[env-trinity] (no subject)

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Mon Sep 27 20:14:30 PDT 2010


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Fishy Business


On Sept. 8, the Hoopa Valley Tribe hosted a special meeting to discuss
issues dealing with commercial fishing on the Hoopa Valley Indian
Reservation. / Photo by Manuel Sanchez.

On Sept. 8, the Hoopa Valley Tribe hosted a special meeting to discuss
issues dealing with commercial fishing on the Hoopa Valley Indian
Reservation. / Photo by Manuel Sanchez.


Hoopa Valley Tribe to Rethink Fishing Ordinance After Complaints Surface
Regarding Unfair Fishing Claims


By Manuel Sanchez, Two Rivers Tribune Contributing Writer

The Hoopa Valley Tribe is a fisheries tribe, but one thing it hasn't delved
into is selling its salmon on the commercial market. However, according to
members of the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council there are plenty of Hoopa Tribal
members doing so, so many, in fact, that the HVTC called a special meeting
on Sept. 8 to discuss the matter.

The meeting was jam-packed with local Hoopa fisherman, tribal elders, and
employees of the Hoopa Tribal Fisheries Department (Fisheries). Each had
their voices heard, with many criticizing the high number of fish that are
allegedly being sold by Tribal employees, mainly employees of Fisheries.

"Fisherman were coming to us and complaining that they weren't getting
salmon," Nelson said. "They heard rumors of how many fish were being caught
in the gorge and they wanted us to look into it."

The HVTC had the Hoopa Valley Tribal Police looked into the matter. Hoopa
Tribal Police Officer Hess and a member of the Tribal Environmental
Protection Agency immediately traveled to the gorge to check the nets. Hess
reported the nets were in compliance with the Hoopa Tribe's Fishing
Ordinance.

This report brought uproar from the gallery as many complained having seen
more than the allotted three nets in the gorge. The Hoopa Tribal Fishing
Ordinance (Title 16) states that a Tribal member may have up to 100 feet of
webbing or two nets, and the nets can't block more than one-third (1/3) of
the river-another issued brought up-changing the ordinance.

The HVTC not only discussed the possibility of commercial fishing on the
reservation, they also received a proposal to change language in the Hoopa
Tribe's Fishing Ordinance from Self-Governance Officer, Danny Jordan. With
the new changes, Jordan hopes to clear up some ambiguous language that will
clarify certain aspects of old language and open the new ordinance for
debate.

The proposed plan would eliminate the 100 foot length limit and increasing
the amount of the river that can be fished to two-thirds (2/3) is also a
proposed option. In a proposed plan, the HVTC is looking to delete the
snagging prohibition and remove restrictions on people being able to make
"improvements" on fishing sites that were damaged by the construction of the
Trinity River Dam.

Some members of the HVTC see this as a rouse for just a select few members
of the tribe to benefit. HVT Councilwoman Marcellene Norton said the
proposed changes don't address much of the issues and will only "benefit the
few fishing in the gorge."

When the proposed changes were brought up, many Tribal members at the
meeting were visibly upset and expressed their anger toward the proposed
changes.

Hoopa Tribal Fisheries Director, Mike Orcutt, stated that the people fishing
in the gorge are following the ordinance and the Hoopa Tribe isn't going
over its allocated quota of salmon which is 20 percent of the allotted
subsistence fishing, with the Yurok Tribe receiving 80 percent. He said
members of that Tribe are only catching about nine percent of their
allocation, and if they don't get the numbers up, they could be in danger of
seeing the allocation percentage lowered by negotiation with the Yurok
Tribe.

"We don't utilize the full allocation of the salmon," Orcutt said. "We are
struggling with data and have offered to write grants for fishing."

Norton said she realizes the Tribe has to meet their quota, but would hope
that people who are unemployed could benefit from commercial fishing, and
not just those who "can afford expensive power boats."

Nelson said with many of the Fisheries staff as main suppliers for local
buyers, the HVTC needs to do something to correct what he feels is a
grievous error. Norton and Nelson said they are in support of commercial
fishing, but not at the expense of the Tribe, where only a few profit.

"This should be made available to all fishermen, especially those who are
unemployed or barely making a living," Norton said. "We could sell to meet
our quotas and help people make money, which also includes subsistence and
cultural fishing."

According to Norton, from January through September of this year, there were
over 900 salmon sold to just one buyer on the North Coast, at a cost of $3
per pound. In 2009, this one buyer bought over $120,000 worth of salmon from
Hoopa tribal members, with the vast majority of them being employees of
Fisheries.

Norton said the buyer told her they had contacted Fisheries to get the word
out that they were looking for salmon, and requested their contact
information be posted at the Hoopa Tribal Police station. The post would
have stated the times the buyer was available to purchase salmon daily, and
where the salmon was going.

According to HVT's Title 16, in order for Tribal resources (i.e. salmon,
firewood, mushrooms, etc.) to be shipped off the reservation, a
transportation permit must be filled out and signed off by a Hoopa Tribal
Police. When a permit is purchased, an employee of the Hoopa Police
Department will inspect and document the load before transport.

Many people at the Sept. 8 meeting claimed they did not know that they could
purchase a permit to sell fish. One Tribal member said he sold $7,000 worth
of salmon in 2009, but he was unemployed and that was how he made a living
for his family.

"I would only catch my fish, about the time the water was too low for the
power boats to make it down the gorge," the fisherman said.

Hoopa Tribal member Mikey McCovey what said he was upset about, besides the
amount of money being made by a few, was that people put their lives on the
line fighting for fishing rights in the late 1970s and early 1980s and he
never saw any of those people selling salmon commercially.

"This is not right, we had families who were putting their lives on the
line, just to catch and eat fish," McCovey said. "And now there are people
who don't care about the fish, just how much money they could make."

Many at the meeting wanted to know where in the ordinance it states tribal
members could sell salmon. One commercial fisherman pointed to a July, 29,
1989 special election that discontinued the prohibition of commercial sales
of salmon.

Resolution # 89-104 states, "Shall the Hoopa Valley Business Council, in
order to ensure and enhance the preservation of Hoopa Tribal fishing rights,
discontinue the prohibition on commercial fishing on the Hoopa Valley
Reservation and if discontinued by this referendum, formulate with input
from the Hupa people an ordinance which would regulate a commercial fishery
on the Hoopa Valley Reservation."

The resolution passed by a 152-100 vote, with 765 eligible voters. For many,
the resolution, which has no regulations, has been seen as a loop hole for
individuals to sell salmon for personal gain. Nelson said this has been
utilized only by the people in the know, mainly employees from Hoopa Tribal
Fisheries.

"Regulations should have been created by our attorneys with input from the
council and Fisheries," Nelson said. "But at the time, they were dealing
with the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act."

On Sept. 10, two days after the special meeting, Nelson wrote a memorandum
to the Hoopa Tribal Police Chief Robert Kane ordering him to uphold the
fishing ordinance, and placed a hold on the sale of transportation permits.

Nelson said he wrote that memo because he was concerned about the well being
of fisherman on the river. He was told by numerous people that altercations
were getting out of hand and that people were threatening others with bodily
harm. According to an employee of the Hoopa Tribal Police Department, no
permits have been issued since the memo.

"We were getting rumors of possible violence," Nelson said. "People were
talking about shooting out boats, so I wrote the memo to enforce Title 16
for safety."

Nelson said he also wrote the memo enforcing the 1986 law because he felt as
though some individuals were taking advantage of their position and
profiting off the tribe's resources, adding that under the 1989 vote, it
states the Hoopa Tribe would be the sellers for the membership and that the
money could go into the "kitty" for Tribal per capita.

Nelson and Norton are organizing a general meeting on Oct. 2 to meet with
the tribal membership and concerned citizens about Title 16, as well as the
proposed changes.

"To make a few thousand [dollars] is alright, but there are some who are
making tens of thousands of dollars," Nelson said. "The council will tailor
Title 16 to meet what the majority of the people want, not just a few."

Nelson said what is most disturbing is that the people who are supposed to
be protecting Tribal resources are the ones who are profiting from them. He
said there are many Tribal members who are calling for select Tribal
employees' jobs, and said he would like the Tribal membership's input on the
matter.

One idea brought up by Norton is to bring buyers to Hoopa and have them go
through a bidding process to purchase salmon. Nelson added to this by saying
there is a great need for monitoring of resources, making sure the salmon
are not being overharvested. He said the HVTC is considering developing a
new department under the Hoopa Tribal Police Department to deal solely with
Tribal resources.

Nelson said with the majority of the sales in recent years coming from Hoopa
tribal employees who make high salaries and aren't required to pay taxes,
the HVTC needs to make this system fair for all Hoopa Tribal members and not
those who are sworn to protect the river.

 

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax

415 519 4810 mobile

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 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

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