[Community Voices] Dishgamu Humboldt: A groundbreaking, Wiyot-led effort to heal and rebuild while putting land back in Native hands takes root

Just about everywhere she looks throughout Humboldt County, Wiyot Tribal Administrator Michelle Vassel sees need. There’s a lack of well-paying jobs and rampant food insecurity. There’s a lack of skilled trades labor and affordable housing. And for the Wiyot people, who lived in approximately 20 village sites scattered around Humboldt Bay before first contact, Vassel sees a lack of autonomy over their ancestral territory.

But now, on the near horizon, Vassel also sees a solution to some of the region’s most entrenched problems: Dishgamu Humboldt. Named after the Wiyot word for love, Dishgamu Humboldt is a first-of-its kind community land trust, a partnership between the tribe and Cooperation Humboldt that those involved feel will have a transformational impact on the area.

“I think what excites me most is just working on the concept of place-based healing, and looking at building together as a community and coming together as a community and working on the long-term vision for the place that we all live,” Vassel said, stressing that the project is truly about taking immediate action toward a long-term vision. “We’re looking at multi-generational. We’re looking past 10, 20, 30 years. We’re looking at 100 years, 200 years, 250 years.”

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