A native American tribe in Northern California will no longer have to sneak through fences to conduct their sacred ceremonies. Thanks to a deal struck by landowners, Sonoma County leaders, and a public land trust, 700 acres along the coast will be returned to the Kashia band of Pomo Indians in "a groundbreaking land sale," NBC Bay Area reports. The idyllic coastal area includes redwood groves, native archaeological sites, and cliffs overhanging the Pacific Ocean. But that's all been cut off from the people who once lived there: "We’re from the coast," says Walter Antone, who grew up on a 40-acre Kashia reservation nearby and once fished on the coast with his father—when dad asked landowners for permission. "We’re coast Indians and we live off the ocean."
The Richardson family, who have owned the land since an ancestor became a timber baron there 150 years ago, reached out to the Kashia about a possible sale. Now Sonoma County and a coalition of groups have assembled enough money for the $6 million sale, which is $1 million less than the property's assessed value, the Press Democrat reports. When the deal is finalized in November, the Kashia (who apparently number 78 people) plan to strengthen area forests and oversee a new museum in the land's original house. The partly public land is also slated to have a trail that will help link Oregon to Mexico. What's more, the deal will give Bill Richardson—who lives in the original house to this day—a grave on a hill with an ocean view. "I want to see it be a working ranch," he says, "just a beautiful place for everyone—especially for [the Kashia]." (Read more Native Americans stories.)