In a deal its members secured by giving up some of their income, the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians has purchased 510 acres of forested land adjacent to the tribe's remote rancheria about 30 miles north of Bodega Bay.
The sale closed Friday and was a signal event for the 860-member tribe, whose ancestral lands encompass the northwest Sonoma County region.
"We've got our food trees there, we've got our villages back where our people used to be. It's really important," said Violet Parrish Chappell, a tribal elder.
The tribe will decide what to do with the property, she said. A priority is preserving and protecting cultural and spiritual sites. But she expressed her own broad range of other hopes for it, too, from building a school, tribal housing and a medical clinic, to opening a motel to serve North Coast tourist traffic.
"We have great plans for it," she said.
The property is south of the tribe's 42-acre rancheria at Tin Barn Road and Stewarts Point Skaggs Spring Road, high above the Pacific Ocean on hills crowded with oak trees.
To produce the security needed to get the loan, tribal members surrendered their rights to all or part of their annual payment of the money California tribes with casinos share with non-gambling tribes, the tribe's attorney said.
For the Kashia Band, that amounts to a combined $1.1 million a year. The land — 0.8 square miles — cost $1.35 million, said Anthony Cohen, the tribe's Santa Rosa attorney.
"For them to take money out of their own pockets for this land knowing that they aren't going to be the owners, that the tribal government is going to be the owner, means it was very important," Cohen said.
For economically struggling tribes such as the Kashia Band, efforts to get financing for projects are often stymied by a lack of assets. A recurring obstacle is that reservations are held in trust by the federal government and cannot be used as loan collateral.