Yurok addresses settlement money
June 26, 2007
by Hilary Corrigan, The Daily Triplicate
More than 70
Yurok tribal members gathered Sunday to discuss the
tribe's future in an attempt to plan for a recently
acquired settlement fund.
about how to spend $90 million," said Troy Fletcher, a
Yurok Tribe member who led the meeting as tribal council
sought public input. "Council's asking you: How should the
money be spent?"
Nearly all called
for at least some individual payments to tribal members.
Many also called
for investments and endowments to fund education, land
acquisition and monthly stipends for elders. They pointed
to concerns on the reservation – education, housing,
health insurance, facilities and health care for elders,
treatment for drug and alcohol abuse – and to similar
needs of members who live off the reservation.
Walt Lara Sr., a
tribal forestry department worker, asked the tribe to
treat the fund as a sustainable yield forestry plan treats
a stand of trees – with the goal of growing it.
investing $30 million, distributing $30 million in
payments to members, funding tribal programs with $30
million and using the rest for land acquisition.
your children's children," Lara said, paraphrasing the
Constitution that calls for sustaining the tribe. "And on
and on forever."
The more than $92
million fund, mostly invested in U.S. government bonds,
stems from the 1988 Hoopa Yurok Settlement Act that split
resources and timber funds between the two tribes. The
Yurok Tribe disputed the terms and fought for the funds
for nearly two decades until the U.S. Department of the
Interior in March approved the tribe's claim on the money
that has grown from an original $52 million.
public input meeting for tribal members, the council will
draft a plan and review it with members before putting it
on an October election ballot during a vote for three
council seats. The plan requires a majority vote from the
approximately 3,700 registered voters in the approximately
"We want to hear
from the people, all of them," said Tribal Council Vice
Chairwoman Bonnie Green.
members questioned council leadership and previous
department projects, complaining of a lack of services and
"That money is
better spent by me as an individual," member David Severns
Elders living on
about $400 per month called for direct payments, as did
Humboldt State University student David Gensaw Sr.
they've had their chance to do something for us," Gensaw
said of the tribal council.
Chairwoman Maria Tripp admitted the tribe's inability to
provide much for those who do not meet low-income
restrictions on grant money and other funds.
little that's not income-based," Tripp said of the tribe's
income that funds tribal services. "We don't have access
to dollars to do a lot of things."
Norris called the fund a chance to further develop the
tribe – including government structure, members'
participation, school system, community services and how
members care for one another.
"We are never
going to be truly a sovereign nation as long as we are
dependent upon federal grants from the United States of
America," said Norris, who works at the Klamath River
Early College of the Redwoods. "We really need to think
about how we can be self-sufficient."
supported some individual payments, noting her own
everybody should get a little bit," she said, adding that
the money could also benefit future generations, partly by
funding education. "We have an opportunity to take care of
Corrigan at email@example.com.