Huffman Introduces Bill to Expand Yurok Lands and Strengthens Self-Governance

Photo – (Left) Executive Asst. Tara Ipina, General Counsel Amy Cordalis, Councilmember Mindy Natt, Councilmember Ryan Ray, Congressperson Jared Huffman, Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr, Councilmember Joe James and Self-governance Director Javier Kinney.

Photo – (Left) Executive Asst. Tara Ipina, General Counsel Amy Cordalis, Councilmember Mindy Natt, Councilmember Ryan Ray, Congressperson Jared Huffman, Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr, Councilmember Joe James and Self-governance Director Javier Kinney. [Photo by Scott Rasmussen, legislative correspondent for Rep. Huffman]

Press release from the Yurok Tribe:

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) introduced the Yurok Lands Act, a pivotal piece of legislation that aims to strengthen self-governance and sovereignty, and improve tribal infrastructure.

“The Yurok Tribe would like to sincerely thank Congressman Huffman for his commitment to serving all residents of the North Coast,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “This bill serves to support our independence and continued success as a thriving Tribal nation.”

“The revised Yurok Lands Act will help to realize past commitments made by Congress to the Yurok Tribe,” said Rep. Huffman. “The legislation will provide a reservation that serves the tribe’s interests, and give the tribe a role in land management decisions that affect the tribe. The legislation strikes a careful balance to resolve longstanding management challenges: meeting many of the Yurok’s objectives, while preserving the rights of neighboring tribes and local interests.”

The Yurok Lands Act Accomplished the following:

  • Transfers 1,229 acres of U.S. Forest Service land known as the Yurok Experimental Forest into trust for the tribe
  • Redraws the reservation boundary line to encompass the Yurok Experimental Forest, recently purchased fee land and a U.S. Forest Service property in proximity to the Blue Creek watershed, one of the Tribe’s most sacred areas
  • Positions the Yurok Tribe to directly participate in federal land management decisions within the revised Yurok Reservation.
  • Mandates federal land management agencies to consult with the tribe before major actions on federal land that may affect the amended Yurok Reservation boundary
  • Affirms the Yurok’s governing documents to strengthen tribal governance and sovereignty

NOTE: This is slightly updated version from the first post.

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5 comments

  • I wish the US national government was as competent, thoughtful, and dedicated to doing things right as the Yurok tribal government.

  • I like this part “Positions the Yurok Tribe to directly participate in federal land management decisions within the revised Yurok Reservation.”
    It’s their property, they should be in control of their own property.

    Can of worms “Mandates federal land management agencies to consult with the tribe before major actions on federal land that may affect the amended Yurok Reservation boundary”.
    It’s only right to be consulted. Why do they have to fight for the right to be consulted? What am I missing here? Is this adding red tape bureaucracy along with halts to all emergency crews such as fire fighting? If so, then why wasn’t the average bear consulted about this?

    What sovereignty? “Affirms the Yurok’s governing documents to strengthen tribal governance and sovereignty”.
    They gave that away to the UN decades ago didn’t they? What wasn’t given to the UN, was given to the US politicians. They haven’t been “sovereign” for forever. If they were sovereign, they wouldn’t have to ask ANY government for help or for permission to help themselves. Californian’s are in the same boat. They nullify one unconstitutional law, but leave all the other ones as a tribute to the victimhood mentality.

    As long as they’re all happy, I guess that’s all that really matters.
    I’ll, obviously, never understand it.

    • “They gave that away to the UN decades ago didn’t they? What wasn’t given to the UN, was given to the US politicians. They haven’t been “sovereign” for forever.”

      That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

      • Well then do explain it; we are lucky you arrived or we would all be doomed to ignorance! We’d love to hear/ read the correct version.

        • I was being tongue-in-cheek there (a callback to a Geico commercial re: “I unfriend you!”) and I think Shak was fundamentally and earnestly arguing in favor of sovereignty — yay! Humor sometimes doesn’t transfer well in the written medium, especially when the reference hinges, as mine did, on everyone understanding the reference. For that I apologize.

          But here you go, a US UN spokesperson circa 2014 on sovereign Indian nations not being separate members of the UN, because they are a part of the USA:

          “‘US federally recognized tribes are governments with inherent powers of self-governance, but in the UN setting these characteristics are not recognized. We are committed to finding an appropriate response to this challenge. We will continue consulting with U.S. based tribes, indigenous organizations, and member states to explore options.'”
          (https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/opinions/us-calls-on-un-to-accord-recognition-to-us-federally-recognized-tribes/)

          Many nations were not recognized until relatively recently, for example the Yurok Tribe in 1993 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yurok) and thus could not have given any power or self-determination away to the UN.

          You see a disturbing amount of unfounded hysteria concerning the UN, but it truly is the US’s creation and plaything that has, along with the IMF, uniquely benefited the US government, its larger businesses, and inevitably its people, each of us through increased buying power in relation to other countries (due to the dollar being a world reserve currency).

          The trust (here in the legal sense of a “trust”) relationship existing between the US government and sovereign Indian nations is complicated. Law enforcement authority delegation (to either a federal agency, state / local police, or tribal entities) depends on whether the suspected criminal act is committed by a tribal member or not, and also hinges on whether the states and/or affected tribe implements Public Law 280 or not (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Law_280). Some tribes have been or are recently beginning to enforce their own ordinances and laws on reservations in re tribal members and also non-tribal residents, implement their own courts and sometimes incarceration or holding facilities, and otherwise exerting normal aspects of self-governance.

          So, back to this:

          “‘Mandates federal land management agencies to consult with the tribe before major actions on federal land that may affect the amended Yurok Reservation boundary’”.
          It’s only right to be consulted. Why do they have to fight for the right to be consulted? What am I missing here?”

          Unfortunately, in the past, the federal government often did not consult or, after consulting, explicitly ignored the requests, input, or actual laws issued by sovereign nations in response to proposals or existing federal implementations concerning lands appurtenant to — and thus affecting tribal lands — or within tribal lands. For example, the Klamath River flows through a number of sovereign Indian nations, including Karuk, Hoopa, and Yurok and each tribe has historically relied on salmon stocks for food. The 2002 fish kill was eventually attributable to the direct action of then Vice-President Cheney to allow water from the river to be diverted to upper (north easterly) Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Klamath_River_fish_kill).

          By explicitly agreeing to consult with tribes on matters that ultimately affect their tribal lands there is no more wiggle room for shenanigans without consequence.

          Better?

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