Situated about 300 miles north of San Francisco, California, is Trinidad Bay. The rich traditional and cultural heritage of the area reflects in the Indigenous community that has co-existed with and protected the coastal marine environment since time immemorial – the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria. Home to diverse and abundant marine life, the bay was designated as an Area of Special Biological Significance in 1974.
A federally-recognized sovereign Nation and historically underserved community, Trinidad Rancheria’s commitment to stewarding coastal resources revolves around the interconnectedness of their people with the coastal and marine environment. Trinidad Rancheria’s trust in and continuation of Native culture and traditional ways of life while passing down core values through generations is what unites Tribal citizens with each other and their natural world.
As the conditions of the climate and local ocean change over time, Trinidad Rancheria recognizes the need to continue to protect, restore, and sustainably co-manage the seascape and its resources to achieve a healthy and resilient ecosystem and ensure their community’s well-being. This has been foundational to the project Strategic Earth has been supporting. In collaboration with the Tribal Council and administrative staff, our team has been helping to design a new marine department.
In October 2022, Sara and Kelly traveled north to spend a week with Trinidad Rancheria staff and Tribal Council. Our team held informal conversations with representatives of local Tribes, academics, and state and local government staff to inform marine department developmental efforts. During each conversation, we learned about each local leader’s experiences, priorities, and perspectives around marine and fisheries-related work. Stories were shared about building Tribal capacity to lead an integrated marine department, recognizing the value and importance of traditional knowledge and Tribal science, and prioritizing stewardship of keystone marine species that are culturally significant.
The generous exchange of ideas and information shared with Trinidad Rancheria have been key to the initial design of the Tribe’s new marine department, with lessons learned and considerations from local leaders’ helping to guide a new pathway forward. The continued progress towards this goal is made possible by the heart-centered partnerships and collaborative community of the North Coast and Trinidad Rancheria’s empathy towards leaving behind a world for future generations better than before.