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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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Historic agreement to return Redwoods land to Yurok Tribe

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024   

Plans to open a new gateway to Redwoods State and National Parks got a big boost Tuesday, paving the way for a key parcel of land to be returned to the Yurok Tribe.

The place is called 'O Rew in the Yurok language, on Highway 101, about 40 miles north of Eureka, at a former lumber mill site in Orick.

Joseph James, chairman of the Yurok Tribe, said this is a model for the "land-back" movement.

"We are able to share our culture, our knowledge as Indigenous people, first people, keepers of the land," James explained. "It's not driven by western society providing interpretation. It's being driven by Yuroks."

The nonprofit Save the Redwoods League bought the 125-acre property 13 years ago and has been restoring the mill site and nearby Prairie Creek alongside the tribe and the nonprofit California Trout. The area is closed for construction now, but will reopen in 2026 as the 'O Rew Redwoods Gateway with new trails, cultural signage and visitor facilities.

Steve Mietz, superintendent of Redwoods National and State Parks for the National Park Service, said it is the first-ever comanagement agreement for tribally-owned land with the National Park Service and California State Parks.

"This is just a recognition of their sovereignty," Mietz pointed out. "Their need to regain land that was taken from them years ago and turning it back, and creating greater understanding about the original people in this area."

In future years, the Yurok Tribe plans to build a full visitor center, including re-creating a tribal village with plank houses and a sweat lodge.


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