Engaging “Radical Relationality” in Environmental Governance: The Yurok Tribe’s Approach to Water and Forest Management

Authors: Kaitlin Reed*, Humboldt State University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Yurok Tribe; Klamath River
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 21
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In response to numerous threats to the ecological integrity of Yurok ancestral territory and the Klamath River Basin broadly, exacerbated by climate change, – namely, cannabis-related water diversion, agricultural pollution and diversion, political and economic hurdles to dam removal, and growing demand for water for development in Southern California – the Yurok Tribe has used innovate and integrative ecological management approaches. Engaging within a framework of “radical relationality” (Yazzie & Risling Baldy 2018), the Yurok Tribe is protecting their water relations and forest ecosystems via legal and policy strategies rooted in kinship, reciprocity, and responsibility. In this paper, I examine two victories of the Yurok Tribe: On May 9, 2019 the Yurok Tribe passed Resolution 19-40 to recognize the legal rights of the Klamath River. I will examine the context and legal implications of this Resolution. Second, In September 2019, the Yurok Tribe became the first indigenous community in the United States to receive the Equator Prize by the United Nations Development Programme for innovative environmental solutions for climate change. Specially, this award acknowledges the Yurok Tribe’s blend of traditional ecological knowledge and western science-based approaches to forest management. Through the California carbon market, the Yurok tribe is managing ancestral forestlands for carbon sequestration in addition to production of traditional foods, medicines, and basket materials.

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