Yaksmen Claim Persecution, May Leave Arcata

Yak herders Samuel Sanchez and Tom Vanciel walking their animal companions on their spiritual journey through the streets of Arcata. KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover
Eye Editor

ARCATA – The irascible yak herders who have roamed Arcata’s streets with their hooved companions are no stranger to arguments, but fussing with passersby turned to jousting with tree branches during a clash with a bicyclist last week in the Community Forest.

Tom Vanciel and Samuel Sanchez have not had an easy time in Arcata. The two are well-known on the streets and in local media for trekking about town with their “holy” animal companion yaks.

Encounters with citizens are often tense to outright argumentative, and calls to police are common.

The two frequently find fault with the manner in which their animals are greeted, and freely dispense caustic assessments of the ethical and spiritual values of those they meet.

A succession of arguments with citizens in the Co-op parking lot led to the two being banished from there on pain of trespassing. The yaksmen have also been asked not to hang out in the Wildberries Marketplace after a complaint.

Recently, the usual verbal strife turned physical.

On Friday, Aug. 9, Vanciel reported an assault on the street by youths, but details are scanty. Apparently there was no lasting injury, and no suspects were identified or apprehended.

At that time, he blamed this newspaper’s coverage of past arguments for the alleged attack. “I feel your cavalier reporting on these real issues has made it sport to harass and denigrate,” he wrote.

On Monday, Aug. 12 at 4:03 p.m., Vanciel called Arcata Police from Trail One in the Arcata Community Forest. He reported an assault by two bicyclists who, he claimed, deliberately slammed into the two with their bikes, then followed up with fists.


A Cell phone video Vanciel posted on YouTube, titled “Just assaulted by this man,” shows a young man brandishing a large branch at the two.


The antagonists exchange epithets, then the man briefly engages in fencing with Sanchez who is also wielding a tree limb. The man then grabs his bike and flees as Sanchez flings a large branch at him.

An APD dispatcher log entry documents the police response. Officers searched for the alleged assailants, but didn’t locate them.

Vanciel claimed to have sustained a concussion and broken jaw in the clash. with pain for days afterward. In a lengthy e-mail message, he describes the forest incident and aftermath, including unsatisfactory medical treatment.

Vanciel, who speaks of past experience as a military intelligence officer, is disturbed by the government’s past and present activities with regard to suppression of the citizenry.

He often refers to Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, sometimes likening his situation to theirs. He suspects that the government may be sending him a message with the negative encounters.

“It is twice with in the very week that I indicate my intent to reveal my ‘history with empire’ that these attacks occur,” Vanciel wrote. “Who will notice if I end up dead? Who will investigate the violent death of another homeless veteran.”

Saturday, in an e-mail message titled “Yaks for sale,” Vanciel suggested that he may be leaving Arcata.

“Very sore from my beat downs and after a good birthday inventory and assessment, I feel I should disappear,” he wrote. In follow-up discussions, though, he seemed ambivalent about leaving, and said he would discuss matters with Sanchez.

Meanwhile, Vanciel wishes to address the negative image he and Sanchez have recently gained.

“Please inform your readers and general public that though reported as argumentative, in fact, the ‘Yakmen’ are committed to peacefully non violent change from this totalitarian police surveillance state,” Vanciel wrote. “Just like Gandhi, we recognize that peaceful resistance is the only way.”



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  1. Patricio Phillips said:

    I have a pet unicorn, but don't want to take him out because I know what kind of reactions I will get walking around Humboldt with a unicorn

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  4. Klammburger-ler Coan said:

    I have now met them twice, they have been pleasant I am not sure why there are so many problems going on. There is always more to the story. Maybe its just a matter of give respect, get respect?

  5. Mark Leppanen said:

    These guys have deep emotional pain. Seems like people come to Arcata to try and get better, but not everyone succeeds.

  6. Mo Hollis said:

    Trippy mon – glad the broham got his bike back…. that looked like some totally hostile tubular territory.

  7. Shelly Fitzgerald said:

    John Lemke i have seen them coming down the street with a ghetto blaster strapped onto one the yaks, blasitng some kind of chanting or something……..i love it……..i think they have some issues that haven't been addressed yet for one reason or another…….and they have some anger and trust issues, for whatever reason……there's a deeper story here, i feel it in my gut…….and i feel kinda bad for them…I'm sure they've had some bad experiences over the years and now here they are………how did they end up the way they are? you know?? maybe they have been abused in the past or something…..i'm just speculating here……………

  8. Shelly Fitzgerald said:

    i like seeing them too! but i haven't had any unpleasant incidents with them either, yet……….i suppose i could greet them on a bad day and the worm could turn, LOL……..

  9. Moonie Higginson said:

    i LIKE SEEING THEM ..LOL I am weird Shelly Fitzgerald

  10. Shelly Fitzgerald said:

    I know they were a little standoffish with me, but I just tried to respect their space and they were ok…….i even greeted them early one morning, as I was leaving for work and they were really nice and said good morning back to me and even smiled and I told them to have a great day………and then I hear all these stories about them from other people I know…………so, I don't know? I call the yaks, "service yaks" because he doesn't want anyone to touch them, just like service dogs are not to be approached when they are working, so……hell, maybe I'm weird!

  11. David LaRue said:

    Their video made clear their affinity for violance. That combined with the surely, looking for a fight attitude they greet strangers with says we will be better off without them.

  12. Karen LaPreziosa said:

    Are those two still living in that house? Aren't there laws & codes against keeping livestock in such a populated area? If so, why haven't the police done anything about it?

  13. Patrick Travis Cross said:

    dear one I am very sorry and they need to be dealt with big. Yesterday, a transient pooped in my car port. Its is disgusting. These people need to be dealt with big. Matter of Face it was diarrhea.
    Unable to post comment.

  14. Patrick Travis Cross said:

    dear one I am very sorry and they need to be dealt with big. Yesterday, a transient pooped in my car port. Its is disgusting. These people need to be dealt with big. Matter of Face it was diarrhea.
    Unable to post comment. Try Again · Edited · Like · 1

  15. Patrick Travis Cross said:

    dear one I am very sorry and they need to be dealt with big. Yesterday, some transient pooped in my car port. Its is disgusting. These did be dealt with big. Matter of Face it was diarrhea.

  16. Belinda Perkins-Brooks said:

    These guy have spit in my face, both of them when I was pulling out of the Wildberrie's Parking lot. They are extremely hostile, and bother many people in Arcata. I would have no problem going to court to testify on behave of the Good people of Arcata to get rid of them.

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