undertake to enhance tribal engagement in all aspects of its work. These actions are based on feedback received from tribes regarding their most significant priorities for coastal and ocean conservation and management.

Tribal Priorities for the Coast and Ocean:

  • Implementation of Governor Newsom’s policy statement on Native American ancestral lands, including support for ancestral land return 
  • Development of meaningful co-management agreements 
  • Support for existing tribal programs and collaborative development of new research and monitoring projects in support of tribal priorities 
  • Restoration of culturally important habitats and species 
  • Improving tribal access to the coast and ocean 
  • Supporting tribal customary use of coastal and ocean resources 

Tribal Consultation

OPC is committed to early, frequent, and meaningful consultation with California Native American tribes on policy initiatives, funding opportunities, or other projects that may affect tribes. Requests for consultation will be distributed confidentially to tribes via both email and regular mail as opportunities become available. Please contact OPC’s Tribal Liaison, Michael Esgro, at to schedule consultation. 

Supporting Tribal Stewardship: Highlights

Tribal Marine Stewards Network

In 2020, OPC invested $1 million to establish the Tribal Marine Stewards Network (TMSN) pilot program. Four partner tribes participated in the pilot: Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, Resighini Rancheria, Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. At its October 6 meeting, OPC invested an additional $3.6 million to continue and expand the TMSN’s monitoring, outreach, and organizational development work, and to welcome a fifth tribe, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, into the Network.

TMSN has broken new ground in returning stewardship and management of ocean and coastal territories to California Native American tribes. Partner tribes have initiated:

  • On-the-ground monitoring work that is helping both tribes and state agencies better understand the climate vulnerability of natural and cultural resources.
  • New community engagement programs that are reconnecting tribal youth with traditional stewardship practices and enhancing tribal access to the coast and ocean.
  • Strategic planning and organizational development that will make the Tribal Marine Stewards Network a sustainable and enduring program into the future.

The TMSN is a flagship example of how the state can support tribes in building ecological, community, and cultural resilience, an important step toward righting historic injustices.

Wiyot Tribe Acquisition of Coastal Land

In August 2022, OPC and California Natural Resources Agency leadership joined the Wiyot Tribe and its partners, including Cal Poly Humboldt, in a ceremony to celebrate the Tribe’s purchase of one of the last pieces of undeveloped coastal wetland and upland in their ancestral territory near the Humboldt Bay. The 46 acres, known as Mouralherwaqh or “wolf’s house,” will be preserved for its cultural significance to the Wiyot Tribe, and for ecocultural restoration, water quality protection and conservation purposes. The acquisition project was supported by OPC’s Proposition 1 funding through a targeted coastal environmental justice solicitation.

Benefits from the project are likely to accrue for generations as the Wiyot Tribe ultimately envisions 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 land return also supports the state’s commitment to protect biodiversity and conserve 30% of its land and sea by 2030.

Funding Opportunities

No opportunities are currently available. Funding opportunities will be announced on this webpage and through our email announcements

Related Program Updates

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Staff Contact

Michael Esgro
Senior Biodiversity Program
 & Tribal Liaison

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