The tribes of Susanville Rancheria in northeastern California are elated at the passage of a bill restoring 300 acres of their traditional lands.
On June 22 President Barack Obama signed into law the Susanville Indian Rancheria Lands Bill, which will transfer federally owned lands into trust for the Susanville Indian Rancheria and enable the tribes to preserve vital cultural and natural resources, according to a media release from the office of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California).
Boxer along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-California) sponsored the bipartisan bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law on June 22.
"How mu! Pesa tabeno Togo'o ne gea'hoo. Te pea teepu numme kemmadame. Onona ka teepu e tooa sumu tunna patsakwu! Numme natuhowaedu,” said Chairman Brandon Guitierez of the Susanville Indian Rancheria in the statement.
“I would like to thank Senator Boxer, Senator Feinstein, and Rep. LaMalfa for their bipartisan efforts to ensure that the Susanville Indian Rancheria regained a piece of important land,”Guitierez said.
The four Susanville tribes, consisting of eight bands, hold the Honey Lake Valley to be very important, the chairman said.
“Every piece of dirt, blade of grass and sweet-smelling sagebrush is a part of all of us,” Gutierez said. “We love our home, and we are thankful to the BLM, and the leaders in Washington who saw fit to ensure the return of a very small piece of what was once ours."
The bill’s passage comes a year after it was introduced in July 2015 by Boxer and Feinstein, passing on June 10. LaMalfa introduced the legislation in the House in May 2015 and passed last November.
"The President's signature ensures that the Susanville tribes may continue their traditional practices on land with which they have a close and historical connection," said LaMalfa in the statement. "It also serves federal taxpayers by relieving the BLM of the costs of maintaining the property, while allowing the development of a cultural center that benefit both Susanville and other tribes."
The new law enables the Rancheria tribes to preserve ancestral lands and cultural areas, Guitierez said. It not only contains “vitally important cultural artifacts, including the remains of a historic Native camp, ancient petroglyphs, traditional medicinal plants,” but also “serves as a migratory path for antelope and mule deer,” he said.
“Tribes know what is best for their communities,” said U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, in a separate statement. “Taking this land into trust on behalf of the Susanville Indian Rancheria will empower the tribe to use the lands as they best see fit.”