Maidu Summit Consortium + Conservancy

What was the challenge?

Similar to the majority of Native American tribes, the Mountain Maidu’s land was taken away from them by the quickly-expanding United States of America. The loss of land fractured the Northern California tribe, which soon turned to in-fighting. The once unified Mountain Maidu splintered along family lines and the landless community was fraught with mistrust, blame, and contempt.

Almost 100 years later, in a settlement with PG&E, the Maidu people were awarded 3,000 acres of their land back in the ancestral and pristine valley known as Tásmam Kojóm. The settlement, however, granted the land to the Maidu community, not to any specific family line. If the Maidu people were to reclaim their land, they needed to heal as a community and find a way to move forward together. To lead this effort, the nine major factions came together to form the Maidu Summit Consortium & Conservancy (MSC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to representing the Mountain Maidu as a united front.

In 2015, MSC hired Third Plateau to provide capacity building support on four key issues:

  • Short-term fundraising strategy to secure the necessary funds needed to keep the nonprofit financially solvent;
  • Business planning to identify how to grow MSC in a way that positioned the organization to reacquire additional sacred lands and better support the nine member groups;
  • Development strategy to build a long-term, sustainable funding model; and
  • Board training to ensure the organization had strong leadership capable of keeping the community together.

How did we address it?

Over the course of 18 months, Third Plateau facilitated this work by focusing on four key elements:

  • Relationships: Coming in as outsiders, it was critical for Third Plateau to build strong foundational relationships with MSC’s leadership and community. Third Plateau spent time with each individual, met with and listened to the Maidu elders, participated in the community’s cultural events, and led with a mindset of learning and cultural appreciation. Internally, Third Plateau facilitated conversations with leaders of each of the nine member organizations, helping them define clear roles and responsibilities for how they can productively interact, rebuild their bridges, and heal the community.
  • Infrastructure: To address the short-term fundraising needs and in order to lay the foundation for long-term success, Third Plateau helped MSC build and reinforce its organizational infrastructure. In this effort, Third Plateau worked with MSC leadership to build a donor database, create fundraising materials, revamp its website, and strengthen its board.
  • Assets: Third Plateau engaged MSC’s leadership and community in an iterative design process to set a clear organizational purpose and to identify the assets the community could leverage to support its work and growth. The result was a detailed and actionable business plan that articulated MSC’s specific service description, its various lines of earned revenue, its operations plan, its marketing strategy, its staffing model, and its financial projections.
  • Positioning: With a strong business plan in place, Third Plateau then worked closely with MSC leadership to support the organization to strategically position itself in order to execute an ambitious and targeted funding model.

What is the impact?

Over the course of Third Plateau’s 18-month engagement, MSC transformed from a disjointed, under-funded, and easily-distracted organization into a focused, well-resourced, and strategic nonprofit capable of rallying the Maidu community and ensuring its culture and lifeways continue to thrive. The formal land transfer of Tásmam Kojóm is officially set to occur in 2017 and MSC is well positioned to reacquire no less than five other parcels of ancestral land.