Saturday, September 3, 2011

JUNE 29, 2010 - Fish and Game Commission refuses to recognize tribal gathering rights at meeting in Stockton

By: Dan Bacher

On June 29, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4 to 1 at its meeting in Stockton to approve a "preferred alternative," an amended version of the "unified proposal" developed by fishing, environmental and tribal stakeholders to create a network of marine protected areas on the North Coast.

Commissioners Richard Rogers, Michael Sutton, Jack Baylis and Jim Kellogg voted for the alternative, while Commissioner Daniel Richards voted against it.

Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird, a strong supporter of Arnold Schwarzenegger's privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, claimed that the Commission decision was "a major victory in the effort to establish Marine Protected Areas on the north coast of California." He applauded the Commission for voting for an exception for area tribes to "continue hundreds of years of subsistence fishing."

“As we promised earlier this year, we have devised a pathway to begin the process to allow tribes on the North Coast to continue ancestral fishing practices in many of the areas most important to them,” said Laird. “This is an extremely important decision to move the Marine Life Protection Act forward and to show respect for the sovereign tribal nations.”

Laird said the plan will allow tribal gathering to continue in State Marine Conservation Areas (but not State Marine Reserves) by tribal users. "The gathering can continue where a factual record can be established that shows ancestral take or tribal gathering practices by a federally-recognized tribe in that specific Marine Protected Area," he stated.

“We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to work closely with the sovereign tribes of the North Coast and hope this provides a framework for future efforts on important conservation and environmental issues,” said Laird.

Unfortunately, Laird failed to asked Tribal leaders about how they felt about this so-called "major victory."

Yurok Tribe: "an unjust and patronizing step"

In contrast with Laird's attempt to give a positive spin to the decision, the decision actually "failed to affirm traditional tribal gathering," according to a statement from the Yurok Tribe, the largest Indian Tribe in California with 5,500 members.

According to "Option 1" that the Commission adopted, tribal members sixteen or older would have to use a state recreational fishing license in addition to a Tribal ID and be limited by state regulations.

“I cannot accept the part about the fishing license," said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke Sr. "The Fish and Game has taken an unjust and patronizing step. No one can separate these resources from our culture.”

Option 1 states: “Tribal gathering to continue in SMCAs (not SMRs), by specific tribal users, where a factual record can be established that shows ancestral take or tribal gathering practices by a federally-recognized tribe in that specific MPA (marine protected area), and by allowing only those tribes to take specified species with specified gear types.”

The Northern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association and the Inter-Tribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, representing all of the recognized tribes in the study region, proposed a motion that would have affirmed traditional tribal harvest managed by individual Tribal governments.

The motion states: “Consistent with the tribal gathering general concepts described in Option 1…Traditional, non-commercial tribal uses shall be allowed to continue unimpeded within the proposed SMCAs and SMRMs in the MLPA’s North Coast Study Region for all federally recognized tribes that can establish that they have practiced such uses within a specific SMCA or SMRMA.”

However, the Commission refused to approve that motion, instead adopting a version of "Option 1" with the controversial new language as the "preferred alternative."

“We’ve said from the beginning tribal rights are nonnegotiable,” Chairman O’Rourke Sr. affirmed. “We’ve said that because we are in charge of our destiny. We will never concede our rights or governing authority to the state over our waters.”

Tribal members will gather, regardless of Commission decision

Tribal members at the meeting indicated that they would continue to gather as indigenous people have done for thousands of years, regardless of the Commission's decision.

"Even if traditional gathering is banned, we will still continue to gather," said Georgiana Myers, Yurok Tribal member, during the public comment period prior to the Commission vote.

To protest proposed restrictions on coastal gathering proposed under the MLPA Initiative, members of the Yurok, Hoopa Valley, Karuk and other Tribes before the meeting on Saturday, June 18 gathered seaweed, mussels and clams at three beaches on the North Coast.

"Our message is 'Don't mussel us out,'" said Dania Rose Colegrove, Hoopa Tribal Citizen and organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition. "We're here to stay - we've been gathering here for thousands of years."

She pointed out the hypocrisy of the MLPA's "marine protected areas" restricting tribal gathering and fishing, while doing nothing to stop ocean industrialists from destroying the marine ecosystem.

"How is it that the MLPA doesn't protect the ocean from big oil, wave energy projects, water pollution, military testing and all of the people who want to mess up the ocean, the people with big money," Colegrove emphasized. "Now the North Coast has been opened up to military testing by the Navy."

For more information about Tribal resistance to the MLPA Initiative, go to:

Commissioners voice concerns with MLPA Initiative

Two Fish and Game Commissioners expressed their concerns with the MLPA "preferred alternative" and the controversial process in general.

Commissioner Richards, the one Commissioner who voted against the MLPA plan, responded to DFG Director John McCamman’s statement that the cost of enforcement of the MLPA coastwide would be a “a range from $9 million to $43 million.”

"I have one thing to interject here,” he stated. “If any organization I ever had anything to do with turned in a business plan, and said their budget was somewhere between $200,000, and $4.6 million, I would say, “YOU'RE FIRED!”

In spite of voting for the "preferred alternative," Kellogg declared, "I'm for Option Zero. Things are fine the way they are."

A broad coalition, ranging from fishing industry representatives to environmental groups, from county governments to Native American governments, supports the decriminalization of the traditional tribal harvest of coastal resources. Representatives of fishing groups, environmental organizations and Tribes from throughout Northern California spoke in support of protecting traditional tribal gathering and the proposal by the Northern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association during the meeting’s public comment period.

The "preferred alternative," along with two alternatives including "Option Zero," will now undergo review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Commission is planning to adopt the final plan for North Coast marine protected areas in early 2012.

This option, as approved by the Fish and Game Commission, will be reviewed during an environmental impact study over the next several months. If the commission approves the findings of the study, the newest Marine Protected Areas will be established on the North Coast.

Commission chooses October 1 as effective date for South Coast MPAs

The Commission, in another controversial 4 to 1 vote the same day, chose Oct. 1, 2011 as the "effective date" for implementation of the marine protected areas in Southern California under the MLPA Initiative.

On Dec. 15, 2010 the Commission adopted regulations to create a network of "marine protected areas" (MPAs) in the South Coast study region. This network of 49 MPAs and three special closures covers approximately 354 square miles of state waters and represents approximately 15 percent of the region.

"The regulatory package is being prepared for the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and the date selected allows time for OAL review and approval, finalizing the lawmaking process," stated Jordan Traverso, DFG spokesperson.

A coalition of fishing groups opposed the selection of the October 1 date, noting that "process of developing Marine Protected Areas in the South Coast study area was significantly flawed."

"The Commission acted without the required statutory authority to act," said George Osborn, spokesman for the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans (PSO). "It violated the Coastal Act and it violated the California Environmental Quality Act. The process mandated by the MLPA was subverted by the MLPA 'Initiative' and by the creation and actions of the BRTF."

Osborn emphasized that public records “clearly demonstrate that members of the the BRTF engaged in private meetings not open to the public or noticed to the public, in which policy matters were discussed and decided upon before the so-called ‘public’ meetings of the BRTF. We believe the process was illegal and violates California statutes. The MLPAI was anything but ‘open and transparent as is so often proclaimed.”

United Anglers of Southern California, the Coastside Fishing Club and Bob Fletcher are engaged in multi-tiered litigation in San Diego Superior Court challenging the legality of the MLPA Initiative. To date, they have won three court victories in a row.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Slide Show of gathering on the coast - June 18th 2011

Click on link to see full slide show.

Pictures by: Amanita

Tribes Express Coastal Gathering Rights

For Immediate Release
Contact Matt Mais
Yurok Tribe
(707) 482-1350 ext. 306

Tribes express coastal gathering rights in ancestral territory
Tribal members will meet at several locations on Saturday to practice traditional harvest

Armed with only tribal identification cards, Native Americans from Tolowa Country to the Wiyot Nation will be assembling on culturally critical beaches Saturday to harvest marine resources.

“We don’t perceive traditional tribal gathering of ocean resources to be some kind of delinquent activity, but the state and feds do,” said Yurok Tribal Heritage Preservation Officer, Bob 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 Native Americans have changed since most of the rules that govern California’s coast were signed into law.

“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 a.m., Clam Beach at 7:30 a.m. and Wilson Creek Beach near Klamath at 8:30 a.m..

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Assert Your Native Gathering Rights!

Saturday, June 18 · 5:30am - 8:30am

Your gathering place or Patrick's Point 5:30am, Clam Beach 7:30am, Wilson Crk near Klamath 8:30am

This Saturday, the Klamath and Coastal Justice Coalitions are calling on all members of local tribes to gather coastal resources at their traditional gathering places. Members of the Justice Coalitions will be harvesting coastal resources 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.

“It is our sovereign and sacred right to harvest coastal resources according to ...our customs. We will no longer allow the state or the feds to criminalize our culture.” said Hoopa Tribal Citizen Dania Rose Colegrove, an organizer for the Klamath Justice Coalition.

Local Tribes use hundreds of coastal resources for ceremonial regalia, medicine and for subsistence. Under the proposed Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), tribal citizens face fines and potential incarceration for harvesting for traditional purposes in a culturally appropriate way. Regulations against indigenous people in state parks, federal marine reserves and the proposed MLPA areas are an unacceptable and outdated threat to native sovereignty and culture.

The Klamath and Coastal Justice Coalitions are native alliances formed with the aim of protecting tribal rights. The KJC played a large role in pushing forward the removal of four dams on the Klamath River and is currently working to ensure California’s Marine Life Protection Act honors tribal sovereignty.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Know Your Rights

Tips for everyday life or when taking action and speaking out for justice
Civil Liberties Defense Center –

What to do if you are stopped by the police
There are 3 distinct categories of police interference with a citizen’s liberties: Conversation, Detention and Arrest. It is important to identify your situation so you know your rights, and, remember, anything you say can and will be used against you! Stay calm and in control of your words and actions at all times.

• Mere Conversation - LEVEL 1
Police officers have the same right as any other citizen to approach you and inquire about circumstances of interest. However, absent any reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity, an officer cannot detain you.
You do not have to provide identification to an officer at this level unless you are in a motor vehicle.
You do not have to answer any questions.
Determine if you are in a Level 1 situation by asking if you are free to leave.

• Detention - LEVEL 2

If an officer reasonably suspects you have been involved in a crime, they may detain you for questioning. You may invoke your 5th amendment rights and remain silent. You must provide identification upon request at this level (name, address, d.o.b.). You do not need to provide your social security number.
Giving a false name is a criminal offense.
You do not have to consent to a search.
However, if the police have probable cause or a warrant your consent is not required.
If the police say they have a warrant, ask to see it.
Police may pat down your clothing if they have a reasonable suspicion that you are carrying a concealed weapon; do not physically resist but make it clear that you do not consent to any further search.
What you choose to say to the police is important—it can be used against you later and can provide the police with probable cause to arrest you.
Don’t run away even if you believe what is happening to you is unreasonable or unlawful; this may lead to your arrest.
Remember officers names and badge numbers and write down everything about the incident as soon as possible.

• Arrest - LEVEL 3

You have the right to remain silent—wait for your attorney before saying anything.
Ask for an attorney immediately upon being taken into custody.
If you refuse to provide a name and address while in custody, you will not be eligible for release or a court appointed attorney in most circumstances.
Within a reasonable time, the police must allow you to make a phone call to your attorney and they may not legally listen to that call—but assume that they will.
Do not talk to fellow arrestees regarding the circumstances of the arrest—you never know who might be listening.
You must be provided adequate medical care while in custody. If you are on medication, inform the jail of that fact immediately and repeatedly.
If you have dietary restrictions for health or religious reasons, the jail may be required to provide you with alternative meals. Inform the jail of your dietary needs as soon as you arrive. If the jail fails to accommodate those needs, begin the grievance process immediately.

What Happens Next?
Take photographs of any injuries right away. Get medical attention and copies of the medical reports.
Either while in custody, or shortly upon your release, you will be required to appear in court for an arraignment hearing.
Plead NOT GUILTY to all charges. Apply for a court appointed attorney if you so choose. You will receive a future court date to appear.
Make contact with your attorney as soon as possible. It is your responsibility to remain in contact with your attorney, this may be frustrating, but will be essential to your defense!
If you remain in custody, you have a right to a jury trial within 60 days in Oregon, or within 30 days in California.
If you choose to go to trial, it may be your responsibility to locate and secure witnesses on your behalf.
If you are found guilty at trial, or elect to plead guilty, you are allowed to delay sentencing at least 48 hours. At the sentencing hearing, you may be ordered to serve jail time, so be prepared to report to jail immediately.

Friday, March 25, 2011

April 1, 2011 - Speak for the Klamath Benefit!

April 1st 2011

Come celebrate the beautiful struggle to remove the Klamath Dams and support current efforts to send activists to Washington DC!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

MLPA Attempts to Ban Traditional Tribal Gathering along North Coast by Dan Bacher

A panel appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to implement his controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative will consider amending a motion that will, in effect, ban traditional harvesting by Indian Tribes until the legal authority to regulate the Tribal uses is clarified by the State of California and California Tribes.

This amendment will be discussed at Schwarzenegger’s Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) meeting this Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 10 am via teleconference. BTRF members will be distributed between locations in Crescent City, Eureka, and Fort Bragg, in a thinly-veiled attempt to prevent a unified protest by tribes, fishermen and environmental activists.

“The MLPA is trying to ban any and all gathering along our coastline, including NO TRADITIONAL gathering whatsoever, in marine protected areas,” said Georgiana Myers, organizer of the Klamath Justice Coalition and Yurok Tribal member. “I urge people to speak out against this insane idea of taking away what is not theirs to take!”

Yurok Tribal representatives and other North Coast Tribes expressed strong opposition to the original motion four, the “Enhanced Compliance Alternative,” by Gregory F. Schem, at the October 25-26, Blue Ribbon Task Force, (BRTF) meeting in Fortuna. They did so on the specific grounds that once the BRTF started changing the unified proposal, “it would be an invitation to make further changes,” according to a draft letter to BRTF Chair Cindy Gustafson by Thomas O’Rourke, chairman of the Yurok Tribal Council.

The unified proposal, developed by Tribal, fishing and environmental stakeholders in a long and grueling process, included the recognition of traditional Tribal subsistence and ceremonial uses in a process that has been characterized by conflicts of interests, institutional racism, and the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws.

This recognition was only made possible under the pressure of non-violent direct action in Fort Bragg on July 21, when over 300 people including members of 50 Indian Nations, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, environmentalists, and immigrant seafood workers peacefully took over the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting to protest the MLPA’s violation of Tribal rights.

Schem claimed in a letter to Gustafson on November 16, “After initially reviewing the two documents I went back to the October 26 video and reviewed the deliberations, as the language staff developed does not appear to capture the intent of my motion for the North Coast Enhanced Compliance Alternative MPA Proposal. My intent was to provide to the California Fish and Game Commission an alternative MPA proposal that came closer to meeting the science guidelines to ensure that the statewide system of MPAs would help achieve the goals of the MLPA.”

Many feared that the task force, dominated by oil industry, real estate, marina development and other special interests, would renege on the unified proposal – and they apparently have done this by convening this meeting to amend the proposal.

“Our worst fears have already been realized,” said O’Rourke. “The proposed additional motion for BRTF consideration is: ’only include proposed allowed uses with a moderate-high or high level of protection for any MPA…all proposed uses with a moderate moderate-low or low level of protection would not be included.’”

“Almost all of the Native American traditional subsistence gathering species have been characterized as moderate or less in the level of protection,” said O’Rourke. “The net result of the motion and clarification would be the IMMEDIATE TERMINATION of Native American marine harvesting rights. The Yurok Tribe notes that you cannot fairly characterize yourself as being a supporter of Tribal Rights when your first action is to immediately terminate those Native American rights.”

“The Regional Stakeholders Group, (RSG) and Unified Proposal was a unique effort that brought consensus among all stakeholders of the North Coast Group. Such a consensus has not been achieved in any other MLPA Group area. The RSG made it very clear that they wanted a ribbon to provide for Native American harvesting. To the extent that also required recreational uses they were still in support of allowing both uses while the legislature was deliberating,” he stated.

O’Rourke noted that throughout the process the Stakeholders Group was concerned that their nearly unanimous view was not always being properly or strongly enough portrayed to the task force. With its letter, the Yurok Tribe is including a petition signed by 28 members of the RSG. The purpose of the petition was to make sure Native American uses would be continued throughout the MLPA process.

“The Unified proposal and Native American subsistence rights were supported by an amazing 31 public entities in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte Counties,” said O’Rourke. “Clearly, the proposed amendment completely changes the Unified proposal. It is ironic that there was so much praise for the North Coast Stakeholders coming up with a Unified proposal and so little adherence is now being proposed. Others areas of the State will no doubt conclude there is little value in working together to come up with a common proposal that can so easily be cast aside.”

O’Rourke said the California Fish and Game Commission has provided for a “regulatory avoidance ribbon” for both Native American and recreational uses in other MLPA regions. For example, the Commission approved a proposal to amend subsection 632 (b) (11) Title 14 CCR Re Stewarts Point Marine Reserve to allow for Tribal and recreational use at the June 24, 2010 and September 16, 2010 Commission meetings. However, this was only done under the pressure of a historic Kashia Pomo blessing ceremony that was held at Stewarts Point (Danaka) on April 30, the day before this sacred site was scheduled for permanent closure.

“After all the testimony and input from Native Americans and the support of thirty one North Group area governmental entities, the Yurok Tribe is frankly shocked that the proposed motion recommends that the North Group area have greater restrictions against Native American subsistence harvesting than has occurred anywhere else under the MLPA process,” said O’Rourke. “We believe a compelling case has been made about the number and strength of Tribes in the North Group Area and that a wise public policy would include Tribes as part of the management solution at all stages of the process.”

“To come out with an interim policy so strong against the Tribal uses is worse than if you had stated nothing. When the California Fish and Game Commission considers Native American and recreational users avoidance, as in the Central Coast Region, the Commission will have to do so against expressed opposition by the BRTF. Such specific and express opposition to Native American avoidance has not existed in any other MLPA,” O’Rourke continued.

The Yurok Tribe requests the following substitute motion be adopted: “The BRTF intends that Native American and recreational uses be continued in all North Coast Region MLPA designations until such time as the California legislature allows for separate Native American subsistence marine gathering.”

The MLPA’s panel’s attempt to terminate Tribal gathering rights is a clear violation of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Article 32, Section 2, of the Declaration mandates “free prior and informed consent” in consultation with the indigenous population affected by a state action ( The amendment also violates Article 26, Section 3, that declares, “States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.”

The Yurok, Tolowa, Kashia Pomo, Cahto and other North Coast Tribes have harvested seaweed, mussels, abalone and other marine life in a sustainable manner for thousands of years in the inter-tidal zones of the North Coast. There is no evidence whatsover that this traditional activity has “depleted” any species to warrant closures.

Recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters and grassroots environmentalists are all appalled by the MLPA’s attempt to renege on the unified proposal and the protection of tribal rights. Jim Martin, West Coast Regional Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said, “Schem’s amendment is outrageous. I have no idea what he is thinking. This amendment circumvents the local process.”

Schem, the sponsor of the controversial motion that would in effect ban tribal gathering, is no stranger to charges of conflicts of interest under the MLPA Initiative. During a Fish and Game Commission meeting earlier this year, Bob Fletcher, former Deputy Director of the DFG, claimed there was evidence that two members of the South Coast MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force, Bill Anderson and Greg Schem, agreed “to sign off on everything else” in return for not putting a reserve in an area where both had marinas and business interests, according to Jim Matthews of

Schem and Anderson, both appointed by Schwarzenegger, are strange choices for “marine guardians” Gregory F. Schem is president and chief executive officer of Harbor Real Estate Group, specializing in marina and waterfront real estate investments, including a marina, fuel dock, and boat yard in Marina del Rey, in addition to other California assets. William (Bill) Anderson has been president and chief operating officer of Westrec Marinas since 1989. Westrec Marinas is the nation’s largest owner and operator of waterfront marinas.

Fletcher, the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans and United Anglers of Southern California are pursuing multi-layered litigation against the MLPA Initiative. On October 1, a Superior Court Judge in Sacramento issued a ruling confirming that two panels overseeing the MLPA Initiative must comply with the California Public Records Act. Judge Patrick Marlette ruled that the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) and Master Plan Team (MPT) are state agencies and are therefore compelled by California’s Public Records Act to share information with representatives of angling/conservation organizations working to protect recreational ocean access.

The unified proposal, including any amendments to the “enhanced compliance alternative, will be presented to the Fish and Game Commission on February 2, 2011, after Governor-Elect Jerry Brown takes office.

Georgiana Myers is urging everybody concerned about environmental justice and the protection of Tribal rights to show up at the teleconference locations on Thursday, December 9, at 10 a.m. to speak out in opposition to the task force’s attempt to terminate Tribal rights. The locations are:

Flynn Center
981 H Street
Crescent City, CA 95531

Red Lion Hotel
1929 Fourth Street
Eureka, CA 95501

C.V. Starr Community Center
300 South Lincoln Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Please see the meeting agenda and the briefing documents at

For more information about the Coastal Justice Coalition and Klamath Justice Coalition, contact:
Georgiana Myers, Coastal Justice Coalition: (707) 951-5548, sregonlady [at]
Frankie Myers, Klamath Justice Coalition: (707) 951-5052