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Fri Jul 23 2010 (Updated 07/25/10) Indigenous People of the North Coast Respond to Act That Condemns Tribal Tradition
Dozens of Tribes Gather to Protest MLPA Task Force Meeting More than 50 tribal nations peacefully took control of the Marine Life Protection Act’s Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in California on July 21. Among those gathered were members of the Yurok, Tolowa, Cahto, Pomo, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Maidu, Hopi, Navajo, and other tribes. Their message to the task force: the state will no longer impose its will on indigenous people. The group of more than 300 met on Main Street in Fort Bragg, CA, and marched a half-mile to the C.V. Star Community Center, chanting, "MLPA, taking tribal rights away!" and, “No Way MLPA!”

“This is about more than a fouled-up process that attempts to prohibit tribes from doing something they have done sustainably for thousands of years,” said Frankie Joe Myers, a Yurok tribal citizen and organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition. “It is about respect, acknowledgment and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights. Whether it is their intention or not, what the Marine Life Protection Act does to tribes is it systematically decimates our ability to be who we are. That is the definition of cultural genocide.”

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is a publicly and privately funded partnership between the State of California and a few deep-pocketed foundations — chiefly the Resources Legacy Fund — to implement the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), which was signed into law in 1999. The MLPA calls for the creation of marine protected areas along the California coastline.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force is charged with making recommendations to the California Fish and Game Commission for placement of the protected areas. The task force has stated that it will view traditional tribal coastal gathers on the coast the same way it does recreational fishing. Indigenous people have gathered resources from the coast for thousands of years, making this a valuable tradition to their communities. Coastal indigenous people collect mussels, seaweed and other ocean resources for sustenance and ceremonial regalia.

Citizens from tribal nations as distant as the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma attended the meeting to stand in solidarity with northern California tribes. Dania Rose Colegrove, a Hoopa tribal citizen, states, “The Blue Ribbon Task Force had given us no indication that they were listening to North Coast Tribes’ call to respect our sovereignty. We felt that we needed show them a small symbol of what we are willing to do to pass on our culture to future generations. “

This is the second time indigenous Californians have disrupted a Marine Life Protection Act Initiative meeting. On June 29, a smaller group interrupted the MLPAI’s Science Advisory Team, which was meeting in Eureka. Members of the Coastal Justice Coalition 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 health of the ocean and coast.

The Coastal Justice Coalition is a group of concerned tribal citizens and community members who came together to defend indigenous peoples’ right to gather on the coast.

photoReport and Photos | MLPA process should address the concerns of North Coast Tribes | Klamath Justice Coalition

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