STATEMENT TO INTERESTED PERSONS
Release Date: April 15, 2021
Subject: Permitted Access to Gated Tribal Lands Policy and Waukell Flat
Resighini Rancheria is a federally recognized Tribe of Yurok people whose lands encompass ~455 acres adjacent to the Klamath River. The reservation has existed since 1939 and the Tribal Constitution was enacted in 1975. As the governing body of a sovereign Tribal government, the Tribal Council reserves the right to create tribal laws and policies that govern access to Resighini owned lands. The Resighini Tribal Council also has the responsibility to protect tribal resources and be good stewards of the land.
Over the years, portions of Resighini tribal lands have become illegal dumping sites where non-tribal members leave abandoned vehicles, household trash, other solid waste and hazardous materials. These illegal dumping sites are close to the river and pose an imminent and direct threat to the health of the river and its ecosystem. As Yurok people, the health of the river, land and resources are directly tied to the health and wellness of our members. We cannot continue to allow our land and resources to be desecrated. Time and again, the Resighini Tribal Council has had to pay for the environmental clean-up of these dump sites. This is a significant financial burden for our small, non-gaming Tribe.
Due to the prevalence of illegal dumping and lack of respect for Resighini tribal lands and the Klamath River, the Tribal Council took action to close the end of Klamath Beach Road and to install a gate. This closure now restricts access to areas of Waukell Flat where there are known, re-occurring illegal dumping sites. The Council has developed a Permitted Access to Gated Tribal Lands Policy, in which a permit must be obtained for non-tribal member access and use of any gated tribal lands. The Tribal Council simply wants to regulate access to mitigate activities that cause negative environmental impacts, which it has the full regulatory authority to do.
Klamath Beach Road is located along the southside of the Klamath River. From the mouth, the road travels east where it continues through the trust land of the Resighini Rancheria where it terminates. The segment of Klamath Beach Road that is on the Rancheria is formally a Tribal Road, as confirmed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Del Norte County; it is not a County (i.e. public) road. There are no established easements or other lawful measures in place that would allow public or non-Resighini member access to Waukell Flat. Where Klamath Beach Road ends on the Rancheria’s trust lands is where the Tribal Council installed a gate to restrict access to the river bar area commonly known as Waukell Flat.
The Tribal Council is fully aware of the family cemetery located on Resighini land in the Waukell Flat area, and has never had any intention of preventing the family from accessing the area to care for the cemetery. There has been a longstanding acknowledgement of the family’s use of the cemetery and access to the cemetery has never been denied. In fact, when the Tribal Council decided to draft the Policy and install a gate to combat illegal dumping, we reached out on several occasions to the family, starting on January 19, 2021, to request a meeting so the family could be informed about the reason for the Council’s decision to regulate access and the process to ensure they could continue to have permitted access. The family has yet to take the Tribal Council up on the offer to meet.
The Tribal Council deeply understands the pain and multi-generational trauma that can occur because of non-native colonization, which includes the loss of lands and ownership to those lands out of traditional and/or allotment ownership. As Yurok people, our tribal citizens feel similarly with the loss of traditional and allotment ownership over areas upriver where we descend, which is now within the Yurok Reservation of the Yurok Tribe, established in 1988. We understand the continued connection and responsibility to care for those traditional places and our ancestors. These are some of the fundamental reasons why the Tribal Council has continued to try and work with the family over the years to ensure they have permitted access through Resighini lands. We do this is in spite of the fact that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has confirmed that the family has no legal title or access rights to the cemetery (Letter Dated September 9, 1991). The Tribal Council respects our Yurok traditions and will continue to try and work with the family in a good way.
The Resighini Tribal Council simply requests that the family, or any other non-Resighini tribal members who would like to access gated Tribal lands, follow the established procedural process. This is no different than any other person would have to do when requesting access to lands that are considered private, trust, or otherwise not their own. Private landowners and other local, county, state, tribal and federal governments regulate access to their lands often through a permitting process. For Resighini Rancheria to regulate access on Resighini lands should be considered no different. Again, all the Tribal Council is asking is for those who wish to access Tribal lands go through the proper channels. The sovereignty of the Resighini Rancheria should be respected by all people, especially other Tribal people who know and understand Tribal Government and its regulatory authority.