Prior to the California Gold Rush, the Mountain Maidu had established hunting grounds on the hillsides surrounding wet mountain meadows for thousands of years. Tásmam Koyóm was an important tribal population center within the traditional homeland of the Mountain Maidu for many generations.
Beginning in the 19th century the ancestral homelands of the Maidu were appropriated, first for gold, then timber, and finally water and power. During the Gold Rush-era, land reservation treaties were left unratified, leaving the Mountain Maidu without rights to their ancestral homelands. When Euromerican settlers came to Tásmam Koyóm, they named it Humbug Valley and established the now abandoned town of Longville. An extensive system of ditches was installed in the meadow, disrupting the natural hydrologic regime of Yellow Creek and tributaries. Ultimately Tásmam Koyóm became part of Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) expansive Upper Feather River watershed land portfolio.
Beginning in 2003, The Maidu Summit Consortium (MSC) and Conservancy, the non-profit representing nine member organizations of Maidu Indians in Lassen and Plumas counties, worked to secure communal ownership of Tásmam Koyóm. On September 18, 2019, Tásmam Koyóm, was returned to MSC as part of the California Public Utilities Commission’s settlement agreement with PG&E. This acquisition marked the first time that ancestral lands in California have been returned to a tribe not recognized by the federal government. It also marks the launch of and extensive phased effort to restore the meadow and forest ecosystems using Maidu TEK. The Sierra Fund is partnering with MSC to strengthen capacity for planning, permitting, implementation of process-based restoration actions, and effectiveness monitoring at Tásmam Koyóm as the tribe works to restore culturally relevant flora to the meadow, install beaver dam analogs, return oak to the surrounding hillsides, and work to bring back fauna that sustain cultural lifeways.
The Maidu believe restoring this land will support cultural perpetuation and retore resilience to their people. This project provides an opportunity for First Nations and partners to engage in equitable knowledge exchange, allowing Western scientists and Maidu TEK experts and youth to learn from each other in a reciprocal feedback loop that is bolstered by annual workshops, field camps, and a living document of priority project concepts. The project sets a precedent for “righting past wrongs” by returning lands to the stewardship of indigenous peoples and supporting their highest priority actions.
MSC’s vision to restore Maidu presence to Tásmam Koyóm has been realized but the work to steward ancestral homelands using Maidu traditional ways has only begun. MSC envisions re-acquired ancestral lands as a vast and unique park system dedicated to the purposes of education, healing, protection, and ecosystem management based upon the Maidu cultural and philosophic perspectives, as expressed through traditional ecology. These goals are achieved through the use of ancestral lands as places for the demonstration of Maidu traditional ecology and for the perpetuation of the unique culture from which that traditional ecology was derived. MSC also envision reacquisition of ancestral lands as an opportunity for education about social justice through their use to demonstrate a process toward building greater social harmony. The Sierra Fund’s role in this work is to provide technical and administrative support to MSC as their work toward their vision of long-term Maidu landscape management.