California ancestral homelands returned to Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe

Forty acres of California forestland overlooking the North Fork American River and Sierra Nevada mountains have been protected by the accredited Placer Land Trust and returned to the tribe that considers the land its ancestral home.

By Kirsten Ferguson August 26

The land is also home to an incredible diversity of wildlife, as well as a vibrant spring, seasonal waterfall and large rock outcrops. Due to the conservation values of the land, previous landowner Neil Gerjuoy decided to work with the accredited Placer Land Trust to permanently protect it. Placer Land Trust acquired the property with funding from the California Wildlife Conservation Board and transferred ownership to the Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe. Comprised of Nisenan, Maidu and Miwok people, the tribe historically had lands forcibly seized.

“For a long time, tribes in California have lost land,” says Tribal chairman Clyde Prout III. “Having a piece of land actually come back to the Tribe, where we can utilize our traditional cultural stewardship practices and have a place to gather — it’s huge. Now we have a place where we can keep our traditions going.”

The preserve is now officially known as Yo’ Dok’im Pakan — Gerjuoy North Fork Preserve, which means “North Fork Spring” in Nisenan. The tribe’s nonprofit, Koy’o Land Conservancy, will assume responsibility for stewarding the property and ensuring the land is forever protected as open space. Placer Land Trust and the Conservancy will partner for the foreseeable future, starting with monitoring the property together for the first three years.

“We plan to learn from each other and listen to what the land has to tell us,” says Jeff Darlington, executive director of Placer Land Trust. “This land donation isn’t a beginning or an end. It’s an important milestone in our ongoing work to diversify and bring more justice into land conservation. And like this preserve, that commitment is here to stay.”