Ocean Governance and Tribal Marine Planning


We as Tolowa Dee-ni’ of the Smith River Rancheria have always relied on the ocean for our lifeway since time immemorial and marine resources are integral to our lifeways.  The ability to continue to practice these marine subsistence, ceremonial, and customary uses is inherent to us.  With these practices comes a responsibility to assure the health and vitality of this rich environment and resources for future generations of the Tolowa Dee-ni’.  The need for the Smith River Rancheria to engage as a sovereign nation in areas of ocean governance and tribal marine planning cannot be understated.  Neither can the rich indigenous ecological knowledge, our inherent responsibility of stewardship, the inextricable link to marine ecosystems that permeates our lifeways, our high quality science and research, and our ability to be good managers of our ancestral lands and waters.  For the last five years, the Tribe has been building our capacity for ocean planning, governance and management.



Briannon Fraley:
Self-Governance Director
e-mail: briannon.fraley@tolowa.com

Megan Rocha:
Project Manager
e-mail: megan.m.rocha@gmail.com

Rosa Laucci:
Marine Biologist
e-mail: rosa.laucci@tolowa.com

Jaytuk Steinruck
Tribal Resource Technician e-mail: jaytuk.steinruck@tolowa.com

The following are recent examples of some of our exciting work!


West Coast Marine Planning Tribal Coalition (WCMPTC)

This developing coalition of coastal tribes is focused on tribal marine planning.  The intent of the WCMPTC is to create a space for communication and collaboration among tribal representatives so that they may develop and share knowledge, methods, tools and other resources pertinent to tribal marine planning.  Functioning as a nonrepresentative body, the WCMPTC seeks to leverage resources and opportunities in a manner that enhances the capacity for each participating tribe to be able to conduct independent tribal marine spatial planning while also lending itself to increased interoperability and the likelihood of implementation on a regional scale.  This effort is an outcome of two regional tribal marine planning collaboration initiatives initially facilitated by Point 97 with The Nature Conservancy, and by the Smith River Rancheria.

Tribes and Tribal organization participating: Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Hoh Indian Tribe, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, Makah Tribe, Quileute Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, and Smith River Rancheria

Development partners: Point 97 and The Nature Conservancy

Common Tribal Marine Planning Framework

The Indigenous Ocean Science Forum (IOSF) was a catalyst for continued dialog among several West Coast tribes on tribal marine (spatial) planning.  This includes discussions around methods to incorporate sensitive knowledge, particularly traditional knowledge, into a tribal marine planning process. The Summary Themes from the IOSF highlight an interest to collaborate on a common framework and data standards when possible, while building individual tribal capacity for tribal marine planning to occur.

Smith River Rancheria continued to convene intertribal discussions after the IOSF, as well as conduct research and learning exchanges to identify solutions, opportunities and models to proceed with this independent, but common planning approach.  This dialog was supplemented in early 2014 with the development of the West Coast Marine Planning Tribal Coalition (originally termed Partnership, instead of Coalition), through which the development process and dialog continues.

Part of this work involved developing a tribal marine planning framework, as part of this ongoing collaborative process.  A Summary Handout of this common tribal marine planning framework and structure may be found here.

Indigenous Ocean Science Forum April 2013

Merv Child Executive Director Nanwakolas CouncilOn April 22nd and 23rd, 2013, an Indigenous Ocean Science Forum (IOSF) was held in Portland, Oregon at The Billy Frank, Jr. Conference Center. The IOSF was hosted and organized by the Smith River Rancheria; funded in part through a federal grant from the Regional Ocean Partnership Funding Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.

The purpose of the IOSF was to provide a tribally-driven opportunity for solution orientated engagement of sovereign coastal tribal nations from Washington, Oregon, and California on issues of regional ocean governance, indigenous ecological knowledge, and tribal coastal marine spatial planning for the West Coast region.  It was to develop collaboration across tribes; to begin and/or continue the building of alliances and mechanisms for ongoing communication; and provide an occasion to learn from one another.  The ISOF was attended by 54 total participants, which included 43 representatives from 16 different tribes or tribal organizations.

A Summary Report of the convening may be found here.

Presentations shared during the IOSF: (Presentations are provided by the presenters and are in .pdf format)

Characterizing Tribal Cultural Landscapes for Resource Preservation & Protection. Roberta Cordero, Conflict Management.

Makah Cultural Resources. Janine Ledford THPO & Executive Director Makah Cultural Resources Center, Makah Nation.

Grand Ronde North Coast Cultural Landscape Study. Eirik Thorsgard, THPO & Cultural Protection Manager, Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde.

Characterizing Tribal Cultural Landscapes. Robert McConnell, THPO, Rosie Clayburn, Cultural Resource Manager, Yurok Tribe.

The National Ocean Policy West Coast Tribes and Regional Marine Planning. Jacque Hostler-Carmeisan, CEO Trinidad Rancheria & Tribal Representative Governance Coordinating Committee, National Ocean Policy.

Marine Planning by the Nanwakolas Council. Merv Child, Executive Director, Scott Harris Marine Planner, Nanwakolas Council B.C. Canada.

Regional Data Framework and the West Coast Data Registry. Rachel Rodriguez, GIS Coordinator, Yurok Tribe; Tim Welch, Senior Software Manager Ecotrust Marine Consulting Initiative.

Developing Data and Mapping Standards that are Culturally Appropriate and Inform CMSP. Suntayea Steinruck THPO, Smith River Rancheria; Brian Anspach, GIS Analyst, Smith River Rancheria.

Effective Tribal Engagement in a State Marine Planning Process. Megan Rocha, Smith River Rancheria Consultant.

North Coast MPA Baseline Monitoring Projects

The Tribe is collaborating on three projects to establish benchmarks for measuring the performance ofJaytuck Rosa recently established marine protected areas on the California north coast.  California Sea Grant helps administer the North Coast MPA Baseline Program collaboratively with the MPA Monitoring Enterprise (a program of the California Ocean Science Trust), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Ocean Protection Council (which provides funding for the projects).

Project A: Baseline Characterization of Sandy Beach and Surf-zone Ecosystems

Collaborators: Sonoma State University, Humboldt State University, UC Santa Cruz, and Smith River Rancheria

Project B: Baseline Characterization of Rocky Intertidal Ecosystems

Collaborators: Humboldt State University, California Sea Grant Extension at UC San Diego, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, San Jose State University Research Foundation, UC Santa Cruz, and Smith River Rancheria

Project C:  Traditional Ecological Knowledge of Keystone Marine Species and Ecosystems

Collaborators: Smith River Rancheria, Trinidad Rancheria, Wiyot Tribe, and InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council

For more information on the scope of these projects, click here.

Smelt Habitat Assessment

With funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tribal Wildlife Program, the Tribe has embarked on a smelt study with the goal of developing measures for protecting and restoring spawning habitat and support related species recovery of surf smelt, particularly with the Tr’uu-luu-k’wvt Territory.  The Tribe is taking a multi-pronged approach to assess habitat and develop conservation measures, which includes scientific research and new data collection, community participatory research, development of educational materials, as well as teaching traditional net making and management practices.

Marine Traditional Knowledge Ethnographic Database (MTKED)

smelt bedThe purpose of the Marine Traditional Knowledge Ethnographic Database (MTKED) is to provide a common relational database model for West Coast tribes to independently gather, store, search, and otherwise manage their own respective marine traditional knowledge, in both a spatial and aspatial manner.  It seeks to document the relationships between places, resources, and activities contained within documented archival materials and oral histories in a standardized manner. This database operates with Microsoft Access and can be geospatially linked to ESRI ArcGIS. 

For more information on how the MTKED can be downloaded and used, please refer to the User Guide here.


National Ocean Policy (NOP)
West Coast Governors
Alliance (WCGA)
West Coast Marine Planning
West Coast Ocean Summit
Coastal Marine Spacial Planning (CMSP)