Native News Network Staff in Native Challenges. Discussion »
KLAMATH, CALIFORNIA - Tribal members of the Yurok Tribe will assemble on culturally critical beaches on Saturday to gather seaweed used for ceremonial purposes. Tribal officials are aware Saturday's gathering may be put tribal members at risk to be arrested.
In essence, tribal members are testing the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) regulations, which tribal officials maintain do not properly address American Indians having the right to gather marine items used for ceremonial purposes.
“Our goal is demonstrate to people of California that as Native people, we are and have been good stewards of the land,”
Bob McConnell, Yurok, told Native News Network Friday evening.
"We don't perceive traditional tribal gathering of ocean resources to be some kind of delinquent activity, but the state and feds do," said McConnell. "We harvest from the ocean for our ceremonies and physical health. It is time to decriminalize our culture."
“The Tribe's rights are nonnegotiable,”
added Yurok Chairman Thomas O'Rourke Sr. "As long as we are here, we will continue to gather in culturally appropriate way that is beneficial to all species."
State parks and national marine reserves and parks do disproportionate and unjustifiable harm to California's indigenous people who need access to marine resources in order to perpetuate complex spiritual practices and life ways.
"Our methods of take enhance these resources rather than harm them. We offer as evidence the abundance of coastal resources prior to European contact," McConnell said. "Prayer is an integral part of the process as no life can be taken without acknowledgement of that life. We thank the creator and the plant/animal for that life each and every time we gather a resource."
Decades have passed and public perceptions about American Indians have changed since most of the rules that govern California's coast were signed into law in 1999.
"These government bodies have made criminals out of people for embracing their culture. We want the people of California to know that and join us in the process of reversing it," McConnell concluded.
Tribal members are encouraged to gather at their favorite spot. There will be tribal members at Patrick's Point State Park at 5:30 am, Clam Beach at 7:30 am. and Wilson Creek Beach near Klamath at 8:30 am.
posted June 18, 2011 7:37 am et
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