California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
Posted: January 23th, 2012 20:38pm
Tribal Administrator, Russ Crabtree, attended several CEQA meetings throughout October and the following was his response to the process.
The Tolowa Dee-ni’ are the original inhabitants of the coastline of Del Norte County. The Tolowa have lived in the area stretching from Wilson Creek in California to the South, the Sixes River in Oregon to the North, to the watershed on the Coast Range to the East, and to Point Saint George to the West since ancient times. Ethnographic and archaeological accounts document thousands of years of coastal fishing, sea mammal hunting, and harvesting within the Tolowa ancestral territories, including the fish camps as Dat Naa-svt and 8,000 years of occupation from Hiouchi, following the main course of the Smith River.
Ancestral Tolowa territory, within the boundaries of California, encompasses 955.1 square miles that include 32 fish-miles along the ocean and 35 fish-mile along the Smith River, a waterway draining a little over 600 square miles with spawning silver salmon, king salmon, and steelhead. Since ancient times, the Tolowa relied on oceangoing dugout canoes. Their territory does extend in the open ocean.
Tolowa ancestral territories are powerful cultural landscapes with ritual, spiritual, social and economic associations. Within the Tolowa territory, stretches of beach, river and rock are designated as localities were sweat houses and fish camps were established, where the first Salmon ceremony originated, and where ecological geographical features embody, and are infused by, ancient stories. The coastline is a large entity of traditional cultural importance, including the importance related to the marine resources for spiritual, religious, customary and subsistence uses of the tribes. Within the North Coast Study Region, there is a wealth of connection intertwined between California tribes and individuals that are both familial and evident in shared cultural traits.
The assertion by each California tribe of their respective ancestral and/or aboriginal lands and water are a matter for California tribes to resolve amongst ourselves, and not for the State of California to broach in any manner. It is unnecessary to address or resolve these issues as the Smith River Rancheria and the State of California move forward to address the matters related to the Marine life protection Act. Rather, this is a matter for resolution between California Tribes in the future.
Traditional Tolowa harvesting of marine resources has never been for individual use or exploitative gain. The Tolowa, now, as in the past, hunt, fish, gather, harvest, process, and distribute marine resources communally.
Pyramid Point: Proposed Marine Conservation Area The Smith River Rancheria lands held in trust by the Federal Government for the benefit of the Tolowa, abuts the proposed southern boundary of Pyramid Point state marine conservation area (SMCA) Prince Island Rock is also federal trust property, since ancient times has been known as an excellent clam bed at its base.
The proposed Pyramid Point SMCA encompasses a series of prehistoric, historic, and modern day fish camps maintained by the Tolowa since time immemorial. Ethnographic and archaeological account document thousands of years of coastal tribal cultural and religious uses, gathering and harvesting, including the fish camp at Dat-Naa-Svt or Pyramid Point SMCA boundaries.
To restrict or hinder these important cultural resources, along with displacement from the landscapes or seascapes considered by the Tolowa to be sacred, will directly impact, families and the community ability to sustain deeply –held cultural and spiritual relationship with not only the species used, but associated species and habitats. This is a relationship that tribal people see as part of their ancestral responsibility. Entire coastlines within the ancestral Tolowa territory are important culturally, religiously, and spiritually, such as the area of proposed SMCA of Pyramid Point.
Point St. George Proposed Marine Conservation Area Archaeological evidence supports prehistoric and historic occupation by Tolowa including: living houses, sweathouses, smokehouses, brush shelter, work for finishing flint, bone and antler tools. Assembling fishing nets and lines, cleaning drying and smoking fish and a cemetery and many other historical activities are found at Point St. George.
Southwest Seal Rock Proposed Special Closure Northwest and Southwest Seal Rock are ancient sea mammal hunting grounds. In prehistoric and historic times the First Seal Lion hunts were held in July or August. Tolowa headsman determine the time of the hunt. Seal Rock is featured in ancient Tolowa stories.
Castle Rock Proposed Special Closure Castle Rock is a site of historical line fishing, egg and seaweed gathering, and sea lion hunting. These culturally important resources along with any displacement from the landscapes or seascapes considered to be sacred, directly impacts on the individual, family’s, and community’s ability to sustain deep-held cultural and spiritual relationships with not only the species used, but with the associated species and their entire habit — relationships that tribal people see two-way, and as part of their ancestral responsibility.
For these reasons, the Smith River Rancheria request that the CEQA process be extended for two weeks and that a meeting be held in Smith River, CA one of the most impacted tribal culturally significant areas on the North Coast.
Furthermore, the EIR process should actively engage the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of each respective tribe.
The Smith River Rancheria appreciates this opportunity to comment and looks forward to ensuring tribal views are recognized that achieve balance of Tribal Cultural and the eco-system is balance, which the tribes have always done and achieved for millenniums.
Submitted by Russ Crabtree,