More than 150 years after the last settlement on Coast Miwok land in Marin faded away, the county’s Indigenous Native American tribe is getting 26 acres of its homeland back in Nicasio.
All the cards — and money — aligned this month to allow for what is called a “rematriation” of Coast Miwok land.
“It’s coming home,” said tribal elder Joe Sanchez, whose ancestors on the maternal side are listed in the Nicasio census from the 1870s. “It’s coming back to our land.”
Huukuiko, Inc., the nonprofit arm of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin, closed the $1.3 million deal to buy the land on July 3. The purchase amount was collected in about two months in a whirlwind, 11th-hour fundraising campaign that drew in more than 85 individual and family foundation donors, said Nancy Binzen, a consultant with the tribe.
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“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” said Binzen, a Woodacre resident. “It took a community to bring the Coast Miwok home.”
After seeing the listing on April 26, and securing an extended 60-day close agreement with the sellers around May 3, campaign organizers Binzen and Sanchez hustled to meet a June 20 escrow deadline to put up a portion of the price tag. To seal the deal on July 3, they raised the final balance only hours earlier, Binzen said.
“We had two anonymous donors give $200,000 each,” she said. “One came at the beginning and another came later.”
The campaign ultimately raised several hundred thousand dollars more than the $1.3 million purchase price, allowing the nonprofit to start a fund for programs, events and construction at the site.
Sanchez said the tribal council plans to build a sweat lodge and a roundhouse for ceremonies on the property. Educational programs on Native American culture also are planned.
The sellers, Nicole and Peter Mollison, said they chose to accept the Coast Miwok’s offer out of several interested potential buyers after receiving a letter from the tribe. The couple have owned the property for about a year, Nicole Mollison said.
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“We had plans to build here, but I felt like the land was telling us it wasn’t ours, that this was not our spot,” Mollison, who is of Native American descent, said.
The couple put the property on the market and met with many people who had plans “to put houses up here and horses, do the whole thing,” according to Mollison. “It just didn’t feel right,” she said.
When Sanchez approached them with the letter and the plans to recreate the Coast Miwok homeland, “it felt like the right thing to do,” she said.
“This land belongs to them,” she said. “This is what the land was telling us.”
The Mollisons, who have been in Lake Tahoe for the last few years, previously raised their children in the Sleepy Hollow area near San Anselmo. They now intend to stay in West Marin.
“We’re thrilled that the Miwoks will be here,” Mollison said. “We are relocating to Forest Knolls, so we’ll be close by. We’re excited about everything.”
The Coast Miwok occupied most of Marin for “thousands of years, but we lost it to many different systems and situations,” said Sanchez, who lives in Brisbane and plans to move closer to West Marin.
In the 1830s, the tribe was granted 80,000 acres by Marin officials, but all of that land was lost over time, he said. One of the last settlements in the 1870s was just across the street from the current property on Old Rancheria Road in Nicasio.
Nicasio was known as ‘Etcha Tamal by the Coast Miwok. Huukuiko refers to the Huukuiko Band, a section of the Coast Miwok people.
Sanchez is one of four members of the Coast Miwok Tribal Council of Marin. The group also has several dozen registered members, who are verified by their lineage, according to Binzen.
A celebration and coming-home ceremony is planned this summer, Sanchez said.
“I’m just so happy to be back on our land,” Sanchez said.