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  • Jennifer Jewell

BALANCED SYSTEMS THINKING & TEK, Lorena Gorbet, Maidu Summit Consortium

Photos Courtesy of Frailty Myths, All rights reserved.

As the vernal equinox is imminent for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, a conversation on balance and our importance as humans in the balance of natural systems.

Lorena Gorbet is a gardener, mother, grandmother, basket weaver and elder of the Mountain Maidu - a Native American people of Northern California. Lorena works with the Maidu Cultural Development Group, she is a founding member and leading voice in The Maidu Summit Consortium a collaborative endeavor in interior Northern California to return traditional lands to the care of their traditional peoples.

Cultivating Place is produced from and inspired by its physical base on ancestral and present homelands of the valley portions of the Mechoopda Maidu, and I’m so grateful to be in conversation with Lorena about land back under the care the Maidu people and their traditional ecological knowledge of this place.

In our conversation, we discuss her efforts over the past 20 years to help coordinate returning land to the Maidu. In several instances, Lorena mentions the term Rancheria, which for those listening not from California or the adjacent West might be unfamiliar. The term very generally refers to state of federally recognized organized Native American groups in California. The history of California’s Rancherias movement is as fraught as any other history related to Native Americans and European colonization.

For more about specifics to do with California Rancherias:

Between 1851 and 1852, 18 treaties were negotiated between the United States Government and more than 100 California Indian Tribes and Bands. The treaties called for reservations of more than eight million acres for the tribes. However, on July 8, 1952, the U.S. Senate secretly rejected the treaties and from 1852 to 1854 Indian Tribes were forcibly removed to temporary reservations. In the early 1900s a researcher discovered the unratified treaties and reformers petitioned Congress to appropriate money to provide land for the homeless Native Americans of California. Congress appropriated the money to purchase 9,000 acres of land that became 50 separate Rancherias. Originally the small pieces of land or ranches were intended to provide housing for homeless and landless adult Indians. It was not intended to be reservations for separate tribal governments. Instead of getting their own reservations, some Indian Nations were splintered into tiny postage stamp bands that lumped together Indians from different tribes. Despite the obvious obstacles, many of the Rancherias, as they came to be known, petitioned for federal recognition. In 1953, the California Rancheria Act called for the termination of federal trusteeship for Indians in California. During this period, 38 tribes were terminated in California and tribal members were encouraged to sign away their official status in efforts to assimilate Indians into "mainstream" society. The Indian Self Determination and Education Act of 1973 allowed tribes and rancherias to regain federal recognition and today 104 tribes are recognized in California with over 50% being Rancherias.

Finally, Lorena shares how in the past decade, the newly formed Maidu Summit Consortium worked tirelessly to secure close to 3,000 acres of unused public utility land back into the care of the Maidu, as small compensation for the untold numbers of acres taken from them and from which they been unjustly and forcibly removed. Highlighting the social justice aspect of their work made all the difference, and Lorena and the group were able to document that hydroelectric projects on the rivers in their region alone had taken over 17,000 previously designated Native American allotments.

You can follow Lorena and the Maidu Summit Consortium on line: and on Facebook:

Native led Northern Californian efforts toward land sovereignty and balance you can learn more from and support with hours or dollars

Maidu Summit Consortium:

Native American Food Sovereignty (including the Indigenous Seedkeepers Network):

Mechoopda Maidu Chico Rancheria:

Join us again next week when celebrate another - very different - land care initiative with landscape designer Edwina Von Gal, founder of The Perfect Earth Project. She is actively involved in a new undertaking in conjunction with Doug Tallamy, known as 2/3rds for the Birds. Listen in!





Thinking out Loud this week...



I am moved by this personal mission statement by Lorena for her own cultivating practices. And the minute she said it, I made a mental note to include that in my own mission for my garden. I think the goal of balance IS there in my cultivation but to articulate it specifically seems like much clearer manifestation work.

Like discipline – the root of which is not punishment but discipleship and the art and practice of learning and teaching and following over time – the idea of balance is not a set point, right. It is a dynamic process always ebbing and flowing waxing and waning – like the sun, the moon, the seasons – our own internal rhythms. It’s a process.

And so I invite us gardeners this week to consider the idea of balance in our garden lives. Where could you use more balance – physically, mentally, emotionally, communally, financially? And are there ways that our garden practice can actually help us in these arenas? Cause I am pretty sure our gardens can help us with us in all of these arenas if we look to them to and lean into them. And together with them we balance better….If this rings true for you in this time and season – I’d love to hear any insights you’d like to share with us – shoot me an email:

Happy healthy balancing act to you all -


Spring is really coming on at this time over here in my place garden friends. And the flowers are a riot of color and a glorious generosity of plenty. There is nothing the wealthiest person in the universe could offer us that outshines a big pitcher full of spring daffodils or flowering fruit tree branches overflowing the simplest of vessels. I know you agree. Spring is very heavily focused on a return to the fullness of the veg garden – beyond hardy greens. But spring is also delirious with bloom. When it comes to our universal pull to the beauty of flowers – I turn to my friend Deb Prinzing and her heartfelt work at the Slow Flowers Society and the Slow Flowers Podcast. It is a colorful boost year round. If you need a little floral pick me up to your podcast library right about now – here’s more from Deb and the Slow Flower’s team! Give it a listen!




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