In 1769, more than 300,000 Indians lived in California. Today, an estimated 200,000 Native Americans continue to live in California, limited to reservations that represent less than 5% of lands that they used historically. Because Native Americans have been dispossessed of their lands since European and Mexican settlement, the vast majority of culturally- and historically-significant areas are no longer under tribal ownership or control. Present-day development further threatens these sacred sites and ecologically-significant areas. As many Native American communities cannot access or protect their own traditional cultural sites and sacred sites, groups like the NALC have formed to protect them.
The Native American Land Conservancy focuses on these off-reservation sacred areas. The NALC allows for Native American communities access to sacred sites, and works proactively to protect these ancestral sites for future generations.
THE OLD WOMAN MOUNTAINS PRESERVE
Supported in part by Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, the NALC purchased the cultural landscape that is now the Old Woman Mountains Preserve. The 2,560-acre Preserve is located in the Ward Valley, 40 miles west of the Colorado River in the northern extension of the Old Woman Mountains. The site was purchased in order to protect its traditional cultural properties, which include the flora and fauna that have a unique historical meaning and value to the Native American community.
Now, the NALC manages the property, and runs several programs there. The NALC is restoring sensitive areas from off-highway vehicle use in cooperation with local scientists and the Bureau of Land Management. The NALC has also worked with the Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center and the San Bernardino County Museum to conduct biological surveys of the property and its flora and fauna. The NALC is also actively involved in protecting the desert tortoise population and the native plant communities that support them. The land is also used for Learning Landscape programs that engage tribal youth on their traditional cultural landscapes. This preserve is managed to protect its biological, cultural, and historic resources while we continue to use it as a sacred and healing landscape.
Coyote Hole, in the Mojave Desert, is a place of cultural significance to tribal communities in the area. On May 22, 2018 the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved the transfer of the Coyote Hole property to the NALC on May 22, 2018. The NALC is honored to care for this special site in close collaboration with neighboring tribes.
Since 1998, the NALC has worked with tribes, conservation groups, educational institutions, landowners, and state and federal agencies to ensure the long-term protection of Native American cultural landscapes. As an inter-tribal non-profit, the NALC is committed to managing these landscapes in a manner that preserves their integrity and promotes an understanding of their value to California, Arizona, and Nevada tribes and their neighbors in the community at large.
In 2013, several tribes were approached to take the lead in assisting San Bernardino County with the long-term protection and management of Coyote Hole. As a result of these discussions, the NALC was identified as a potential partner to manage the site in consultation with the areas culturally affiliated tribes. After years of negotiation, the NALC obtained an easement from a neighboring property owner to secure access to the site. This easement was recorded December 21, 2017. In March 2018, San Bernardino County informed the NALC that the proposed transfer of title was subject to compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). San Bernardino County then contracted Daniel McCarthy to complete a CEQA analysis which was completed on April 10, 2018. This analysis recommended transfer of title to the NALC.
Today, the NALC ensures that Coyote Hole is managed to protect its unique biological, cultural, and historic resources in perpetuity. All activities at the site are conducted with discretion and confidentiality, in a manner that protects sensitive areas and portions of the area impacted by past uses. The NALC has initiated drafting of a management plan in consultation with interested tribes.
Additional Land Acquisition Projects
•Lake Cahuilla Fish Traps Protection (2002): joint protection effort with local municipalities.
•Horse Canyon Transfer (2004): Partnership with the Anza Borrego Foundation to transfer 1,298 acres encompassing traditional Cahuilla village sites and big horn sheep habitat.
•Mosler Property Transfer (2009): Partnership with the Kumeyayy Digueno Land Conservancy to transfer 30 acre cultural landscape of great significance to the Kumeyaay people.