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Kashia Pomo Tribe Wins Victory in Defense of Tribal Gathering Rights
by Dan Bacher
Wednesday Feb 9th, 2011 7:33 AM
This victory by the Kashia Pomo sets a good precedent in allowing for continued gathering and ceremonies by other Indian Tribes in California marine protected areas.
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Kashia Pomo Tribe Wins Victory in Defense of Tribal Gathering Rights

by Dan Bacher

The Kashia Pomo Tribe in Sonoma County won a major victory in defense of their tribal fishing and gathering rights on Thursday, February 3.

The California Fish and Game Commission in Sacramento voted to allow the Tribe to continue gathering and conducting ceremonies in a marine protected area at Stewarts Point. The decision made permanent an emergency provision that the Commission approved last year to allow the Tribe to continue fishing and gathering off the site for one year.

"Our people believe we first walked onto the Earth right there at Stewarts Point, and a lot of our traditions are passed down along that coast," said Reno Franklin, vice chair of the tribe, as quoted in the February 9 article by Matt Weiser in the Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/2011/02/09/3387802/state-officials-allow-kashia-pomo.html).

Archeological evidence indicates the tribe has used Stewarts Point and the surrounding shoreline for 12,000 years, according to Franklin. It has been a source of food including mussels, abalone, seaweed and fish, as well as a place for ceremonies.

The Commission voted to create a "marine conservation area" ribbon near shore, within the larger marine protected area, where limited gathering and fishing are permitted. Since the MLPA does not mention tribal gathering, the exemption is for recreational purposes and applies not just to the Tribe, but to the public in general.

The Commission decision followed the joint meeting by the Commission and the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force regarding the North Coast MLPA process on February 2. At the beginning of the hearing, Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, recently appointed by Governor Brown, said he was committed to working with Tribes and Tribal communities to protect their fishing and gathering rights. He has already met with a number of Tribes and plans to hold more meetings to resolve the issue of tribal use in marine protected areas.

"I believe they are listening and I believe they are hearing us," said Thomas O'Rourke, chair of the Yurok Tribe. "Bottom line, we all want the same thing, and that's to protect our resources. We understand each other there."

Though not mentioned in Matt Weiser's article, it is important to note that this victory against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's fast-track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative would not have occurred except for two major actions by the Tribe and their allies.

First, Kashia Pomo Tribal elders, hosted by landowner Archie Richardson, conducted a historic blessing ceremony off Stewarts Point last April 30, the day prior to the closure of the sacred site by the Fish and Game Commission.

The ceremony drew members of the Kashia Pomo, Point Arena Reservation and other Tribes, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, environmentalists and human rights activists to stand in solidarity against the unjust closure. This closure openly violated the American Religious Freedom Act and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Tribal elders Violet Chappell and her sister Vivian Parrish Wilder presided over the ceremony that drew 145 people to thank and bless the ocean for the food it has provided to native peoples for thousands of years.

"This food was created by our creator - we treated it with care and respect," said Chappell on April 30, 2010. "We are here to say respect us for our food - don't close this area down because it's part of our religion. I don't think the Fish and Game Commission would be allowed to close down a Catholic Church, would they?

Second, Reno Franklin, vice-chair of the Tribe, and their lawyer gave an excellent presentation documenting the Tribe's historic use of the area to the Fish and Game Commission in June 2010, putting the Commission in the situation where they really had no other choice than to allow the Tribe to continue gathering as they have done for thousands of years.

This victory by the Kashia Pomo sets a good precedent in allowing for continued gathering and ceremonies by other Indian Tribes in California marine protected areas. The threat to Tribal fishing and gathering rights has been one of the most controversial aspects of the MLPA Process. On July 21, over 300 members of Indian Tribes and their allies peacefully took over a MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force in Fort Bragg to speak out in defense of tribal rights.

Unfortunately, the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative has completely taken water pollution, oil spills and drilling, military testing, corporate aquaculture and other human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering in its bizarre concept of "marine protected areas." The officials that implemented the MLPA Initiative included an oil industry lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interest.

For more information and to view photos of the historic ceremony at Danaka, go to Violet Wilder's facebook page, "KEEP THE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BEACHES ACCESSIBLE FOR THE COASTAL TRIBES" (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=105945012781743).