At a special meeting last tonight, the Yurok Tribal Council engaged in a detailed dialogue about a pair of local business owners who appeared to have violated tribal, county, and state directives when they opened the Log Cabin Diner to sit-down customers yesterday.
The diner is located on the Yurok Reservation, which is currently closed to non-residents. Coinciding with the apparent breach of the safety mandates, Roger Gitlin, a sitting member of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, used social media to encourage people to patronize the restaurant, despite the Yurok Tribe’s April 6 closure of the reservation. During the emergency meeting, each of the Tribal Council members voiced concerns about how these actions may jeopardize a months-long effort to prevent the coronavirus from reaching the reservation, where there are numerous Tribal elders and individuals with preexisting health issues.
“The Tribal Council is acutely aware of the tremendous strain this public health emergency is having on local businesses. We fully support the Log Cabin’s ability to offer to-go orders, but we do not support this affront to tribal sovereignty and the health of our people,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “Both tribal and non-tribal businesses have had to make significant sacrifices for the safety of our community.”
According to the United Indian Health Services, approximately sixty percent of the tribal citizens living on the reservation are either elders or individuals who have underlying medical conditions. Those with preexisting health issues, such as diabetes, are more prone to experiencing the worst symptoms from the coronavirus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To help those at-risk stay in their homes and away from places where disease transmission is more likely, the Tribe is delivering emergency food and supply boxes on a weekly basis to nearly 500 tribal citizens in Del Norte, Humboldt and Trinity Counties.
The Log Cabin Diner is approximately half-mile from the Tribe’s headquarters in Klamath. With a complete disregard for the Tribe’s sovereignty and the safety of local citizens, Del Norte County Supervisor Roger Gitlin used Facebook to invite his followers to “drive down to Klamath” to join him in eating at the Log Cabin. Klamath is not in his district nor is it where he resides.
In addition to the closure order, the Tribe instituted a shelter-in-place order and a curfew. The Tribe temporarily ceased operations at the Redwood Hotel and Casino, the Klamath Jet Boat Tours as well as the other non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. These enterprises will remain closed until the Tribal Council lifts the closure order.
“We want to remind residents and business owners that the reservation will remain closed to visitors until the order is lifted,” Chairman James said.
Under the Yurok Tribe’s Closure Order, the Yurok Reservation is closed to non-residents except for those performing essential activities. People on the reservation are directed to follow all tribal, state, and federal stay-home orders and physical distancing guidelines. Violation of the closure order is a tribal civil offense with a fine of up to $2,500 in addition to other possible penalties or orders of the Yurok Tribal Court such as restitution or ejection from all tribal lands. Violations of the closure order may also lead to other charges. The Yurok Tribal Council may exercise its authority to exclude people from the reservation if they pose a health and safety risk. The Yurok Tribe will also continue to work closely with our county, state, and federal law enforcement partners on public safety matters.