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.
But the decision by the Kashia Band's members to give up their income from the state's gambling Revenue Sharing Trust Fund made the difference, said Gerald Sherman, president and CEO of Indian Land Capital Company, which financed the sale.
"I've never run across that," said Sherman, whose Montana-based, Indian-owned nonprofit has financed tribal purchases of lands in Washington, Montana, South Dakota and California.
"There wasn't enough financial strength in the tribe" to get a loan, Sherman said Monday. "But they had a desire to grow and we thought that was really interesting that the tribal members would be willing to give up per capita payments to buy this land and strengthen their sovereignty."
The loan was made without a mortgage — as is typical practice with loans to governments that are expected to make good on their debt, Sherman said.
The tribe has no plans for a casino on the site, largely because of how remote it is, said Cohen.