Tribal Partnership Program

Collaborating to promote healthy indigenous futures and advance intergenerational guardianship of the Sierra Nevada

Reconciling the Past and Returning Indigenous Hands to Indigenous Lands

California tribes are vibrant sovereign communities that deserve active support and good partnership. The Sierra Nevada was the epicenter of the Gold Rush-fueled genocide that included abductions, forced labor, removal of children from families, and massacres. During the Gold Rush period, 80% of all California Native Americans died.

The Sierra Fund (TSF) shares a vision with tribes for restoring indigenous hands to indigenous lands. This means supporting Tribes acquiring their ancestral lands, gaining access, and/or securing agreements for co-stewardship when public lands. This also means partnering with Tribes to secure resources for their guardianship efforts. For tribes, culture is ecology and ecology is culture. Supporting tribal land guardianship helps support healthy indigenous futures, and promotes a thriving, healthy future for us all. The Sierra Fund is committed to a shift in our collective approach to conservation that centers on tribal knowledge and interconnectedness. To truly create a future that is resilient and ensures future generations of tribal people and all peoples thrive, we must center indigenous leaders in our movement and learn from tribal partners how to return to wholeness.

Our Commitment to Partnering with Tribes

  • We, at the Sierra Fund, commit to establishing trust and creating bridges of understanding that reflect our high regard for cultural knowledge and knowledge-bearers.
  • We listen. For a decade, The Sierra Fund has convened, and will continue to do, listening sessions with tribes to better understand their vision, goals, and needs, and to discover where our partnership is welcome or invited.
  • We co-create space (such as gatherings) with tribes to restore indigenous intergenerational guardianship.
  • We co-create partnerships and projects with tribes, when invited, that prioritize the expression of their tribally-defined aspirations, values, outcomes, and evaluations.
  • We help secure resources for tribal projects and visions, such as returning tribal lands to tribal hands (including land back and co-management arrangements), advancing tribal businesses, and supporting workforce development.
  • We seek tribal input and participation, and when desired by the tribe, pay for that input, and participation, in The Sierra Fund projects.  Tribal expertise is no less valuable than other consulting expertise, such as engineers or environmental experts. As such, it should be paid for at comparable fee scales.
Our land was taken more than 150 years ago. The trees, meadows, fish, and people have all been nearly destroyed. We are working with The Sierra Fund to restore our land, our water, and our culture.”

Shelly Covert
Tribal Council Secretary and Spokesperson, Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe