Home » ‘We’re sorry,’ and other reversals from California to Colombia

‘We’re sorry,’ and other reversals from California to Colombia


1. United States

The Winnemem Wintu tribe purchased 1,080 acres of its ancestral land in Northern California with $2 million in donations, a win for the Indigenous “Land Back” movement. The land is near the tribe’s existing 42-acre village and Bear Mountain in Siskiyou County.

After construction of the Shasta Dam in the 1940s, Winnemem villages and burial grounds were flooded, further displacing the tribe. Chinook salmon, sacred to the Winnemem, declined as the dam disrupted their breeding patterns. To raise awareness for the endangered salmon and promote Indigenous stewardship, since 2016 the tribe has held an annual 300-mile prayer journey, worked on creating passages for salmon to avoid the dam, and collaborated with other Indigenous groups and U.S. agencies to scale up conservation efforts.

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In our progress roundup, an official apology or court decision can right a longstanding wrong that has persisted for decades or centuries. But sometimes, a look to the past also means recognizing that modern times call for ancient wisdom.

The Winnemem Wintu purchased the land through the tribe-run nonprofit Sawalmem, whose church status allows flexibility with land use. The tribe can now build sustainable housing and infrastructure such as solar panels and water runoff systems for its members. “Our purpose is to restore the land [to] the way it’s supposed to be, which means control burns, native plants, all the waterways totally restored,” Michael Preston, executive director of Sawalmem, said.

Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle/AP/File

Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk-Franco, a spiritual leader, walks the banks of the McCloud River, an important site for the tribe.

Sources: Vox, Sierra Club, Bay Nature