The Yuki People and the Legacy of Serranus Hastings

Sinkyone Council supports an important Indigenous People’s justice initiative led by Yuki people in collaboration with UC Hastings Law and Round Valley Indian Tribes to recognize and address acts of genocide against the Yuki perpetrated by the College’s founder Serranus Hastings, who later became California’s first Supreme Court Chief Justice. In the 1850s, Hastings ordered the forced removal of Yuki people from Eden and Round Valleys, which resulted in a massacre of hundreds of Yuki. Hastings then took large areas of Yuki land, by which he was greatly enriched. In 1878 Hastings founded the state’s first law school, which still bears his name.

The Yuki are the original people of Round Valley, Eden Valley, and adjacent vicinities.  The Sinkyone Council supports this Indigenous justice endeavor because it exposes and confronts harsh truths about atrocities experienced by the Yuki people: that the original guardians of these lands and waters were subjected to widespread attacks, massacres, land thefts, and numerous other human rights violations. We also support this effort of recognition and reconciliation because it seeks to honor the lives, the resilience, and the cultural lifeways of the Yuki people who survived these acts of violence.

Sinkyone Council members, including those of Yuki ancestry, have met and collaborated with representatives of UC Hastings Law and are honored to have contributed to the development of key concepts that are informing a series of initiatives the Yuki people, Round Valley Indian Tribes, and UC Hastings Law will be collaborating on as they pursue reconciliation and justice. The Sinkyone Council thanks the Yuki people, Round Valley Indian Tribes, and UC Hastings Law for embarking upon this journey of truth and healing. To learn more about this initiative, read our complete synopsis: The Yuki People and the Legacy of Serranus Hastings.

Protecting Richardson Grove

The Sinkyone Council is unconditionally opposed to the proposed widening US Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park. The Grove comprises an important area of Sinkyone Traditional Territory and is a Sinkyone cultural heritage site of immense significance to Tribes and Tribal Peoples of this region. Sinkyone Council believes that the proposed highway widening would destroy some of the Grove’s ancient Gááhs-tcho (redwoods), and would permanently harm many other aspects of this vitally important Sinkyone cultural landscape. We will provide updates on this important fight to protect Nature and Sinkyone cultural heritage.

Our allies at the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) recently provided an important update on the ongoing fight to protect the ancient Gááhs-tcho of Richardson Grove. In the update, EPIC acknowledges the Sinkyone People as the Indigenous inhabitants of Richardson Grove and discloses an error made ten years ago when the lawsuit to protect the Grove was filed. Learn more about the fight to protect this vitally important grove of Gááhs-tcho, part of the last 2% of old-growth redwood still standing: Correcting the Record on Richardson Grove.

Marine Mammals and Tribal Lifeways

Since 2005, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council has been a leader in the movement demanding greater protection for marine mammals and the Tribes’ cultural lifeways, which are inextricably linked. In 2012 the Council was lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for permitting the US Navy’s take of marine mammals. In 2013, a federal judge ruled in our favor, requiring the Navy and NMFS to develop measures to better protect sea mammals. Since 2015, we have facilitated a formal Government-to-Government Consultation process between our member Tribes and the Navy. The consultation addresses Tribal opposition and concerns about training and testing the Navy conducts offshore from Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

In recent months, several important protective measures for marine mammals were adopted by the Navy and NMFS as a direct result of the Tribal—Navy Consultation process, and the extensive Tribal comments submitted, and ongoing communications with the Navy and NMFS. Learn about the protective measures by reading our April 2021 Update Regarding NWTT Mitigations.

In 2019 and 2020, Sinkyone Council and its member Tribes developed and submitted extensive comments to the Navy and NMFS regarding the environmental permits governing the Navy’s training and testing activities in the Northwest Training and Testing Study Area (NWTT), which is approximately 250 nautical miles (NM) wide x 500 NM long. See Map of NWTT Study Area. It encompasses a vast network of complex, interdependent, and imperiled marine ecosystems situated within traditional territories of numerous Tribal Nations that have lived in close relationship with their coastal and marine environments for countless generations. To learn more about the Tribes’ concerns, please read the Tribal Comment Letter to US Navy on Draft SEIS, and the Tribal Comment Letter to NMFS on Proposed Rule for NWTT. You can also read the Environmental Group Comment Letter to NMFS.

Table K-2 of the SEIS: Marine Species Mitigation Areas in the NWTT Offshore Area, summarizes mitigation areas developed to further avoid or reduce potential impacts on marine mammals, sea turtles, ESA-listed fish, and marbled murrelets.

During 2021 and beyond, the Tribes and Sinkyone Council will be keeping an active watch on how the Navy and NMFS are implementing the new measures. To access the final environmental statements and permits see: Navy’s Final Supplemental EIS and NMFS Final Rule.

Kelp and Seaweed

Sinkyone Council and its member Tribes want California to enact stronger measures to protect kelp and seaweed from the increasing pressures of commercial harvesting, climate change, pollution, and other devastating impacts. The health of the ocean is a reflection of the planet’s health.

Starting in 2020, our member Tribes have participated in meetings with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) as part of formal Government-to-Government Consultation. Sinkyone Council assists by hosting and facilitating this process. The consultation is focused on proposed changes CDFW is developing to amend state regulations for the commercial harvest of kelp and seaweed. The Tribes have serious concerns about these commercial harvest activities and developed their own set of recommendations for revising the regulations and better protect these species and the health of marine ecosystems. The Tribes also are asking the state to fix outdated regulations preventing Tribes from exercising their inherent rights to gather and tend kelp and seaweed as culturally important foods.

Read the Tribes’ April 2021 Draft Tribal Proposal for Amending Commercial Kelp & Seaweed Rules.

To learn more about Tribal concerns regarding these species, see Tribal Statement to CDFW on Protecting Kelp & Seaweed, read by Sinkyone Council member Buffie Schmidt at CDFW’s webinar on June 2, 2020.

Redwood and Salmon

Save the Redwoods League has acquired a 523-acre property situated in the heart of Sinkyone territory. The property contains nearly 200 acres of old growth redwood, and critical habitat for imperiled species including marbled murrelet, coho salmon and steelhead trout. The League and Sinkyone Council are in discussion regarding lasting protections that will be placed on this land, which is a vital addition to the matrix of adjacent conserved lands along the Sinkyone coast. Learn more about this effort at Andersonia West.

Acknowledging Indigenous Peoples

We developed this Acknowledgement as a way of educating people about the need for respecting Indigenous Peoples, traditional territories, and Nature. It focuses on Sinkyone Territory but also outlines principles applicable to Indigenous Peoples’ territories everywhere. Acknowledgments should be meaningful, and not merely performative gestures. They can be an important step toward establishing an alliance with Indigenous Peoples. To learn more, read Acknowledgement of Indigenous Peoples and Territories.

30×30 Initiative to Protect Nature

Sinkyone Council supports the Thirty by Thirty (30×30) Initiative, which has set a goal of protecting and conserving at least 30% of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030. The 30×30 Initiative to Save Nature initially was introduced to the House of Representatives in 2020 by then-Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico, a Tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna and one of the first two Indigenous women elected to Congress. 30×30, championed by the Biden-Harris Administration and by Deb Haaland in her new role as Interior Secretary, provides a pathway for addressing conservation, climate, and wildlife crises. To learn more, see the Biden-Harris Administration’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. In October 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a 30×30 Initiative for California, the first state to commit to such a goal. Both federal and state levels of 30×30 provide opportunities for the strong Tribal leadership that is needed for ensuring these efforts succeed.

Sinkyone Council director Hawk Rosales is on a working group convened by Deb Haaland in 2020, which crafted the Tribal Leader Statement on 30×30 Policy. The Statement outlines strong roles for Tribes in the governance, cultural care, and tending of existing parks and protected areas, and in additional protected areas of land and ocean to be established pursuant to 30×30. The Tribal Leader Statement will be periodically updated, as the 30×30 Initiative develops further. Learn more about Tribal leadership goals for the 30×30 Initiative from this op-ed in Indian Country Today by Reno Franklin of Kashia Pomo and other Tribal Leaders.

InterTribal Sinkyone Hiking Trails

South Boopy Trail
Photo ©Hawk Rosales

After years of planning, design, and construction we have completed two low-impact hiking trails through our land. In Sinkyone language, the trails are named Kahs-tcho—Sa-chung (Redwood-Tanoak) and To-tcho—Klo-kut (Ocean-Salmon). They tie into the “Lost Coast Trail,” a hiking trail network in the adjacent Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and King Range National Conservation Area. Stay tuned, as we will be making an announcement here when the trails are open for public hiking.

Cahto Land Protection Initiative

Sinkyone Council supports the protection of a vital but threatened Eel River tributary and cultural landscape within Cahto Tribal Territory. The Cahto Tribe and many others oppose a timber harvest operation planned for the watershed, which would irreparably harm critically important coho salmon populations and habitat, the redwood ecosystem, and many cultural values of the Cahto Tribe. A growing movement is demanding full protection for the watershed, and that a majority of it ultimately be designated a Cahto Tribal Protected Area. Learn more at Friends of Dutch Charlie Creek.

Indigenous Languages and Nature

Read the essay by Sinkyone Council director Hawk Rosales, in which he shares perspectives on Indigenous languages, Nature, and more. The essay, Indigenous Perspectives Are Crucial for Conservation, was published in Redwoods magazine.

Opposing Local Wood Pellet Plant

Sinkyone Council opposes a local wood pellet plant that poses serious threats to the air quality and health of local Tribal and other communities. To learn more, read our Resolution Opposing Calpella Wood Pellet Plant.