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.”