The Klamath Justice Coalition organized a blockade in northern California this week, to stop a U.S. Forest Service logging contractor from damaging any sites held sacred by the Indigenous Karuk Nation.
Before daybreak on December 16, members of the indigenous-led Coalition gathered at Orleans Mountain Lookout Road within the Six Rivers National Forest and set up a large fire in the roadway.
Fortunately, the logging crew took the moral and legally responsible path and turned back without involving the police.
“This morning's small but important victory marks the beginning of our campaign to defend Karuk sacred sites and protect the health of our forests,” says Karuk Ceremonial Leader Leaf Hillman, in a Press Release issued after the protest.
According to the The Klamath Justice Coalition, the company was initially supposed to be part of the Orleans Community Fuel Reduction and Forest Health Project (OCFR).
The OCFR, which actually stands for the "Orleans Culture and Forest Reduction plan," says Hillman, is a plan to reduce the threat of wildfires and increase forest health, while preserving the cultural sites associated with the Panamnik World Renewal Ceremonial District.
As Jennifer Huang from the Sacred Land Film Project notes, for generations the Karuk People have held a semi-annual ceremony where "a priest travels through the forest on the tribe’s traditional trails to locations where various dances and prayers are held. This is the same area that was the subject of the historic “G-O Road” case in the 1980s, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Native Americans did not have a First Amendment right to stop a Forest Service logging road from penetrating their sacred High Country."
Following almost three years of consultation, the U.S. Forest service finally reached an agreement with the Karuk Nation and other non-native residents in the Klamath Basin, on how to proceed with the OCFR.
However, in the end, the Forest Service Supervisor betrayed the agreement and the public's trust by "recklessly" granting a U.S. logging company rights to harvest 914 acres of the forested land, held sacred or not.
"This is not the first time that (Tyrone Kelly, the Forest Service Supervisor,) has shown a particular insensitivity to Tribal cultural issues," explains Klamath Justice. "Last year he oversaw the bull dozing of... land disputed to be Indian Trust Land. The act not only destroyed a home, but destroyed a nearby archeological site and a contemporary dance ground."
Also, "during last years’ wildfires, Kelly directed the construction of firebreaks and use of heavy equipment that destroyed sections of “medicine man trails” and high country alters used during annual World Renewal Ceremonies. Representatives from the Karuk Tribe urged Kelley to build the breaks in areas that were less sensitive but the concerns with ignored.
“Its like Kelly is hell bent to destroy our sacred areas one step at a time.” says Hillman.
Nevertheless, the Kaurk, along with the Klamath Justice Coalition are committed to protecting the culturally sensitive region and compelling the US Forest Service to honor its word.
For more information, contact: Craig Tucker, Karuk spokesperson, cell 916-207-8294; or Leaf Hillman, Karuk Ceremonial Leader, 530-627-3710
What You Can Do
Please take a moment to write Tyrone Kelley's supervisor, Randy Moore, urging them to:
1. Stop work now! Until everyone's concerns are fully and properly addressed
2. Do what they said they would do! The project outlined in the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision look very different than the logging happening right now.
3. Work with the local community, to determine a monitoring and implementation plan.