Monday, May 4, 2020

Yurok Tribe Castigates Del Norte Supervisor for Supporting Restaurant's Opening in Violation of Tribal, State and County Health Orders

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2020 at 9:54 AM

click to enlarge The sign in front of the Log Cabin Diner. - FACEBOOK
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  • The sign in front of the Log Cabin Diner.
The owners of a tiny diner, the members of a remote California tribe, and the First District supervisor of Del Norte County clashed this weekend as tensions rise between those who fear economic collapse if their communities don’t reopen for business and those who fear death and illness if their communities do.

On Saturday, the Log Cabin Diner, a small restaurant located in Klamath, California reopened to dine-in customers. The owners, Sherry and Ed Scott, posted the sign above and few sentences on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “WE are opening tomorrow Saturday May 2nd at 7:30am!! We are adding PIZZA to the menu as well as serving our regular breakfast and lunch menu. As all ways take [out] is available. Can’t wait to see you!”


The tiny town of Klamath, population 779, sits in Supervisor District 5, not far from Del Norte County’s southernmost border shared with its neighbor Humboldt County and at the heart of the Yurok Tribe’s reservation.
click to enlarge Customers at the Log Cabin Diner on Saturday. - FACEBOOK
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  • Customers at the Log Cabin Diner on Saturday.
Roger Gitlin, Del Norte County’s District 1 supervisor, was one of the Log Cabin Diner’s customers that day. “Angie and I learned the Log Cabin Diner in Klamath, owned by Sherry Scott and Ed would be opening, Saturday May 2 in defiance of Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order for sit down dining,” he wrote on his Facebook. “As you can see, we were joined by several other couples. ... Gov. Newsom is out of control and his Executive Orders are killing Del Norte County. I hope you will support Sherry and Ed at the Log Cabin Diner … Also, I hope you will plan on making a huge stand in demanding our Governor loosen up its chains abridging our Bill Rights.”

In addition, Gitlin urged, “Ret. Sheriff Dean Wilson is organizing a Rally Thursday, May 7, at 12 Noon, on the 101, at the Fairgrounds. Please join me. Bring your Flag, sign, and lots of supporters. Face masks optional. It’s time to speak up.”

The same day, the Yurok Tribe posted a response to the diner reopening.

“Operating a dine-in service is a violation of the orders the Tribe, county and state have put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said the statement issued by the Yurok Tribal Council on its Facebook page.

The Yurok Tribe, whose reservation closely follows the winding path of the Klamath River and encompasses the unincorporated town of Klamath, had ordered an emergency closure of its lands to non-residents nearly a month earlier on April 6 because of the COVID-19 crisis. They specifically exempted U.S. Highway 101, which runs through the western tip of their boundaries, “essential tribal government employees, authorized vehicles and essential services” but otherwise asked people who didn’t live there to stay away.

click to enlarge Yurok staff member Cassandra Charles packs a food box for Tribal elders. - SUBMITTED
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  • Yurok staff member Cassandra Charles packs a food box for Tribal elders.
“Normally, we welcome visitors with open arms as treating guests with hospitality is a traditional Yurok value. Right now, we need to take advantage of every opportunity to protect our most vulnerable citizens,” Chairman James said. The tribe has a significant number of members with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which have been shown to increase the chance of contracting the virus and of increasing its severity.

According to Indianz.com, “The states collecting data on Native Americans who have died from the coronavirus are reporting stark disparities in health outcomes. For example, Native Americans account for 16 percent of the Arizona’s Covid-19 caused deaths, although they represent only 4.6 percent of the state’s population, according to the Arizona Department of Public Health. More than one-third of the coronavirus cases in New Mexico involve Native Americans, who make up less than 11 percent of the state’s population.”

The article quoted Yurok Vice-Chairman Frankie Myers, “From the start, our primary goal has been to take every available action to prevent this pathogen from entering our community … Taking an aggressive approach toward stopping the spread of the virus is the most effective tool we have to keep our people safe and reduce the strain on the local healthcare system.”

Late last night, the tribe issued a scathing press release stating, “The Tribal Council is acutely aware of the tremendous strain this public health emergency is having on local businesses. We fully support the Log Cabin’s ability to offer to-go orders, but we do not support this affront to tribal sovereignty and the health of our people...

“A sitting member of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors promoted the apparent breach of the mandates that are in place to prevent new coronavirus transmissions. With a complete disregard for the Tribe’s sovereignty and the safety of local citizens, Del Norte County Supervisor Roger Gitlin used Facebook to encourage his followers to “drive down to Klamath” to join him in eating at the diner. Klamath is not in his district.”

Below is the press release:

At a special meeting [late Saturday], the Yurok Tribal Council engaged in a detailed dialogue about a local restaurant that opened its doors to sit-down customers. Operating a dine-in service is a violation of the orders the Tribe, county and state have put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Located on the Yurok Reservation, the Log Cabin Diner restarted its dine-in option yesterday. During the emergency meeting, each of the Tribal Council members voiced concerns about how this action might jeopardize a months-long effort to stop the coronavirus from reaching the reservation, where there are numerous Tribal elders and individuals with preexisting health issues.

“The Tribal Council is acutely aware of the tremendous strain this public health emergency is having on local businesses. We fully support the Log Cabin’s ability to offer to-go orders, but we do not support this affront to tribal sovereignty and the health of our people,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “Both tribal and non-tribal businesses have had to make significant sacrifices for the safety of our community.”

As part of a proactive effort to protect those most vulnerable to the illness, the Tribe closed the reservation to non-residents on April 6. According to the United Indian Health Services, approximately sixty percent of the tribal citizens living on the reservation are either elders or individuals who have underlying medical conditions. Those with preexisting health issues, such as diabetes, are more prone to experiencing the worst symptoms from the coronavirus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A sitting member of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors promoted the apparent breach of the mandates that are in place to prevent new coronavirus transmissions. With a complete disregard for the Tribe’s sovereignty and the safety of local citizens, Del Norte County Supervisor Roger Gitlin used Facebook to encourage his followers to “drive down to Klamath” to join him in eating at the diner. Klamath is not in his district.

The Yurok Tribal Council closed the reservation “to protect the most vulnerable and prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.” In addition to the closure order, the Tribe instituted a shelter-in-place order and a curfew. To help those at-risk stay in their homes and away from places where disease transmission is more likely, the Tribe is delivering emergency food and supply boxes on a weekly basis to nearly 500 tribal citizens in Del Norte, Humboldt and Trinity Counties.

The Tribe has temporarily ceased operations at the Redwood Hotel and Casino, the Klamath Jet Boat Tours as well as the other non-essential businesses. These enterprises will remain closed until the Tribal Council lifts the closure order. Reservation business owners and residents are required to follow all tribal, county and federal stay-at-home orders and physical distancing guidelines.

“We want to remind residents and business owners that the reservation will remain closed to visitors until the order is lifted,” Chairman James said.

Under the Yurok Tribe’s Closure Order, the Yurok Reservation is closed to non-residents except for those performing essential activities. People on the reservation are directed to follow all tribal, state, and federal stay-home orders and physical distancing guidelines. Violation of the closure order is a tribal civil offense with a fine of up to $2,500 in addition to other possible penalties or orders of the Yurok Tribal Court such as restitution or ejection from all tribal lands. Violations of the closure order may also lead to other charges. The Yurok Tribal Council may exercise its authority to exclude people from the reservation if they pose a health and safety risk. The Yurok Tribe will also continue to work closely with our county, state, and federal law enforcement partners on public safety matters.

Editor's note: This story first appeared at www.kymkemp.com and is reprinted here with permission.
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Kym Kemp

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Kym Kemp is the editor and publisher of the news website Redheaded Blackbelt at www.kymkemp.com.

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