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News + PoliticsThe indigenous struggle to save trees -- and sacred spaces -- in...

The indigenous struggle to save trees — and sacred spaces — in Humboldt

Between the timber companies and state agencies, so much devastation.


“Caltrans comes and just takes everything you have.”

Pomo Elder Priscilla Hunter was standing next to a sacred Pomo rock — they call the Mama Rock — near the shore of a California coastal beach long ago stolen from the Pomo people by the weaponized paper known as contracts.

She was speaking and teaching on the colonial removal of her relatives, her ancestors’ bones, hundreds of years ago — and more recently — to all of us youth and adult poverty skolaz on the 1st stop of our Stolen land Hoarded Resources Un-Tour Across Occupied Pacific Northwest Turtle Island.

Pomo Elder Priscilla Hunter talks about sacred space and the threats it faces.

Priscilla’s words cut me in half.

Caltrans, the same forces that perpetrate the violence called sweeps on houseless peoples’ bodies like myself and my mama for the years we were houseless in Oakland, SF and Los Angeles. Caltrans, the same state entity that “accidentally” killed Shannon Marie Bigly when she was huddled under a cardboard box on the side of the 80 freeway near Fresno because her houseless body and so many thousands more was deemed an act of criminality.

Connecting these oppression dots — as well as lifting up and manifesting poor and indigenous peoples self-determined solutions and leadership — is the work of the Stolen Land/Hoarded Resources Tours. 

Priscilla went on to describe the ongoing violent removal, theft, seizure, of trees, ancestors, land and lives of the Pomo nation by the state who works in collusion with giant corporate entities (I have re-named them CorpRape) called the Mendocino Redwood Company and the Humboldt Redwood Company. 

Humboldt Redwood and Mendocino Redwood came to their position as major forest owners in Northern California (400,000+ acres) through different trajectories: MRC owns  227,000 acres in Mendocino County purchased from the multi-national Louisiana-Pacific when they left California after reaping millions, and HRC got what was Maxxam/Pacific Lumber’s ravished land in Humboldt County, minus small but precious protected groves of old growth redwoods surrounded by a sea of clearcuts.

Both of these evil desecrators are owned by the San Francisco-based Fisher family. owners of retail giants the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy, the Oakland A’s (majority share), as well as the timber companies,both, positioning the billionaire family as owners of more coastal redwood forest than any other private owner. 

None of this would be possible without the deep, centuries old collusion of the lead colonizers in charge, aka the State of California operating under Caltrans and Cal Fire.  

“They (Calfire) mark the redwoods, all of which are over 100 years old, with a black  circle when it is time to cut them, they decide “how old” the trees are based on their science of “coring,”  said Andy Wellspring, our docent Un-Tour guide/ ComeUnity reparator and alumni of PeopleSkool at POOR Magazine who had raised ComeUnity Reparations to enable us to even have the privilege of traveling to this unspeakably beautiful stolen Pomo territory.

When I heard the terrifying words, coring, it felt like all the other ways that white-science, academia and CorpRape entities have always perpetrated violence on Mama Earth, Black, Brown and indigenous peoples, under the benign cover of multiple forms of studying, researching, digging, cleaning, warehousing, developing, building, discovering, buying, protecting, securing, selling and claiming, to name a few.

The screams of Mama Trees 

It was the sounds of their tears that I heard walked into the old-growth redwood forest in Pomo territory aka so-called Ft Bragg, to witness, stand with listen to and support a MamaTree, who is one of over 50,000 acres of old growth redwood trees facing clear-cutting by these CorpRapeshuns, Caltrans and CalFire.

It is our goal as poor and houseless, pan indigenous peoples who launched these tours in 2016 and are currently working so hard to build a self-determined, poor people led solution to homelessness we call Homefulness with spiritual guidance from 1st Nations Ohlone/Lisjan family in Huchuin, Oakland, to lift up indigenous land protectors, ancestors, and mama earth’s voices struggling with the ongoing, colonial terror, War On the Poor, War on Mama Earth and War on Black, Brown, Indigenous peoples, to intentionally connect these dots, to connect the washing of colonial removal, terror, desecration and eviction. From San Francisco to Sheik Jarrah, From Kashmir to Iris Canada, from West Oakland to West Papua, From Pomo territory to Palestine. 

There is no more time for the colonial model of death, destruction and desecration. Of clear-cutting and evicting, removing and sweeping. The lie of public land that has never belonged to the “public.” 

“They took these lands and made them ‘public’ and removed all of our families multiple times, away from our water-ways, our life-ways, our uncles didn’t know any better, and now they are taking all of our trees and our ancestors bones, putting them into places like UC Berkeley,” Priscilla continued.

For those of you who follow POOR Magazine’s Un-Tours, we went just held a herstoric tour at the department of AnthroWrongology at UC Berkeley and Peoples Park, because UC Berkeley, like so many of these academic institutions hold Ohlone /Lisjan relatives of warrior, co-founder of Homefulness, Corrina Gould, while at the same time evicting houseless people from Peoples Park, elders and long-time tenants from 1921 Walnut street in Berkeley for more of their profit and greed. 

“Public land for public good,” said multiple times by Aunti Frances Moore, from the Self-Help Hunger Program, about the removal, eviction and police terrorizing of poor Black residents of North Oakland from the pocket park that they steward so poor Black elders, who have been evicted from homes in that neighborhood, can actually have a safe place to sit and think and rest.

And yet they are criminalized and constantly harassed, because just like Priscilla pointed out, this public land isn’t “public,” it’s just another way for the state to cut deals with huge developers and land stealers like the Fisher family.

For as long as me and my xingon Mama Dee, have been conscious, I have been disturbed by the white privilege that pervades the so-called climate change movement. So many of the “leaders” are mostly middle-class white people that seem to be intentionally disconnected from the centuries of love, care and stewardship of Mama Earth, our tree and plant relatives, four-legged and winged ones, that indigenous peoples have been doing, not as part of a “movement” but just as part of their life-ways of mama Earth care and stewardship. 

When we were invited in by Andy to come lay down prayers in the old-growth redwoods, we were so happy to see that Sister Priscilla Hunter and her xingon partner Polly were teaching, speaking and holding prayer and leadership. In addition at the coast Pomo Sisters Misty and Tina, were also holding up and lifting up the reclamation of a sacred rock back from the so-called state-run control and finally that our docent reparator, Andy and his partner Vicki were very clear whose leadership was being followed in this sacred tree fight.

We were happy to see privileged white people leveraging their race, class and physical body privilege holding down tree sits in those sacred trees, not something everyone can do and what a beautiful act of allyship to 1st peoples protectors. 

Our group demands that all 48,652 acres of this sacred forest be re-turned to their rightful stewards – the Pomo peoples of this land 

That in addition to all of their stolen land be returned to original peoples – that the 1st peoples be supported in their own cultural and tribal sovereignty and creation of Unified Ecosystem Restoration Climate Change Mitigation Environmentally Sustainable Economics 

We also propose that wealth-hoarders and land-stealers who think they “own property” in this stolen Pomo territory return land to First People’s steward ship and/or redistribute stolen and hoarded wealth to Pomo peoples so they can “buy” back more of their stolen land. 

“Mother Earth is bleeding and barely breathing as the rain forests are cut down from here to the Amazon and up north to Alaska,” said Hunter. “Climate change is wrecking great damage on our local community with forest fires raging all around us due to drought.  For the health of the forest and the critters within it, for the wellbeing of my people both spiritually and culturally, and for the fresh air and carbon sequestration that large redwoods provide, the coast redwoods in Jackson Demonstration State Forest should be protected. They should be allowed to grow to become ancient trees, sustained in a family circle of madrone oak trees, pepperwood trees and manzanita and huckleberry bushes.

Hunter is chairwoman of the Intertribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council consisting of ten local tribes who have purchased 3,900 acres on the Mendocino Lost Coast in order to preserve the forest there and save it from a third clear-cut.

To read the whole article – click here  To sign a petition that Priscilla and other tribal members agree doesn’t go far enough click here.

To follow the powerFul Un-Tour on its way to so-called Oregon and Olympia go @poormagazine on IG and Twitter or PoorNewsNetwork on Facebook or Youtube

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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