Tribal Partnership Program

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

The Sierra Nevada is the Epicenter of California’s Tribal Genocide

Indigenous Tribes tended the Sierra Nevada for more than 7,500 years. Starting with the Gold Rush in California, and its epicenter in the Sierra Nevada, was the federal, state, and societally supported genocide of Native Americans. California Indigenous people experienced abductions, forced labor, removal of children from families, and massacres. During the Gold Rush period, 80% of all California Native Americans died. The tribal people who did survive experienced extreme discrimination, violence, and intimidation – including the limiting of oral histories. Many negotiated treaties in California were never signed or honored. This history of genocide and abuse in California, and in the Sierra Nevada region specifically, has been hidden for too long.

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 Fund shares a vision with tribes for restoring indigenous hands to indigenous lands. For tribes, culture is ecology and ecology is culture. Supporting tribal land guardianship helps support healthy indigenous futures, as well as promoting a thriving, healthy Sierra ecology. There is increased interest by government, businesses, and nonprofits to do land acknowledgments and to engage tribes in ‘their’ efforts. This is a step in the right direction. However, more steps are needed – including wide-scale adoption of tribal co-management, returning lands to tribes, and integrating tribes into decision-making from a project’s beginning. Governmental, NGO, and business communities have much work to do in reconciling the past and supporting indigenous leadership, guardianship, and healthy indigenous futures.

Our Commitment to Partnering with Tribes

  • We, at the Sierra Fund, value and commit to establishing trust and creating bridges of understanding that reflect our high regard for cultural knowledge, and to work to protect Indigenous knowledge and knowledge-bearers from exploitation.
  • 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.
  • Co-create space (such as gatherings) for tribes to restore indigenous intergenerational guardianship.
  • Co-create partnerships and projects with tribes, when invited, that prioritize the expression of their tribally-defined aspirations, values, outcomes and evaluations.
  • 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.
  • Offer scientific and other expertise, where helpful and invited.
  • Provide facilitation and consultation to tribal partners to support their work with federal, state, and local governments in leveraging resources.
  • 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.
  • Provide Culturally Sensitive Training to our Board, Staff and Contractors annually. Help all The Sierra Fund team members learn how to ensure that tribal partners experience respect and partnership in ways they want and appreciate.
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