Yesterday, the Yurok Tribal Police Department, in coordination with the Yurok Tribe’s Incident Command team and Public Health Officer, delivered a cease and desist letter advising the owners of the Log Cabin Diner to immediately discontinue a dine-in service.
“We informed the diner owners that they must take the sit-down option off the menu. The letter is one of multiple actions we have taken to prevent this establishment from putting the health and safety of our people in jeopardy,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “Now, it’s up to them to do the right thing.”
The Log Cabin Diner, located on the Yurok Reservation, began operating a sit-down service on Saturday, May 2. On the same day, the Yurok Tribal Police Department informed the owners that the service was a violation of the Tribe’s reservation closure order and they must expediently eliminate the sit-down option. Today’s cease and desist letter included a description of the penalties for noncompliance. The issuance of the warning and the letter are meant to give the owners an opportunity to voluntarily comply with Tribal laws and orders before penalties are imposed.
“We will go to any length when the health of our people is at stake,” Chairman James said.
The Del Norte County Public Health Officer also sent a letter to the diner owners. “I regret to inform you that unless you close the dining-in portion of your restaurant business again, you are in violation of Health and Safety Code 120275,” wrote Dr. Warren Rehwaldt MD, who noted the daily fines that will be levied by the county. He also stated the owners’ inaction may constitute “a public nuisance as it endangers the health and safety of the public.”
Contrary to the county public health officer’s advisement, a member of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors attempted to use the diner’s opening of the sit-down service to make a political point. Last Saturday, Roger Gitlin, who represents the first district on the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, published a Facebook post encouraging people to take part in the sit-in service at the Log Cabin Diner, despite a standing reservation closure order. The April 6 closure order was primarily put in place provide an extra layer of protection for the numerous Tribal elders who reside on the reservation and are the cherished caretakers of the Tribe’s cultural knowledge.
“Seeing a sitting supervisor publicly encourage people to disregard Tribal law is disconcerting, especially during a crisis,” Chairman James said. “We are disappointed in Mr. Gitlin’s apparent decision to politicize a threat to the safety of our most vulnerable citizens. It is shameful.”
Since March 13, when the Yurok Tribal Council issued an emergency declaration in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Yurok Incident Command team has been working seven days a week to prevent the spread of the illness. The Tribe has proactively put in place a series of measures to protect the community during the crisis.
A complement to the closure order, the Tribe instituted a shelter-in-place order and a curfew. To help the most coronavirus-susceptible residents stay home, the Tribe is delivering emergency food and supply boxes every week to nearly 500 tribal citizens in Del Norte, Humboldt and Trinity Counties. Nearly all of the Tribe’s social services remain accessible to those in need. Many of these much-needed services benefit both tribal and non-tribal citizens. The Tribe has 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.
Operations at the Tribe’s fuel marts have been significantly altered based on tribal, state and federal safety recommendations. The Pem-mey and Pek-Tah Fuel Marts are presently closed to the public and patrons are not allowed to pump gas. Staff are providing this service, while wearing face coverings and gloves. The employees are also taking grocery orders and facilitating a curbside delivery service.