Sara Moncada (Yaqui/Irish), chief program officer at the Cultural Conservancy, left, and Melissa K. Nelson (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), president and CEO of the Cultural Conservancy, right, tending plants together. | Still from "Tending Nature"

Managing Groundwater with the Paiute

In the wake of the recent drought, scientists and politicians are beginning to understand that reserving and maintaining groundwater is essential for addressing the state’s water needs. California’s Native peoples have lived with drought cycles for millennia and today, the Paiute are shepherding conversations around access to water resources, raising key questions about how our snowpack, streams and aquifers are used and maintained.

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Cultivating Native Foodways with the Cultural Conservancy

The commodification of food has led to a bottom-line approach that has disconnected people from their food sources entirely, as modern, genetically modified foods put seed diversity at great risk. The Cultural Conservancy, an inter-tribal organization headquartered on Ohlone land in modern-day San Francisco, is revitalizing indigenous knowledge by inviting people to re-engage with the land, honor heirloom seeds, grow clean food and medicines, and decolonize their foodways.

Guarding Ancestral Grounds with the Wiyot

The Wiyot tribe from present-day Humboldt County have fought a long and hard battle for recognition and restored access to their land, including regaining ownership of traditional ceremonial grounds on Tululwat, an island in Arcata Bay. When leading energy developer, Terra Gen, proposed a large wind project on a spiritual and gathering area, the Wiyot opposed the greater ecological disruption that the project would deliver and rallied the community to defeat it.

Preserving the Desert with NALC

Native peoples have long lived in the desert and their understanding of the desert’s fragility has made them one of the region’s most outspoken protectors. Today, a collaborative group of desert tribes, concerned citizens and funders have formed the Native American Land Conservancy whose central goal is to acquire, preserve and protect Native American sacred lands through protective land management, educational programs and scientific study.

Reclaiming Agriculture with the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

For the Yocha Dehe people, who have lived in California’s Capay Valley for more than 15,000 years, local food production and deep knowledge of plant diversity sustained them for millennia. Using olives, a fruit of Spanish colonization, the Yocha Dehe people are combining ecological knowledge with modern science to rethink community-centered agri-business using sustainability practices that include high-efficiency irrigation.