Native News Network Staff in Native Challenges. Discussion »
Thomas O'Rourke Sr-Yurok
STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA - On the rugged coastline of Northern California, a quiet revolution is unfolding that will undoubtedly alter the course of the Golden State's relations with American Indian tribes.
A broad and unified coalition, ranging from fishing industry representatives to world renowned environmental groups like the Ocean Conservancy; from county governments to American Indian governments, is advocating the California Fish and Game Commission decriminalize the traditional tribal harvest of coastal resources.
“This is clearly an abundance of support and shows how things have change in the 21st century in terms of how California wants to treat its indigenous populations,”
said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O'Rourke Sr.
“However, it remains to be seen if the California Fish and Game Commission is on the same page.”
As part of the last stages of locking down where marine protected areas will be set, the California Fish and Game Commission, which makes the final decision, is meeting Wednesday to make recommendations on whether or not to recognize existing, religious, ceremonial, subsistence and cultural harvesting.
The vehicle that brought the issue forward was the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process in the North Coast Study Region. Implementation of the MLPA has occurred throughout the state in a privately funded joint effort overseen by a region-specific committee known as the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BTRF). The BRTF assembled a 31-member working group, known as North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group, which developed a singular proposal that honors traditional tribal gathering rights.
While California Resources Secretary John Laird in February instructed the Fish and Game Commission to ensure "ongoing tribal activities will be accommodated and that other activities in the North Coast region marine protected areas will be at the scientific level of protection intended by the unified stakeholder proposal," the Department of Fish and Game staff and the staff of the MLPA Initiative have submitted proposals that significantly diverge from the Unified Proposal and cut out tribal rights.
The plans lump tribal people with recreational fishers, which will have devastating impacts on tribal culture. Asking tribal members to follow a foreign set of regulations that have no connection to culture is not different than the federal policy of the early 1900s
“Kill the Indian, Save the man.”
Yurok tribal cultural practices dictate that all resources must be managed for all future generations.
“Any attempt to institutionally diminish our right to gather coastal resources is essentially an act of ethnic cleansing,”
O'Rourke Sr. said.
“We depend on these traditions to carry on our culture for the rest of time.”
Throughout the process there have been proposals to aggressively deny existing Native Rights. While some of the proposals support Native rights, it is not clear which way the Fish and Game Commission will go.
“Regardless of the outcome of this process we will still continue to gather marine resources in a traditional way. Tribal rights are nonnegotiable.”
The Yurok Tribe, the largest tribe in California, has 5,500 members. The Tribe's ancestral territory runs eighty-three miles along the California coastline from the Little River to Damnation Creek. To the east the Tribe's ancestral lands reach above the Klamath River's confluence with the Trinity River.
For more information visit the Yurok Tribe »
posted June 28, 2011 9:35 am et
Do you have a comment or photo about this? Share it!
Thank you for visiting. We are loading the new Native News Network website. Visitors always come first, so if you click on a link only to find the corresponding page is unavailable, please use this link to contact us here ».
Then, tell us how we can help you.
I will contact you personally.