Emergencies highlight critical tribal role

Smoke from the Mendocino Complex fire creates a "blood moon." (Photo: Padelphoto, via Shutterstock)

With the Mendocino Complex fire burning through three counties in Northern California, the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake Tribe could only watch and pray as flames consumed massive amounts of our homelands, forcing the closing of our small casino and all governmental buildings as well as the evacuation of Tribal members and our neighbors.

While it is fortunate the fire has not caused more significant damage to the local community, this emergency has affirmed and emphasized a core tenant of the Habematolel’s belief in strong partnerships between tribal, state and local governments as being critical to a peaceful and mutually beneficial co-existence.

Tribal and county leadership recognized the importance of forging a relationship early on, and we value the ability to continually build upon it.

Although Native American governments were silenced for over a century by failed federal policies of forced assimilation and the destruction of a traditional tax base, modern policies have allowed for the reorganization of our governments and tribal economic development.

This has, in many cases, allowed tribes like mine to reassert their important roles in local, regional, state and national economies and governments.

Tribes like mine exist in some of the poorest communities in the nation. Our tribe understands, indeed embraces, the fact that the health of our members, businesses and homelands are inextricably intertwined with the health of our local community. We feel blessed that tribal and county leadership recognized the importance of forging a relationship early on, and we value the ability to continually build upon it.

As with all sovereigns,tribes strive to address the needs of its citizens through services like health care, education, and public safety services. These programs come at an expense and, without a traditional tax base, tribes traditionally have struggled to generate revenues required to support them.

Historically, gaming was the first major tribal economic development opportunity in the modern era.

Gaming, however, is typically only a successful revenue generator when tribal lands are near a population center. Now — for remotely located tribes like the Habematolel — the internet and e-commerce has finally allowed us to access and participate in the 21st century economy.

In general, the revenue generated from tribal businesses supports not only tribes, but also the tribe’s neighboring communities. For rural tribes, our businesses provide crucial jobs and revenue for the whole region.

For example, the Habematolel Tribe has offered significant financial support to Upper Lake’s Fire Departments and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, who have been crucial to battling the Mendocino Complex fire and protecting the Habematolel people and our neighbors.

The tribe’s participation in the wider economy has necessarily increased the importance of regulatory coordination between states and tribes.

California has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting and respecting tribal sovereignty and has coordinated with tribes to ensure our economies are able to flourish. Gov. Brown and many elected officials have continuously supported us, and have worked with tribes to ensure state legislation provides necessary protections for sovereign rights.

Gov. Brown was instrumental in fast-tracking negotiations for Habematolel’s gaming compact in 2011 when a previous compact had been denied by the federal government. Just last week, Gov. Brown also approved several additional tribal-state gaming compacts.

In another recent example, when Assemblymember Monique Limon learned the legislation she had proposed in Assembly Bill 3207 could potentially have a devastating impact on many tribal businesses, she agreed to include clarifying language to respect tribal sovereignty and avoid unintended consequences.

We believe Assemblymember Limon’s wise approach of consulting with tribes is an example of a bright future for state-tribal relations that will be of immense benefits to the state and to tribes.

Tribes are resilient and strive to overcome the ills of adversity of their histories. Tribes and states must learn from the wrongs of the past and recognizewe are simply stronger when we work together.

Ed’s Note: Sherry Treppa is Chairperson for the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, a federally recognized Indian Nation located in Upper Lake, California.


  • Paul R. Jones

    Where is the enumerated powers in the United States Constitution for:
    1. Sovereign Indian nations

    2. Indian government

    3. Indian reservations

    4. Indian treaties

    This whole “Indian tribal” thing is a plain fraud upon the United States Constitution.

    It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for politicians-state and federal-to dumb down as gullible non-Indian U.S./State citizens into believing that they-politicians-can pass statute law that regulates from the womb to the tomb the health, welfare, safety, benefits, capacities, metes and boundaries of a select group of U.S./State citizens made distinguishable from all other non-Indian U.S./State citizens because of their “Indian ancestry/race” at the same time the Constitution’s 14th Amendment’s ‘equal protection’ foreclosed the very same politicians from enacting statute law regulating from the womb to the tomb the health, welfare, safety, benefits, capacities, metes and boundaries for select group of U.S./State citizens with ‘slave ancestry/race’ all without a shred of Constitutional authority to do so.

    • Troy Woodward

      Tribes were here as sovereign nations before the constitution was drafted so are not subject to it. Tribes have, however, made treaties with the United States that ceded vast amounts of land. Those treaties contain the provisions for sovereign Indian nations, tribal government, and Indian reservations. In California, 18 treaties that would have protected 8.5 million acres of tribal homelands were never ratified by the US Senate–due to pressure from California. What the tribes have now is a small fraction of what the US agreed the tribes could keep. Still, the California tribes never relinquished their sovereign rights so they must be respected. Reference: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/01/18/368559990/broken-promises-on-display-at-native-american-treaties-exhibit

      • Paul R. Jones

        You are United States Constitution naïve. Provide the enumerated powers in the United States Constitution to make your post true.

        References that debunk your post: The United States Constitution: “Individuals who have been wronged by unlawful racial discrimination should be made whole; but under our Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race. That concept is alien to the Constitution’s focus upon the individual, see Amdt. 14, 1 (“[N]or shall any State . . . deny to any person” the equal protection of the laws) (emphasis added), and its rejection of dispositions based on race, see Amdt. 15, 1 (prohibiting abridgment of the right to vote “on account of race”) or based on blood, see Art. III, 3 (“[N]o Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood”); Art. I, 9 (“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States”).
        ADARAND CONSTRUCTORS, INC. v. PENA, (1995) No. 93-1841 Argued: January 17, 1995 Decided: June 12, 1995:

        • https://plus.google.com/u/0/107573984212894845783 tapirrider1

          “Provide the enumerated powers in the United States Constitution to make your post true.”

          Paul, you have had all of that and more provided to you multiple times in the past and you simply ignore it, disappear and then pop back up later on a new story to dump your cut and paste comments on the unsuspecting. You have also had it explained to you how you have misused Adarand Constructors v. Pena in your misguided attempts to denigrate the nations of American Indians. Truth doesn’t stop you in the least from attempting to preach your nonsense, nor do you hesitate at all to call someone naive of the constitution, or even to call them a constitutional dolt when they have shredded your claims. You really have a problem Paul, go get some professional help and get on some meds.

  • Chris Gallardo

    When tribes and the Federal and/or State government join together, all things are possible. Over the years, tribes have shown they care and stand up to help their reservations and surrounding communities when tragedy hits. This happens up and down this great state. Tribes are strong and will always come to aid those in need. You can count on it.

    • Paul R. Jones

      Chris: Read my post below.

      • https://plus.google.com/u/0/107573984212894845783 tapirrider1

        Paul, this is a good example of what is wrong with you. Here is a positive comment from Chris, a very good comment I might add, and you for some reason feel you must insert your warped, distorted and false claims concerning American Indians. What a twisted and misguided attempt you have made to sow seeds of hatred against some of the most beautiful people in the world. Paul, get on some kind of meds, your mind is sick.

  • Geoff Hash-Law

    I have seen, firsthand, what strong leadership (tribal, sheriff/law enforcement, fire, and other county officials) has accomplished in Lake County specifically. Some of that work has occurred in very difficult times. However, the impact that this leadership has had on the citizens of that county through that cooperative work cannot be overstated. They have worked together to adopt new models for the protection of all, in some of the most challenging circumstances. At the same time, in other counties, I have seen what happens when leadership is weak and fractured, acting out of fear and self-interest. All of us would be better for it if we take a closer look at what has happened in Lake County, and how the leadership there has overcome significant adversity to strengthen relationships all for the benefit of citizens today, as well as generations to come.

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