Yurok Tribe: Mourning the passing of 'visionary' Troy Fletcher

Troy Fletcher passed away on November 20, 2015. He was 53. Photo from Yurok Tribe / Facebook

The following was submitted by the Yurok Tribe of California.

It is with deep despair and a heavy heart that we announce the untimely passing of Tribal luminary Troy Fletcher.

“This is a tragic loss for the Yurok people, so tragic that words cannot express how we feel,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “Troy accomplished things that many people thought were impossible. We will forever be grateful for Troy’s tremendous contribution to the Tribe. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

“We are all devastated by the passing of our friend, brother and colleague,” added Susan Masten, the Yurok Tribe’s Vice Chair. “Troy dedicated his life and put his heart and soul into his effort to protect and restore the Klamath River. He will be greatly missed by all.”

Fletcher, a longtime Executive Director for the Yurok Tribe, passed away on Friday evening, after suffering from a heart attack. He started his career with the Yurok Tribe as the first Tribal fisheries manager in 1994.

The Yurok Tribal member and visionary leader ran the day-to-day operations of the Tribal government. He played a prominent part in nearly every important Tribal policy decision, land acquisition, litigation and legislative effort in the last 20 years.

Fletcher, a tenacious Tribal advocate, accumulated a long list of history-making accomplishments, such as sowing the seeds that started the Tribe’s natural resource protection programs, during his time working for the Tribe. While the truly humble human being would never take the credit, Fletcher was responsible for ending a generations-long conflict between many competing Klamath River-based interests, including: farmers, commercial fishers, a power company, environmental groups and other Tribes. Turning this group of fierce, former adversaries into a cooperative coalition, focused on removing four Klamath dams and creating a plan for equitable water use was just one the many achievements in his storied career.

“Troy’s integrity and innate leadership skills made him a magnet to all,” said Dave Hillemeier, the Yurok Fisheries Program Manager. “We have lost a beloved friend, father, son, husband, mentor, leader, boss and a person respected by those from all walks of life.”

The benevolent boss instilled many positive principles into his employees and empowered them to achieve greatness. He valued initiative and preparedness. Fletcher treated all of the staff fairly and with respect. He emphasized the importance of developing meaningful relationships with representatives of outside agencies. In Fletcher’s opinion, the Tribe had a right and an obligation to manage all of the lands within Yurok ancestral territory and places that affect the Tribe, such as upriver from its borders. He saw those who opposed him as an opportunity to build a bridge. Before making any decisions involving natural resources, he first asked, “Does this work for fish?”

The leading figure in the campaign to solve the Klamath water crisis also filled an irreplaceable role in the Tribe’s effort to reacquire substantial swaths of land within Yurok territory. His behind-the-scenes work paved the way for the Tribe to procure more than 35,000 acres in the Pecwan and Blue Creek watersheds. Both of these drainages, located in the Tribe’s traditional territory, are culturally invaluable and incredibly important for fish and wildlife populations.

In 1999 Fletcher transitioned to the Executive Director position. As the Fisheries Manager and then as Executive Director, he established the Tribe’s, award-winning Watershed Restoration and Environmental Programs and expanded the Fisheries Program. Today, these programs have more 70 staff that are committed to improving environmental conditions in Yurok ancestral territory.

The universally respected administrator managed more than a dozen departments and 300-plus personnel. Most recently, Fletcher was shepherding a strategy to spur the United States Congress into creating legislation that would broaden the Reservation’s boundaries to include the recent land purchases and increase the Tribe’s role in managing the lands within Yurok ancestral territory. He was also working with representatives of the federal government to release the remaining elements of the Hoopa/Yurok Settlement Act.

The distinguished director worked his way from a fisheries technician to overseeing the fast-growing Tribal government. On behalf of the Yurok people, Fletcher testified before Congress, presented to numerous state and federal regulatory committees and travelled to Washington DC many times to advocate for Tribal rights and to improve conditions on the Klamath River.

Fletcher was raised in Pecwan, which is where he spawned a life-long connection to the Klamath River. He committed his entire adult life to restoring the river, preserving Tribal culture and returning the Tribe to its rightful role in Yurok Country. He leaves behind his parents, Jacqueline and Don Winter, his sons Troy Fletcher Jr., Cody and Zachary, grandchildren Cody Jr. and Raa-yoy, as well as his wife Kari.

Services will be held on Saturday, Nov., 28 at 10 a.m. at the Yurok Tribal office in Klamath. The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Aawok Troy Fletcher Memorial Fund, through the Humboldt Area Foundation. HAF’s address is 373 Indianola Rd., Bayside Ca 95524. There will be an opportunity to make a donation at the Saturday service.

Additional Statements:
“We offer our most sincere condolences to our downriver brothers and sisters for the loss of a great leader. Troy was not only a great leader of Yurok people, but off all Indian people fighting for their water, their fish, and their sovereignty. He was my personal friend and a real brother-in-arms in the fight for tribal rights. No one will be able to replacement him, but its incumbent on us all to honor his memory by carrying on the struggle.” -- Leaf Hill, Karuk Department of Natural Resources

“It would be difficult to fully measure the contributions Troy made to the Yurok Tribe and the greater Klamath River region. “He was a tough negotiator and a believer in diplomacy, which resulted in agreements to solve some of the river’s water problems and remove its dams. Troy was a great man and an able leader. He will be missed by many.” -- Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael

“This is a loss to more than the Yurok Tribe. This is a loss for the entire state. Troy Fletcher was a leader, a problem-solver, and an effective champion of the Yurok tribe. He sought always to heal broken relationships. We will miss his hard work, talent, and collaborative approach to California’s natural resource dilemmas.” -- John Laird, the State of California’s Secretary for Natural Resources

“I will miss Troy as a friend and a colleague. He taught me a lot about courage in resolving hard problems. Our department has lost an ally and companion in the work to restore the Klamath River Basin, and keep salmon and our ecosystems healthy for our children. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Troy’s family and the Yurok Tribe. It is a tragic loss.” -- Chuck Bonham, Director, California Department of Fish and Wildlife

“Troy was a true friend and forceful partner. His passing is a great loss for those of us who knew him but also for everyone who cares about the Klamath River and its people.” -- Brian Johnson, Trout Unlimited California Director

“Troy wasn't just a big man, he was a giant. A visionary that has helped shape the future of Blue Creek and the Klamath River. Thanks to Troy's guidance, one day soon Blue Creek will be a sanctuary for salmon and will once again and forever belong to the Yurok.” -- Sue Doroff, President of Western Rivers Conservancy

“All of us who care about the Klamath Basin and its resources are deeply saddened at the loss of Troy Fletcher. Troy was a visionary who saw things as they could be instead of as they are. A fierce negotiator but also a man of immense integrity, he could disagree without being disagreeable. No matter how difficult the issue or meeting before us, he would begin and end the meeting wrapping me in a great bear hug and asking about my children. He understood the Klamath Agreements were about not just now but the future, for his children and their children. Troy was unapologetic about his love and protection of the river and its fishery, which were such a huge part of him. With his passing, I have lost a dear and close friend.” -- John Bezdek, Counselor to the Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior

"There is one statement Troy made that I often use, and attribute to him: "Sometimes in order to solve your own problems, you have to solve the other guy's." He did that frequently. To advance his Tribe's goals, to increase the reach of the Yurok Tribe and expand its authority, sometimes (often) he would have to figure out what the other guy's problem was, and then how to solve it. He loved his wife, his family, his friends and his Tribe. There are few with a heart as big as that." -- Scott Williams, Berkey Williams LLP.

“Troy was a great communicator that was always willing to listen and able to bring interests together. Troy was the linchpin for the successful agreements between YT and Del Norte. Above all, he was a friend that will be greatly missed.” -- David Finigan, Chairman of the Del Norte Board of Supervisors

“We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of Troy. Troy was instrumental in developing and maintaining the excellent working relationship Green Diamond enjoys with the Yurok Tribe. Troy’s can-do attitude and problem solving skills created many of the successful projects that have been in place for more than 20 years, including our fisheries monitoring and restoration work and the Blue Creek land acquisition. He will be missed. We offer our condolences to the Fletcher family and the Tribe.” -- Neal Ewald, Senior Vice President Green Diamond Resource Company

"Over the years, many of the irrigators in the Klamath Project not only got to know Troy, but like me, they grew respect him and like him a great deal. Troy was one of the toughest, smartest and most tireless advocates that I have ever known. Over the years, we worked very hard with Troy on multiple fronts and we found common ground in many areas. Troy’s perseverance and determination taught many of us in the Upper Basin a lot about the challenges and issues that are important to the Yurok people.

Speaking for myself, Troy and I built a strong personal and professional relationship. We obviously didn’t agree on everything, but the disagreements (which were not infrequent), were never personal and I always looked forward to seeing him again. I will miss our time talking about work, politics, our families, and golf.

On behalf of the Klamath Water Users Association our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with Troy’s family and the Yurok people. We all lost a friend and a heck of a man." -- Greg Addington, Klamath Water Users Association

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