After decades, a tribe’s vision for a new marine sanctuary could be coming true

The Chumash tribe’s long-term vision for a new national marine sanctuary along the central California coast could soon be realized, marking one of the first federal sanctuaries led by a Native American tribe.

The backstory: The Chumash have sought for more than a decade to create the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.
* The area nominated in 2015 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) spans over 7,000 square miles of ocean, filled with kelp forests and is home to diverse marine life.
* Once designated, this sanctuary would become the largest in the continental U.S. and ensure protection from developments such as oil rigs and wind turbines.

A new vision for management: The Chumash want to co-manage the sanctuary, signaling a broader movement towards involving tribes in the decision-making processes governing lands and waters that were historically theirs.
* Chumash Chairwoman, Violet Sage Walker, highlighted the tribe’s desire to be “separate and equal” with “autonomous decision-making”, rather than being simply employees of NOAA.
* NOAA is soon expected to release details on how this co-management might work, but the Chumash have already begun implementing an ecosystem monitoring program, signaling their commitment to the sanctuary’s future.

The cultural significance: The establishment of the marine sanctuary is much more than an environmental effort; it would also help reconnect the Chumash to a key part of their heritage.
* The Californian coast and the ocean hold deep spiritual significance for the Chumash, hosting their sacred sites and playing a critical role in their religious ceremonies.
* Chumash members are engaged in the scientific monitoring of the sanctuary, with traditional language incorporated into the program, helping to revive and maintain their culture as they reclaim their historical lands.

What’s next: The sanctuary’s full proposal will be released by NOAA later this month for public and industry feedback, with its official creation potentially taking place next year.

View original article on NPR

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