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Negative Impact Of The Marine Life Protection Act On Native American Tribes

1259 words - 6 pages

Craig Jones
Professor Middleton
NAS 001

In a response to poor water quality, soiled beaches, and a dwindling marine life population on the coast of California, Governor Gray Davis in 1999 proposed his solution. It was called the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), and its aim was to restore coastal regions of California to their former glory. Since its inception the MLPA has received much criticism, as it has violated the rights of many native tribes whose places of traditional practices overlap in these Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). (California Marine 11/17/14) The conflict has only gotten worse as new initiatives were passed which allowed privatized use (drilling, ...view middle of the document...

(The Yurok Tribe 11/17/14)
There have been many different strategies implemented by many different tribes in Northern California to try and regain access to their sacred and traditional rights. Many tribes, like the Yurok began by trying to show that the passing and implementation of the MLPA would be in direct conflict with both the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) and many different articles in the Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples. (Lobo 2007:468-475) Both domestic and international law has declared the prevention of Native Peoples’ religious and traditional practices to be illegal. (Harjo 2004:337-341) In July 2010, more than 300 people (many of which were Yurok) peacefully overtook a MLPA task force meeting in Fort Bragg. According to Yurok Tribal member Frankie Meyers, “Whether it is their intention or not, what the Marine Life Protection Act does to tribes is systematically decimate our ability to be who we are… The MLPA process completely disregards tribal gathering rights and only permits discussion of commercial and recreational harvest.” (Klamath Justice 11/17/14) As a result of this protest the task force rejected an amendment that would have restricted the Yurok Tribe’s traditional fishing and gathering rights. Another way that the Yurok tribe has tried to combat the MLPA is by trying to address the questionable scientific data, used by the Schwarzenegger administration as the basis for their initiative. One example of this can be seen in 2010, when the MLPA science advisory team turned down a request by the Yurok tribe to make a presentation that would have provided contradictory scientific evidence on the marine reserves. Yurok Tribe senior leader, John Corbett, stated that the presentation would have shown that there was no statistical difference between the diversity of marine life when looking at harvested and un-harvested areas of the coast. Despite having a large tribal scientific community with numerous resources, no tribal scientists have ever been allowed to serve on the MLPA Science Advisory Team. (Yurok Tribe 11/17/14) Today many activists regard this act as blatant “institutionalized racism” by not recognizing tribes as political entities, or regarding Tribal scientists as legitimate. As a result of failed attempts to fight the MLPA with legal action, many members of the Yurok tribe have decided to just ignore the regulations that would prohibit them from traditional gathering of seaweed, mussels, and fish. The tribal elders all agreed that the Yurok have been hunters, fishermen, and gatherers on these coastal areas before the west even knew they existed. (Dan Bacher 11/17/14) They all state that California has no right to restrict what the Yurok have been doing for centuries. Daniel Wildcat in his book Red Alert,...

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