Guerrilla Gatherers
October 23, 2019 6:58 AM   Subscribe

California tribes are breaking the law to maintain their traditional ways of life.

Renick and her friends and family routinely defy California laws and natural resource management regulations they say obstruct their right to maintain these traditional practices. The stakes are high: Indigenous peoples risk jail time, tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and the lifetime loss of state hunting and fishing privileges for doing what they’ve always done in this area. But they say the possibility of losing this connection to the land outweighs the legal risks.

posted by poffin boffin (4 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
There's been a lot of related legal work in the Pacific Northwest about Native people's rights to fishing. The Boldt decision in 1974 was a key moment, see also this timeline.

But Washington isn't California, the details are different. I believe the Boldt decision was largely about upholding PNW tribes' treaty rights; as the linked article notes the California tribes don't have ratified treaties. Also the Californian tribes' legal rights were significantly eroded in the 1950s California Rancheria Termination Acts.

(Sorry for my sketchy knowledge about this stuff. I'd love a recommendation for a detailed history book. I only know this much because this summer I finally visited the National Museum of the American Indian. They have an excellent large exhibition about the history of legal rights of Indians in the US with way more detail and nuance than I've ever seen before. Much like the short version of the history, the Indians get screwed time and time again. But this exhibit takes pains to show that many of these treaties were entered in to by the US government and were taken seriously at the time. They have more legal force than some of us cynically assume, but those legal rights have to be re-won in courts.)
posted by Nelson at 7:35 AM on October 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

In addition, 18 treaties that the United States negotiated with California tribes were never ratified by Congress, which has made the tribes’ contemporary situation more challenging.

“The fact that they don’t have those treaties has had a long-term effect on California tribes,” says Brendan Lindsay, author of the book Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846–1873 and an assistant professor at California State University, Sacramento. “The lack of treaties makes advocating for land, subsistence, and other rights much harder.”

This is huge. Most of the tribes in this area have treaties that, while often inadequate and poorly enforced, explicitly preserve their rights to fish, hunt, and gather in their usual and accustomed places -- i.e., not just on the reservation, but across their historical lands. Increasingly, this means that tribes work with federal and state agencies as co-managers.

I hope these California tribes can find a way to make the state respect those ancestral rights and instead involve the tribes as co-managers of the resources.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:39 AM on October 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Market hunting kills fisheries, not subsistence fishing. If they're eating the abalone themselves, not selling to restaurants, then it is almost certainly sustainable (esp with no scuba gear).
posted by ryanrs at 9:45 AM on October 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Foy says of the commission’s move to cancel the abalone season that “sometimes tough decisions have to be made.”

I wonder what tough decisions he's having to make that are destroying his traditional culture.
posted by bile and syntax at 11:25 AM on October 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

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