State Lands Commission Announces Return of Native American Tribal Land in Central California

Jun 23, 2020 | Press Release

Sacramento, Calif.—The State Lands Commission conveyed approximately 40 acres of land in Inyo County to the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation today to preserve and protect tribal cultural resources.

In December 2019, the Commission issued a lease and archeological permit and authorized the sale of 17.13 acres of land in Inyo County to Caltrans for its U.S. Highway 395 improvement project. The parcel Caltrans purchased is within the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation’s ancestral territory and has significant cultural value. The Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation identified adjacent land, the roughly 40 acres returned today, that would preserve the Tribe’s connection to the site and protect it from potential future harm.

“Returning this land to the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone people reflects our deep respect for Native Californians and their ancestral homes,” said State Controller Betty T. Yee, State Lands Commission chair and California’s chief fiscal officer. “We are genuinely committed to continuing the open dialogue between governments as pledged in our Tribal Consultation Policy.”

Lands returned to the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation.

Photo courtesy of Janice Gonzales.

In its December action, the Commission conditioned its authorization of a patent to Caltrans for the parcel needed for the U.S. Highway 395 project on Caltrans paying fair market value for the land proposed to be conveyed to the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation. The Commission received the payment in April 2020.

“Today’s action honors the relationship of indigenous peoples to lands under the Commission’s jurisdiction and is a testament to the Commission’s respect for tribal governments sovereign rights, as well as its responsibility to tribal nations,” said Lieutenant Governor and State Lands Commissioner Eleni Kounalakis.

“As stewards of this land for millennia, the people of Payahuunadü will continue to maintain and protect all of our traditional homeland for future generations. Returning this parcel to the Tribe will acknowledge the role indigenous people played in shaping this valley and the history we all share. The transfer of title enables the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation opportunities for more effective protection and education of tribal members and the general public on cultural significance of all of our lands and the perpetuation of our cultural heritage,” said Ms. Katherine Jefferson Bancroft, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation.

Today’s action is consistent with the Commission’s Tribal Consultation Policy and the restorative justice sentiments in Governor Newsom’s Order N-15-19. It also is consistent with the Commission’s Environmental Justice Policy, because it reduces and mitigates adverse impacts on tribal communities, resources, and lands and honors the importance of Tribes’ ancestral homelands.

The Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation, established in 1937, is located in the southern portion of the Owens Valley between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Inyo Mountain Ranges. The State Lands Commission, established one year later, in 1938, provides the people of California with effective stewardship of the lands, waterways, and resources entrusted to its care through preservation, restoration, enhancement, responsible economic development, and the promotion of public access.

The Commission’s staff report for the land transfer is available here.