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Congress not to blame in tribe dispute
My Word by Howard McConnell, Yurok Tribal Chairman 12/18/05
Because Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Clifford Lyle Marshall's recent opinion piece in this publication addresses matters of importance not just to his tribe, the Hoopa Valley, but also mine, the Yurok, I want to set the record straight.

First, the Yurok Tribe does not agree with Chairman Marshall's criticism of the California congressional delegation for being “unwilling to introduce legislation.” On the contrary, Sens. Feinstein and Boxer and Rep. Thompson and their staffs have worked hard with both tribes to find a realistic basis for legislation addressing concerns of either or both tribes. One good candidate for such legislation is the $3 million for land acquisition that was long ago appropriated by the Congress for the Yurok Tribe, but not yet released.

Although all involved understand that the Hoopa Valley Tribe has no claim to this money, Hoopa nevertheless objected to its release and stymied the helpful efforts of our congressional delegation. It is not fair for Hoopa Tribal Chairman Marshall to blame our congressional delegation for blocking legislation that the members of Congress would have supported, but for opposition from the Hoopa Valley Tribe.

The Yurok Tribe believes that it is not productive to go back into history and re-argue issues from litigation long past. The remaining money in the trust fund created by the Congress upon passage of the Hoopa Yurok Settlement Act was expressly created by the Congress for the Yurok Tribe exclusively.

It is not surprising that the Yurok Tribe will not, can not, support so-called compromise legislation when there is no reason for the Yurok Tribe to “compromise” over what was already given by an act of Congress to the Yurok Tribe. Would the Hoopa Valley Tribe support a “compromise” bill that gives the Yurok Tribe a portion of the land, or funds it was given by the Congress as a result of the Hoopa Yurok Settlement Act? It is not reasonable to blame our congressional delegation for not pursuing legislation that is unbalanced and inconsistent with the Congress' intent.

I am hopeful that our tribes will find common ground in the months and years ahead. The Yurok Tribe will work hard toward this goal. Together, we can ask the congressional delegation for help in resolving issues of continuing concern to both our tribes and our people. However, that common ground cannot be a naked attempt by one tribe to take a part of what Congress gave the other. Until our two tribes do find such common ground, let us not blame our representatives in Congress for inaction.

Howard McConnell is chairman of the Yurok Tribe.

The opinions expressed in this My Word piece do not necessarily reflect the editorial viewpoint of the Times-Standard.




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