Chico State returns land to Susanville Indian Rancheria
Chico State and the Susanville Indian Rancheria in Lassen County have concluded an agreement that returns a tract of land to the tribe.
The ecologically diverse 88-acre parcel has served Chico State students and faculty as a research and educational field station for nearly 100 years, but it hadn’t been used in a decade.
The university invited proposals for other uses and accepted one from the Susanville Indian Rancheria. Then, a five-year process to pass the land to the tribe began.
Eli Goodsell, ecological reserves director for Chico State Enterprises, said it hasn’t been an easy process. Under existing laws there was no provision allowing a university to transfer land to a tribe, and there was another impediment.
“The legislative legal system that we were working within was partly designed to hinder tribes. And to keep tribes down, and not to give them value, not to give them voice,” Goodsell said.
Overcoming that bureaucracy was a major struggle, Goodsell said.
A bill passed in January removed remaining hurdles. It was sponsored by Senators Alex Padilla and the late Dianne Feinstein, as well as Congressman Doug LaMalfa.
Chico State Director of Tribal Relations Rachel McBride-Praetorius hopes the successful university-tribal collaboration will provide an incentive for others.
“We’re really excited to see what this does for tribes. Not only in California but nationally,” McBride-Praetorius. “And to see it hopeful, that people will use this process to transfer land back to tribes.”
At the signing ceremony making the transfer official, Susanville Indian Rancheria chairman Arian Hart said this will allow tribal members to deepen their relationship with ancestral lands.
The rancheria envisions a collaboration with Chico State to use the land for recreational, educational and cultural events and activities.