The fog gave way to the sun late morning on Friday, Aug. 19, as dozens of people gathered around the podium positioned in the meadow. Spruce trees and huckleberry bushes stood in the near distance as the scent of saltwater and highway traffic drifted up from the bay and road below. Tribal Chair Ted Hernandez called for the elders to sit as they began the ceremony to mark the reclaiming of Mouralherwaqh — “wolf’s house” — by the Wiyot Tribe. When open chairs remained, former chairwoman Cheryl Seidner teased, “I see some white-hairs out there!”
The tribe worked with local partners at Cal Poly Humboldt, Humboldt Baykeeper and Friends of the Dunes to secure a $1.2 million grant from the state Ocean Protection Council (OPC), enabling the Wiyot to purchase 46 acres of land from a private property owner. Plans for the site include environmental restoration and building resilience to sea level rise. It’s a historic first in terms of the state funding ancestral tribal land return to address climate change. But the story began in the mid-1800s, when settler-colonialism and land theft left the Wiyot Tribe with less than 1 percent of its ancestral territory.
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