Mad River Union
TRINIDAD — The Trinidad Civic Club’s preference for keeping the Memorial Lighthouse in its current location collides head-on with potent and longstanding tribal opposition.
Although votaries of the structure consider it a poignant tribute to those lost at sea, Native Americans experience it as a diabolical symbol of settler genocide, racism and rapacity.
At an omnibus Civic Club meeting last week, Yurok representative Frankie Myers cautioned that although there is tribal support for preserving the lighthouse, it should not remain on the coastal bluff adjoining the Tsurai Study Area below Edwards Street.
“We would like to move it to a safe location,” he said.
Patti Fleschner, Preservation Committee chair, responded that no one has come forward offering to donate land. Nor is there funding to buy an alternative parcel, even if one could be located on stable ground.
Myers replied tactfully but firmly that the edifice is an object of trauma and loss to Native peoples, “a monument to destruction and atrocities.” In soft, almost inaudible tones, he said that historically the lighthouse on Trinidad Head guided “ships coming in to take away our resources,” resulting in “the horrific transformation of our people.”
The Tsurai Study Area is in part a Yurok Tribe home and burial ground, one of the most researched archaeological sites in California.
Tsurai officials boycotted last week’s meeting, rejecting the Civic Club’s invitation to attend.
In an email the day before, Sarah Lindgren-Akana notified Fleschner, “The Tsurai Ancestral Society is no longer attending the meeting. We have not agreed to any of the recommendations that SHN made... and are surprised Mr. [Gary] Simpson is disregarding the concerns the Yurok Tribe, California Coastal Conservancy and Tsurai Ancestral Society spoke of at the August 8th Tsurai Management Team meeting.”
Lindgren-Akana continued, “I would like to remind everyone in attendance that this project is subject to Policy 69, and the City of Trinidad and Coastal Commission have an obligation to the Tsurai Study Area, and to protect the cultural resources that will be impacted by the recommendations now listed by Mr. Simpson.”
She added, “As we stated in our previous email, our purpose for attending was to discuss our 2012 Civic Club Appeal, since we have not been able to get a response from the California Coastal Commission. We asked the matter be set for hearing one year ago, however, since that time, we have seen projects done that directly impact that appeal.” The 2012 appeal concerned Tsurai objections to a landscaping and beautification project of the lighthouse grounds, including the removal of a fence along the southern boundary that overlooks the harbor. A dispute arose over the exact specifications and the extent of the work.
Lindgren-Akana expressed a willingness to pursue further discussion, but rebuffed the characterization of SHN’s remedial recommendations as an urgent necessity.
“Although they have been labeled ‘emergency,’ we do not agree that the Memorial Lighthouse preservation project would fall in that category,” Lindgren-Akana objected. “The project now before the city and California Coastal Commission’s discussion, will again, directly impact our appeal. We request that the matter be brought to the Tsurai Management Team, as they are the governing body for the Tsurai Study Area. We request the California Coastal Commission attend that meeting as well, as they are a signing party in agreement with the Tsurai Management Plan.”