California condors, which are vital to the Yurok Tribe’s culture, are considered critically endangered species. But this year, after nearly a century, they will be reintroduced to the Pacific Northwest.

According to Mongabay, “… if it weren’t for the Yurok Tribe, who have fought for the return of this culturally and ecologically important bird for the past 13 years, the condor’s Pacific Northwest homecoming might never have happened at all.”

The impacts of being placed on a reservation, without the ability to care for their land, the threat of massacres and boarding school for Yurok children, made it risky to share cultural practices and traditions that included condors. But as the Tribe has rejuvenated its traditions and turned to Elders for guidance, bringing back the once-plentiful birds was a clear priority.

“The condor was the top bird in the ceremonial hierarchy,” Thomas Gates, who worked as the director of the Tribe’s Office of Self-Governance, said in the story. “There was this idea that without that bird back in this environment, the Yurok world was out of balance.”

The Tribe spent years working to get approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce the birds, which are known for their wingspan and ability to fly up to 15,000 feet high.

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