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Karuk Leader Arrested 

On Monday evening, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department arrested Karuk Tribe Vice Chairman Leaf Grant Hillman in Happy Camp. The previous Friday, Aug. 17, the Siskiyou County District Attorney's office had filed a felony domestic violence charge against Hillman. Siskiyou County D.A. Kirk Andrus said Hillman, who lives in Orleans, is charged with one count corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, and with two special allegations: inflicting great bodily injury and using a deadly weapon. Hillman's bail has been set at $50,000.

The charges stem from an incident in which Hillman allegedly was involved on July 28 at Nordheimer Flat on the Salmon River, a tributary to the Klamath, where a group had assembled for the Jammin" for the Salmon Music Festival. The festival was the concluding party to week-long events, hosted by several salmon advocacy and river restoration groups, that included the annual Salmon River spring Chinook and summer steelhead dives to count fish in the river and workshops and talks in the 2nd Annual Spring-run Chinook Symposium.

According to Siskiyou County Undersheriff Mike Murphy, his department received call at 11:37 p.m. on July 28 from a CalFire (California Department of Forestry) dispatcher reporting domestic violence at Nordheimer Flat. CalFire had a received a call from someone at the scene, said Murphy. "The [Sheriff's] deputy started responding down there, then he got a call from them saying that by the time he got there, nobody would be there," Murphy said. "It's a two-hour drive." The closer Hoopa substation of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office sent an investigator to take statements, and forwarded them to Siskiyou.

According to a report by Barry Clausen in the Aug. 8 Pioneer Press,the victim "was treated at the scene and taken to Hoopa by medical personnel from Salmon River Volunteer Fire and Rescue. Hoopa Ambulance then took her to Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata where she was treated for blunt head trauma and multiple face lacerations." Clausen's report alleged that the victim had been "hit on the head with a beer bottle" -- details he said he obtained from talking to people in Happy Camp who said they'd witnessed or heard of the event. Clausen also reported that several tribal elders asked the Karuk Tribal Council to "ask Leaf Hillman to resign his position as tribal vice chairman."

This Monday, one of these elders, Pauline Attebery, of Happy Camp, confirmed that report. "We went there the following Monday. The council was in a planning meeting, and Mr. Hillman was there. But he did not stay to attend the meeting we had afterward" with the council, she said. "We told them we felt [the incident] warranted dismissal. The council said they needed to get legal advice. And we accepted that." Attebery said she was not at the Nordheimer event, and that she had heard of it secondhand. She also said the victim had been released from the hospital.

The victim signed a form asking the Sheriff's Department not to release her name, said Murphy.

Hillman, who's been vice chair of the tribal council since 2002, has been a major player in efforts to restore the Klamath River watershed and salmon habitat; he has been at the forefront of pushing for removal of the Klamath dams. He has been director of the tribe's natural resources department and the tribe's fisheries department, and has served on numerous committees and task forces. In 2005, he was named a finalist for the Buffett Award for Indigenous Leadership. Hillman, whose family is a dance keeper, also leads the Karuk World Renewal Ceremony each year, called Pikyowish.

As of Tuesday afternoon, an arraignment hearing date had not been set.

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Heidi Walters

Heidi Walters worked as a staff writer at the North Coast Journal from 2005 to 2015.

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