Beyond Land Acknowledgements: Indigenous Leadership and the Environment in Southern California

May 20, 2022 @ 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm America/New York Timezone


With land acknowledgements becoming a norm in funder gatherings (check out if you haven’t yet done so), the Southern California Environmental Funders Group invites you to this upcoming funder convening to explore ways in which philanthropy can go beyond land acknowledgements, including the larger Indigenous land back movement, land stewardship, land taxes, land co-management and land ownership.

At California’s recent Truth and Healing Council meeting, Governor Newsom announced that he has “tasked our administration with seeking out ways to support California Native Peoples in accessing, co-managing and acquiring your ancestral lands. Today, we’re making a down payment on this commitment, allocating $100 million dollars for tribally informed grantmaking to support tribal initiatives in this space.”

Indigenous communities in California have worked towards this goal for many years, with a handful of success stories given the legal, financial, and cultural complexities that come with making this vision a reality. A coordinated and collaborative approach will be needed, and philanthropy can play a crucial supportive role. At this convening, we will explore the opportunities, barriers, and strategies needed to put us all in a better relationship with the land and the environment. We’ll learn from a set of local stakeholders working on these issues, with suggestions for funders who want to support Indigenous leadership.

This convening is part of a series of quarterly conversations hosted by the Southern California Grantmakers Environmental Funders Group and co-hosted by Smart Growth California. The convening will continue lifting up themes from previous SCG Environmental Funder Peer Group convenings, including our Making Justice 40 a Reality on the GroundBolstering the Green Workforce EcosystemClimate, Health and Equity in SoCal, and Climate Resilience Investments.


Jo Carrillo, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Indigenous Law Center, UC Hastings College of the Law

Professor of property law and Faculty Director of the UC Hastings Indigenous Law Center. ILC program areas are (i) decolonizing Federal Indian Law through innovative course offerings, professorships, affiliations, panel events, and publications; and (ii) strategizing the use and amendment of state law to enhance, facilitate and support tribal land- and resource-back efforts. Carrillo is conducting RLF supported studies on the state fish and game code and on completed land-back transactions. The ILC’s work includes increasing knowledge about the use of co-management agreements, donations, conservation easements, land trusts and other legal land use planning tools that plausibly can be used to create partnerships between Indigenous and philanthropic entities.

Nicole Johnson, Secretary, Native American Land Conservancy

Nicole A. Johnson has been part of the Native American Land Conservancy since 2003 and joined the board in 2013. For over 20 years, she’s advised tribal entities and non-profits on an array of issues including cultural resource management. Nicole worked directly on California legislation, like SB 18 which requires tribal consultation before adoption or amendment of a General Plan, and, AB 52, that requires agencies to incorporate tribal consultation into CEQA environmental review. As counsel to tribal non-profits, she’s directed all aspects of conservation for cultural landscapes, from acquisition to long-term land management planning. Nicole holds a B.S. in Anthropology, an M.A. in American Indian Studies, and is a member of the California State Bar.

Greg Masten, Vice President of Tribal Nations Engagement and Special Projects, Native Americans in Philanthropy

Greg has dedicated his career to empowering Tribal nations through education and philanthropy. Greg is an enrolled member of the Yurok Tribe and a descendant of the Hupa and Karuk Tribes. Greg comes from a family of Tribal leaders that taught him the value of carrying on the hopes of our elders by serving our Native peoples. Greg grew up both on and off reservations throughout his life in the pacific northwest. Greg’s background is rooted in education with a Master’s degree in Education (M.Ed.) with a special focus on Indigenous education and a Bachelor’s degree in Native American Studies. As a former Tribal Education Director, foundation Executive Director, and school Administrator, Greg has over 20 years of experience in advocating for our Tribal Nations and Native communities. Greg has led regional, state, and national initiatives in education and philanthropy. Greg has worked with Tribe’s and Tribal leaders and Native serving organizations across the nation to develop strategies to create more awareness, advocacy, and ultimately more resources to support their communities. Greg is a member of the University of Washington’s Native American Advisory Board, board member of the SR3 Foundation, and former President of the Tribal Education Department’s National Assembly (TEDNA). Greg also served as the education committee co-chair for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), Humboldt Country P-16 Council and California Education Directors Association.

Rudy Ortega, Tribal President, Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians

With strong passion in tribal affairs, Rudy was first elected Vice President for his tribe at the age of eighteen where he assisted in the continuing efforts of the Tribe’s missions of protecting the rights of Fernandeño Tataviam as Native American people. Rudy assisted his Tribe in the reinvigoration of the Tribe’s non-profit, Pukúu Cultural Community Services (Pukúu) to provide community programs to Native Americans living in the Los Angeles County as well to sustain his own tribal community.

Lauren van Schilfgaarde, Director, Tribal Legal Development Clinic, UCLA School of Law

Lauren van Schilfgaarde (Cochiti Pueblo) is the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Tribal Legal Development Clinic Director at UCLA School of Law. van Schilfgaarde supervises live-client projects concerning tribal governance and justice systems, ethics, cultural resource protection, voting, child welfare, and more. She received her undergraduate degree at Colorado College and her law degree from UCLA School of Law. van Schilfgaarde previously served as the Tribal Law Specialist at the Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI) in West Hollywood, CA. At TLPI, van Schilfgaarde coordinated training and technical assistance to tribal courts, focusing primarily on Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts, restorative justice, tribal court infrastructure, and federal Indian law. At TLPI, van Schilfgaarde worked with over eighty tribal nations on various legal infrastructure projects. van Schilfgaarde served as a law clerk for the Native American Rights Fund and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. She was a Public Interest Fellow at American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. van Schilfgaarde currently serves as a board member for the National Native American Bar Association, as Vice-Chair for the Native American Concerns Committee of the American Bar Association, as a Commissioner for the Lawyers Network Commission of the Center for Reproductive Rights, and as a Board Member of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Child Well-being Program.


If you are not a member of SoCal Grantmakers, but are active in Smart Growth California and/or a member of The Funders Network, please contact Ron at Smart Growth California and he can add you to the RSVP list.