Trinidad Rancheria: Seek collaborative solutions for Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse

Trinidad Rancheria

TRINIDAD – Recently, the Cher-ae Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria (Trinidad Rancheria), a Federally Recognized Tribe, has been attacked politically and culturally by the Yurok Tribe and the Tsurai Ancestral Society (TAS). Until this time, the Tribal Council has chosen not to respond to allegations and accusations made by either group. The Trinidad Rancheria has been misrepresented and maligned by the TAS, as well as by members of the Yurok Tribe, their Council and staff. Despite these unjustified accusations and negative attacks, the Trinidad Rancheria is determined to remain faithful to our Vision and Mission Statements.

The Trinidad Rancheria is extremely concerned about the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, as well as Trinidad Rancheria lands, the Tsurai Village, the Galindo Street Trail, and the larger Trinidad Community as a whole. We want the community and the public to understand that we do not agree with some aspects of the statements and actions of the Yurok Tribe and the TAS regarding these areas.

To collaboratively come to a successful resolution of the issue of the Memorial Lighthouse, Trinidad Rancheria recommends convening the Civic Club (the owner of the Memorial Lighthouse), and the appropriate governmental entities and stakeholders to develop solutions and create a cooperative body for the Memorial Lighthouse and the surrounding area.

An extremely good example of a local cooperative management team is the one formed through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Trinidad Head Lighthouse Management Plan. The United States Coast Guard transferred the Trinidad Head Lighthouse to the BLM in May, 2014. The BLM asked the City of Trinidad, The Yurok Tribe, and the Trinidad Rancheria “to participate as Cooperating Agencies (40 CFR 1501.6, 40 CFR 1508.5) to bring special expertise to the development of this management plan.” The BLM model could serve as a tried and true template in resolving the Memorial Lighthouse issues.

On December 7, an emergency permit was issued by the City of Trinidad to begin temporary relocation efforts of the Memorial Lighthouse. The Civic Club contracted with Trinidad Rancheria to provide cultural monitoring services for the project during the week of December 11, and our Tribal Heritage Preservation Officer felt it vital for on-site monitoring.

A certified cultural monitor was on site performing her job duties, when several staff of the Yurok Tribe arrived on site and demanded that the Civic Club and the contractor immediately cease work, and directly questioned the Trinidad Rancheria employee as to her qualifications and training as a Cultural Monitor.

The Yurok Tribe has repeatedly disputed Trinidad Rancheria’s Cultural Monitors and Tribal Heritage Preservation Officer’s knowledge and qualifications to perform such duties; when in fact, the Trinidad Rancheria and the Yurok Tribe have previously sponsored joint Cultural Monitor Certification Trainings and certified their respective monitors utilizing the identical curriculum. We trained our monitors together in a collaborative effort to protect resources throughout our shared ancestral territory.

In a December 15 statement published in the Lost Coast Outpost, Rosie Clayburn, the Director of the Yurok Tribe Cultural Division, stated, “If the new location slips toward the sea, it will take out the cemetery, most of the village site and the Axel Lindgren Memorial Trail, a path our people have used since time immemorial.”

As people of Yurok descent and heritage, the Rancheria respects the cultural and historic importance of the Tsurai village and agrees that protection of the village and associated burial sites is of utmost importance. The current project will move the lighthouse 20 feet to the left of the existing location. If the new location slips, it may impact the Tsurai Study Area and therefore a long-term strategy should be explored for permanent relocation

In the same article, Frankie Myers, the Yurok Tribal Heritage Preservation Officer, likened the Memorial Lighthouse to the Gold Rush era, stating that, “For Yuroks, the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse is a monument to this tragic era. We feel like it is no different than the statues created to honor Confederate soldier in the South.”

Trinidad Rancheria agrees that the atrocities of the past were a horrific time in the history of all Yurok people, which includes not only the Yurok Tribe but also the Big Lagoon Rancheria, Resighini Rancheria and the Trinidad Rancheria, all tribes of “Historic Yurok Origin.” (Senate Report Number 100-564 at 29 (1988).

The Yurok Tribe and the TAS both deny that Trinidad Rancheria Tribal members descend from the village; however family genealogies demonstrate otherwise. Nevertheless, in the spirit of reunification and collaboration, all parties should come together in a peaceful and respectful manner to resolve the issues.

The Tsurai village is located within the historic area of ancestral territory of the Yurok people. The Yurok Tribe in their constitution claims “jurisdiction over ancestral territory,” from the mouth of Wilson Creek near Klamath to Little River. This area includes public, private and tribal lands not under the control or authority of the Yurok Tribe, and the Trinidad Rancheria has 97 acres of trust land in the region.

This “ancestral territory” is in reality a common territory shared by all descendants of Yurok People as a whole. The Yurok Tribe is not synonymous with the Yurok people; this is the ancestral homeland of all Federally Recognized Tribes of historic Yurok origin.

The Yurok Tribe has been working on Yurok Lands Legislation for several years, sponsored by Congressman Jared Huffman. The Trinidad Rancheria has been working with Congressman Huffman and his staff to recommend revised language in the legislation to specifically state that the Yurok Tribe does not have jurisdiction over ancestral territory outside their reservation boundaries.

Provided that the rights of Trinidad Rancheria members are protected, the Trinidad Rancheria does not object to the Yurok Tribe obtaining additional acreage and revising their reservation boundaries, which currently is one mile on either side of the Klamath River from the confluence of the Klamath and Trinity Rivers to the mouth of the Klamath River.

The proposed amendments in the Yurok Lands Legislation would change some provisions regarding the administration of federal lands that would be located within the revised Yurok Reservation boundary

We do object to another tribe asserting authority and jurisdiction over property and assets not under their ownership or control. All Federally Recognized Tribes of historic Yurok origin have equal standing with regard to such lands.

Trinidad Rancheria is a Federally Recognized Tribe located one mile from the City of Trinidad. The Trinidad Rancheria was established in 1917 and celebrated its centennial in 2017. Our vision statement is “Honoring the Past, Living in the Present, Looking Toward the Future.”

The Trinidad Rancheria’s mission statement upholds our belief and principle of being a strong community partner and to form collaborative partnerships: “to preserve and promote our cultural and traditional beliefs; improve quality of life and self sufficiency; uphold tribal sovereignty; create positive partnerships; and protect the environment in order to provide a healthy community, honor our elders, and guide our youth.”

Trinidad Rancheria owns and operates the Seascape Harbor Businesses including the Trinidad Pier, Seascape Restaurant, a boat launch facility and a vacation rental, totaling 9.3 acres. Pursuant to a California Ocean Plan agreement between the State and the Trinidad Rancheria, the Rancheria completed environmental improvements at the harbor, including a rebuilt pier, septic tank upgrades, a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant, storm water-runoff mitigations, and public restroom facilities. These improvements better serve the community and visitors to the harbor and beach area. As a government and business owner, we have demonstrated our resolve to mitigate environmental and cultural issues, and continue to develop the harbor properties with strong cultural, environmental and economic oversight.

The Trinidad Rancheria remains committed to the respectful resolution of the many issues facing the Civic Club, the City of Trinidad, and the local Federally Recognized Tribes.


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