Calif. tribes and BIA at odds over settlement
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The leaders of two neighboring tribes clashed at a bitter Senate hearing on Thursday, the latest chapter in a century-old dispute over land, natural resource and other rights in northern California.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, implored the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Yurok Tribe to work together to resolve their differences. He heard conflicting and often sharp testimony about a settlement fund worth more than $61 million.

"How about just for us," he told the two tribes at the end of the hearing, "stand up and shake hands."

But Hoopa Chairman Clifford Lyle Marshall declined to comply with the request and accused Yurok Chairwoman Sue Masten of being "hypocritical" for suggesting his tribe was not acting in good faith. "In our prior negotiation, there's been a breach of trust," she said.

"I'm sorry Senator, I cannot shake hands after being offended in that way," responded Marshall. "We did not offend them at the last negotiations."

Yesterday's exchange stemmed from a federal law, passed in 1988, Inouye said has failed. But its roots extend to the creation of a joint reservation in 1891 for several tribes with no common history and culture, he pointed out.

The land was eventually carved into separate Hoopa and Yurok reservations, Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb noted in his remarks. He presented a summary of a Department of Interior report which recommends neither tribe receive the remaining balance of the trust fund account.

The fund is generated by timber proceeds. McCaleb wants the Bureau of Indian Affairs to manage the money for both tribes rather than disburse it.

The suggestion was vehemently rejected. Marshall said the money should be distributed equally between the two tribes even though his tribe already received its 30 percent of original fund, as stated by the 1988 law.

But Masten wanted the remainder of the account, which she estimated at $76 million. The Hoopa Tribe and the Interior, however, believe the Yuroks failed to live up to the act's provisions because individual tribal members filed a lawsuit seeking rights to the disputed resources.

The divergent views left Inouye a bit flustered at times. "If you left it up to us for settlement act two you may get it, but it may be worse than settlement act number one," he said.

"Solutions for Indian problems coming from Indian Country are always the best," he concluded.

Relevant Documents:
Written Witness Testimony (8/1)

Relevant Laws:
Hoopa Yurok Settlement Act of 1988 (P.L.100-580)