by Dan Bacher
The National Congress of American Indians, at their annual session from October 11-16 in Palm Springs, passed a strongly worded resolution blasting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process for failing to recognize the subsistence, ceremonial and cultural rights of California Indian Tribes.
"While the tribes support the State’s goal of developing marine protection, they are concerned that the State’s MLPA process does not address their sovereign standing or interests," according to the resolution. "To date there have been no government to government consultations by the State with any tribe in California in the MLPA implementation process, nor is there a mention of the sovereign status of the tribes in the MLPA Master Plan or legislation."
The resolution emphasizes that the tribes rely upon fishing and gathering seaweed to feed themselves and their families, and "the continuance of these practices are essential to maintain our identities as tribal people."
"The NCAI does hereby support the demand of the tribes of Northern California that the State of California enter into government to government consultations with these tribes; and that the State of California ensure the protection of tribal subsistence, ceremonial and cultural rights in the implementation of the state of Marine Life Protection Act," the resolution concludes.
More recently, the MLPA was criticized in the historic California Tribal Water Summit held in Sacramento November 4-5. Participants concurred that "in the Marine Life Protection Act, the California Department of Fish and Game has made an explicit policy decision to NOT consult with tribes."
The Schwarzenegger administration and previous administrations have shown absolutely no respect for the rights of California Indian Tribes to sustainably harvest seaweed, mussels and abalone as they have done for centuries in the intertidal zone. The current lack of recognition of tribal rights in the MLPA occurs in the context of cultural genocide against the indigenous people of California that started during the Spanish colonization of California, expanded throughout the state during the Gold Rush and continues to this day.
This marine protected area (MPA) plans developed on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and Southern California Coast regions were rammed through by the Schwarzenegger administration in spite of complaints by representatives of California Indian Tribes, including the Essalen Tribe of the Monterey Bay region and the Kashia Pomo Tribe in Sonoma County, that the state of California had not formally consulted with them on the MLPA process.