Tribe Returns to Land Near Ano Nuevo

'Open Road with Doug McConnell' explores how the Amah Mutsun are reviving their traditions in the Quiroste Valley with support from Sempervirens Fund and State Parks.

Feb. 16, 2016 update: 'Open Road with Doug McConnell' will rebroadcast "Quiroste Valley" on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 6:30pm on NBC Bay Area (Channel 11).

Aug. 6, 2015—Gaspar de Portola’s expedition was bedraggled and scurvy-ridden in the fall of 1769 when it stumbled into the large Ohlone village of Quiroste, near present-day Ano Nuevo State Park. The natives fed the exhausted men and equipped them with guides, and within a week the Europeans had discovered San Francisco Bay.

Today that village site, scene of a pivotal historic moment in the colonization of California, is the center of the 225-acre Quiroste Valley Cultural Preserve. For the first time in centuries the valley is under the care of the first Californians—the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, descendants of the local Ohlone tribes. The tribe is reintroducing traditional land use techniques.

“Long term, in three, four, five generations, we would like to have this valley look as it did at first contact,” says Tribal Chairman Valentine Lopez.

This Sunday, Aug. 9, Open Road with Doug McConnell explores the Quiroste Valley and the tribe’s work there removing invasive plants and deploying traditional methods of land stewardship.

In interviews with Lopez, Sempervirens Fund Executive Director Shelley Ratay, State Parks Cultural Historian Mark Hylkema, UC–Berkeley ethnobotanist Rob Cuthrell and Girls Scouts of Northern California CEO Marina Park, the show examines how, with support from Sempervirens, state parks and academics, the Amah Mutsun are establishing a land trust. Their goal is to return the land they inhabited for millennia to its pre-contact state through the techniques their ancestors used—and to pass that information on to the next generation. It's started with tribal members doing work on the land, and by sharing information with the Girl Scouts.

Watch the trailer here. After Sunday, Aug. 9, you can see the entire segment.

"A big part of our Amah Mutsun land trust is teaching and education and sharing knowledge. Our ancestors knew that for the betterment of Mother Earth they had to share the indigenous knowledge that they gained regarding how to manage the fish, how to manage the lands for the bear, et cetera," says Lopez. "We need to do that today. We need to share our knowledge with the public."

The Sempervirens Fund, as the second-oldest land trust in the nation, is advising the Amah Mutsun as they establish their land trust. Ratay says that when Sempervirens Fund facilitated the transfer of a conservation easement to the tribe a couple of years ago, it was with an eye toward the future and the possibilities for relearning land stewardship techniques. "That's the first property interest that the tribe has in this area, the first property interest that they have anywhere," she says. "That gives them the responsibility to come back and care for that piece of land. A place where they can come and rediscover and relearn and then share with us their traditional knowledge about how to care for this place."

Cuthrell, the ethnobotanist, says traditional stewardship of the land leads to a closer relationship with it. "What working with the tribe has taught me is that there's a real difference in the way that we can connect to a place," he says. "If you know about a place and develop a physical relationship with it by being there and by seeing how the landscape is changing, and by interacting with it in a more visceral way, we can really develop a meaningful, deep relationship with the land."

'Open Road with Doug McConnell: Quiroste Valley' airs at a special viewing time of 8pm on Sunday, Aug. 9 on NBC Bay Area (Channel 11). Audiences outside the Bay Area, including Santa Cruz, and those who miss the program can view the segment on the Sempervirens Fund website.