Indian Island off the coast of Northern California was the site of a massacre. It's also the spiritual and physical center of the universe for the small Wiyot Tribe, and it now belongs to them almost entirely after a city deeded all the land it owns on the island to the tribe during a packed signing ceremony Monday. The tribe was decimated in 1860, when scores of elders, women, and children were wiped out during a raid by settlers while the tribe's men were away gathering supplies. Since then, the now 600-member tribe has been making small strides toward regaining the land it lost. The tribe sold art and fry bread and took in donations to buy 1.5 acres on the eastern tip of the island for $106,000 in 2000. Years later, the city of Eureka gave the tribe more land, reports the AP.
On Monday, Eureka officials turned over the deed to the largest chunk of land—more than 200 acres in what was once the historic village of Etpidolh. No money was exchanged. Tribes have lost millions of acres of land through treaties broken by the US government. Rarely has it been restored, says the president of the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. Most tribes resort to buying land as it comes up for sale. The tribe's reservation in Loleta is southwest of Indian Island, which can take hours to reach by boat. During the highest tide, the island can become submerged. The tribe imagines the island as a place where native plants can flourish and be used in ceremonies and where its renewal ceremony can be practiced annually. The next one is scheduled in March.
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