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California Tribes and Allies March to Protect Tribal Rights, Ocean Resources

by Dan Bacher
I went to a fantastic protest in Fort Bragg against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's MLPA (Marine Life Protection Act) Initiative yesterday. Hundreds of Tribal members from throughout throughout northern California and the southwest, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters, environmentalists, sea urchin divers and seafood industry workers marched with banners and signs through the streets of Fort Bragg and chanted "MLPA, Taking Tribal Rights Away" as they converged on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting at the C.V. Starr Center.

More than 50 tribal nations peacefully took control of the task force meeting. Their message was clear: the state will no longer impose its will on indigenous people. Members of the Yurok, Tolowa, Cahto, Pomo, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Maidu, Hopi, Navajo and other tribes and the Noyo Indian Community spoke to the task force members.

Tribal elders including Walt Lara of the Yurok Tribe said they would continue to do what they have done for thousands of years regardless of what the state decides. Another Yurok elder, Susan Burdick, described the MLPA task force as "like the Ku Klux Klan - without the hoods!"

Judy Vidaver, head of the Ocean Protection Coalition, a well-respected environmental group in Mendocino County, asked Catherine Reheis-Boyd, an oil industry lobbyist and the chair of the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force and a member of the North Coast Task Force, to resign over her conflicts of interest.

Below are yesterday's press releases about the protest issued by the Yurok Tribe and Coastal Justice Coalition.

Photo of protest inside MLPA meeting by Matt Mais, Yurok Tribe.
For Immediate Release
Contact Matt Mais
(707) 482-1350 ext. 306
Cell: (707) 954-0976

CA attempts to trample Tribal Rights
Tribes fight back, vow to never stop gathering in their homeland

The Yurok Tribe will never stop sustainably gathering coastal resources as it has done for thousands of years. Neither the Marine Life Protection Act nor any other law can take away what the Creator has bestowed on the Yurok Tribe.

That is the consensus of the Yurok Tribal Council, which added its voice to the chorus of California tribes opposing the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative today at the Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg, Ca.

“The Initiative is a misguided attempt by the state to stomp on tribal rights,” said Thomas O’Rourke Sr., Chairman for the Yurok Tribe, the largest tribe in the state. “Our rights are non-negotiable.”

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is a public and privately funded partnership between the State of California and a few private foundations to implement the Marine Life Protection Act, which was signed into law in 1999. That Act calls for the creation of marine reserves with varying levels of protection from one end of the state to the other. The Blue Ribbon Task Force is charged with making recommendations of where the reserves will end up.

The Yurok Tribe, a federally recognized tribe, does not believe California has any reason to infringe on the tribe’s ability to gather in its ancestral territory.

“We would like the Blue Ribbon Task Force to do what is morally right and remove tribes from this inappropriate process,” Chairman O’Rourke Sr. said.

The Yurok Tribe has a representative on the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative’s Regional Stakeholder group, However the Marine Life Protection Act process has viewed tribes exactly the same as recreational fishermen.

“There is nothing more offensive than the lack of recognition we have received from the Initiative. We are a sovereign government within the State of California and should be treated accordingly,” Chairman O’Rourke Sr. said.

Yurok people gather mussels, seaweed and shells for sustenance and religious purposes. The Tribe gathers other ocean resources as well. The Tribe has always gone to great lengths to ensure that that marine resources are well-kept and maintained for future generations.

This is not the first time indigenous Californians have voiced strong opposition to Marine Life Protection Act Initiative’s offensive reach into Indian Country. Members from several Tribes interrupted the MLPAI’s Science Advisory Team meeting in Eureka earlier on June 29. The tribal people pointed out that there is no scientific data that says tribal gathering has any negative impact on the coastal ecosystem and the Act does nothing to stop pollution and off-shore drilling — the real threats to the ocean’s productivity.

The Yurok has 5,500 members. Its ancestral territory reaches from Wilson Creek to the Little River in Northern California. For more information about the Yurok Tribe, please visit

Coastal Justice Coalition

For Immediate Release: July 21, 2010

Georgiana Myers, Coastal Justice Coalition: (707) 951-5548, sregonlady [at]
Frankie Myers, Klamath Justice Coalition: (707) 951-5052, frankiemyers [at]

California Tribes and Allies March to Protect Ocean Resources and Tribal Rights

Who: Coastal Tribes and allies
What: March to protect Tribal Rights and ocean resources
When: March starts 12pm, July 21, 2010
Where: March meets at Main and Oak St. in Fort Bragg, continues to CV Star Community Center where participants can give public comment at the MLPA meeting.

California coastal Tribes and their allies are marching to the Marine Life Protection Act’s (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force Meeting on Wednesday afternoon July 21st, 2010 in Fort Bragg, CA to defend traditional gathering rights on California’s coastline.

“In our view the MLPA is another attack on tribal rights and sovereignty. So we feel we must defend our rights through non-violent direct action when necessary,” said Dania Rose Colegrove, a Hoopa Tribal member and Coastal Justice Coalition (CJC) activist.

The Coastal Justice Coalition (CJC), a branch of the Klamath Justice Coalition, is an activist group comprised of tribal people and interested community members concerned with social and environmental issues along the Pacific coast. The CJC believes that the MLPA initiative will have negative impacts on traditional subsistence gathering along the Pacific coast. Some tribal members have taken the position that regardless of the outcome of the MLPA process they will continue to gather, a position that the CJC fully supports and encourages.

“The MLPA process completely disregards tribal gathering rights and only permits discussion of commercial and recreational harvest. The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism. It doesn’t recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists,” said Frankie Myers, Yurok Tribal member and CJC activist.

Background Information:

The MLPA, passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, is very broad in scope. The law was intended to not only restrict or prohibit fishing in a network of “marine protected areas,” but to address other “human uses” and “extractive activities” including coastal development and water pollution.

The Schwarzenegger administration has taken all other “human uses” and “extractive activities” other than fishing and seaweed harvesting off the table in the implementation of the MLPA process. The MLPA initiative does nothing to stop water pollution, oil drilling, and wave energy projects or other activities from destroying fish and other marine life populations in California’s coastal waters.

Schwarzenegger has appointed oil industry, marina development, real estate and other corporate interests with numerous conflicts of interest to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces. Many MLPA Initiative critics believe that Schwarzenegger has appointed these corporate operatives to these task forces to remove fishermen and Indian Tribal members, the staunchest supporters of true ocean protection, from their fishing and gathering grounds to pave the way for ocean industrialization and privatization.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, is chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast and now serves on the MLPA panel for the North Coast. In spite of the environmental and economic devastation caused by the BP Oil Gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, she has called for new oil drilling off the California coast.

For more information and video


Klamath Media Video on
6.29.10 California Tribes Protest MLPA Science Meeting

Times Standard Article
Native American groups protest MLPA Scientific Advisory Committee

The Global Realm Article
Blaming the Tribes, Greenwashing Big Oil

Should Oil Lobbyists Write and Implement California's Environmental Laws?
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