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Yurok Tribe to operate Stone Lagoon Visitor Center after historic agreement

(Courtesy the Yurok Tribe){p}{/p}
(Courtesy the Yurok Tribe)

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The Yurok Tribe will officially begin operating the Stone Lagoon State Park Visitor Center following the completion of the first-ever Joint Powers Authority agreement between the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation and a tribal government, according to the Yurok Tribe.

The tribe says the agreement creates an opportunity for them to hire interpreters to inform park visitors about the rich heritage of the Yurok people. They say they have exciting plans to enhance the way locals and visitors experience such a culturally and ecologically unique place. Some of those plans include cultural-sharing activities such as canoe-making tutorials, basket-making classes and storytelling events at the visitors center.

“On behalf of the Yurok people, I would like to thank the California State Parks North Coast Redwoods District Superintendent, Victor Bjelajac for partnering with us on this historic project,” Yurok Tribe Chairman Joseph L. James said. “Our partnership with the park paves the path for tribal governments throughout California to form similar cooperative agreements with the state agency. We are extremely happy about this agreement and all of the positive opportunities it presents.”

“This is one of the most meaningful projects I have had the privilege to oversee during my many years with California State Parks,” California State Parks North Coast Redwoods District Superintendent Victor Bjelajac said. “The Yurok Tribe is a great partner. We are very excited about the future of this project.”

The Joint Powers Authority agreement extends for a period of five years, and the tribe says they have much latitude in terms of what it can do at Humboldt Lagoons State Park. The agreement also establishes a process for the Yurok Tribe to grant new concession contracts to tribal and non-tribal entrepreneurs.

“We are extremely proud to be the first tribe in the state to form this type of agreement with the California Department of Parks and Recreation,” Orick District Representative on the Yurok Tribal Council Sherri Provolt said. “True partnerships are not just made, they are built with intention and purpose. The agreement is the result of a true partnership that will last for years to come. We are grateful and excited to begin developing shared programs and events for both our Yurok membership and the community as a whole.”

The tribe says access to the lagoon will remain the same.

Stone Lagoon plays a critical role in the tribe's traditional culture. Last year, the tribe says Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a formal apology for the state's role in genocide that occurred in the 1800s when the United States outlawed religious practices to colonize tribal lands and people. The Yurok Tribe says the California government was equally involved in the forced assimilation effort and committed acts of genocide against indigenous people in the state.

The Stone Lagoon agreement is consistent with Gov. Newsom's commitment for his administration to practice government-to-government consultations with Tribal leaders to discuss policies that affect Native American communities, the Yurok Tribe says, adding that the accord also establishes a framework for tribes to better engage with the state on cooperative projects within tribal ancestral territories.

“This formal partnership between the park and the Yurok Tribe establishes a positive precedent for tribal governments across the state and is a wonderful example of mutual respect and trust,” State Assemblymember Jim Wood said. “I look forward to seeing more collaborative agreements like this in the future.”

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“The agreement is consistent with the substance and spirit of Gov. Newsom’s order," Chairman James said. "The Yurok Tribe is proud to be at the forefront of this effort to improve how California, the state with the most federally recognized tribes in the U.S., engages with tribal governments."

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