To’ Kee Skuy’ Ney-wo-chek’ releases Year 2 Report

Today, the Yurok Tribal Court and the Sovereign Bodies Institute released the second progress report on a paradigm-shifting project aiming to establish a significantly more effective response to existing and future missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people (MMIWG2) cases in California.

The Yurok Tribal Court’s To’ Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-Wo-Chek’ (I will see you again in a good way) Project report represents nearly two years of bringing together the voices of survivors, family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women & girls and two-spirit people, tribal court staff, and researchers to fight for justice and safety for Indigenous women and youth in California. The groundbreaking report contains a series of updates on the development of California’s first MMIWG2 database and the creation of a comprehensive protocol to address these complex cases.

“The goal of this project is to build tribe-centered systems of investigation and stronger circles of protection, so that deaths and disappearances of Indigenous people will be accounted for and someday prevented entirely,” said Yurok Chief Justice Abby Abinanti, who is also a former San Francisco Superior Court Judicial Officer. “As you will see in the report, we have made much progress toward achieving these objectives.”

According to the report the project is constructing a collaborative and exhaustive approach to responding to MMIWG2 cases. From investigation to prosecution, sovereign tribal nations should have a primary role in every stage of the process. No one is more committed to pursuing justice and healing for our victims and their families.  As a result of this project, non-tribal government officials, district attorneys’ offices and police whom participated, are now more informed about this important issue.

Led by the Yurok Tribal Court, the To’ Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-Wo-Chek’ Project’s year-two progress report focuses on five new priority areas, including: foster care & violence against youth, mental health impacts, intergenerational trauma, culturally informed ideas of justice and healing, and family and survivor centered justice and healing.  The full report can be found here: (Insert link)

In the last year, the number of MMIWG2 cases since 1900 increased from 165 to 183 in California, which is 1.3 times higher than the average number of cases per year. None of the new 18 cases have been resolved.  Due to several factors, such as barriers to data collection, it is believed that these statistics represent a small fraction of actual number of cases. “If the rate were applied to each year since 1900, it is likely there would be over 2,000 cases across California, not accounting for likely spikes due to slavery, massacres, forced removals, and boarding schools,” according to the report. Nearly 60 percent of the cases originated in Northern California, between San Francisco to the Oregon border. Of those cases, 22% are missing, 62% are murdered, and 16% are status unknown. As reflected in the year two report, the data represent thousands of people, the majority of whom were murdered. “It is impossible to quantify the impact of their loss, what they meant to their family and community, and all they could have contributed,” according to the authors of the report.

A trio of databases presently track missing persons cases, including the federal government’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), which until only recently did not have the capacity to include victims’ tribal affiliations, and to this day lacks such information for the majority of cases entered. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is equally flawed as is the State of California’s version of this digital tool. Through their community-based data gathering practices, Sovereign Bodies Institute has been able to create the most thorough data source on MMIWG2 statewide and internationally, documenting the data points that are informed by partners such as impacted families and the Yurok Tribal Court.

Currently, 62% of all missing Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people in the state are not documented in any of the state and federal data repositories. Of the cases documented in the report, 41 involve mothers of children, who must carry the lifelong impact of the theft of their mother. In the words of Christina Lastra, daughter of Humboldt County MMIW Alicia Lara, “When is this going to stop? When are you going to recognize that we count? When are you going to speak the truth? When are we going to have closure? When are we going to have justice? What is it going to take?”

Most commonly, non-Indians perpetrate the murders and obductions of Native women, girls and two spirit people. Frequently, these crimes are committed far from tribal victims’ homes because the perpetrators intentionally capitalize on the minimal interjurisdictional coordination. For example, California’s MMIWG2 victims represent 48 different tribes, and more than half (52%) of tribes are located far from the state. This crime takes place within a massive area with many political boundaries, which supports the call for a coordinated multijurisdictional response protocol. The Yurok Tribal Court’s procedure proposed would connect personnel and resources from tribal, federal and state courts, victim services as well as police and social services departments.

“There is an especially urgent need for more federal participation in these cases because so many involve multiple states and jurisdictions,” explained Judge Abinanti. “This holistic, multidisciplinary approach is required because families of victims need services in real-time and victims need assistance if or when they are able to make it home.”

Mentioned in the year-one report, additional advancements have been made in expanding concurrent jurisdiction arrangements, such as the joint Family Wellness Courts led by Yurok Chief Justice Abinanti and the presiding judges of the Del Norte County and Humboldt County Courts.

In the 2021 report, the To’ Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-Wo-Chek’ Project team extended the scope of the data collection component of the project to include missing and murdered indigenous boys and men, who are also disproportionately represented in the statistics. Thirty-three cases in Northern California were selected as a preliminary sample. In year three, these cases and others will be fully analyzed, the results will be included in a final report on the project.

The Yurok Tribal Court initiated the To’ Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-Wo-Chek’ Project to improve outcomes of MMIWG2 cases in the state and eventually the entire United States. The Project is a collaboration between the Yurok Tribal Court and Sovereign Bodies Institute. In this effort, the Court has contracted with tribal member Dr. Blythe K. George who holds a PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard University and currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC Merced. The US Department of Justice’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) grant is the primary funding source for the three-year undertaking. A final report will be released in 2022 when the project is completed.

The Year Two report can be downloaded here:

Year 2 Report To’ Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-wo-chek

 

 

Yurok Coming Home Houses

The Men’s and Women’s Coming Home Houses are located on the Yurok Reservation in the townsite of Klamath. Yurok Coming Home Houses are modeled after a traditional Yurok village setting, including peer support, learning from Yurok elders, and supporting wellness through sobriety, healthy food and cultural engagement.

  • Men’s & Women’s House Managers
  • Individual Case Workers
  • Cultural Activities
  • Food Sovereignty
  • Sobriety Support & Monitoring

Contact & Apply
Contact the Yurok Tribal Court Reentry Program for more information, current House Rules, and Participant Application:
Phone: (707) 954-2374 Email: YTCRP@yuroktribe.nsn.us
Address: PO Box 1027, Klamath, CA 95548
Facebook: @yurokchh

Link to the Coming Home House Brochure: CHH Brochure

To’ Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-Wo-Chek’

Yurok Tribal Court, SBI release progress report on pivotal project

Tribal Court funds the development on first-ever database on MMIWG2 in California

Today, the Yurok Tribal Court, in partnership with Sovereign Bodies Institute, released an early progress report on a three-year project involving the development of the first database on missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two spirit people (MMIWG2) in California.

The To’ Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-Wo-Chek’ (I will see you again in a good way) Project also aims to establish a more effective system of investigation surrounding MMIWG2 cases as well as an enhanced level of protection for Native women, girls and two-spirit individuals living in the state.

“Currently, there is a scarcity of accurate data on Native, MMIWG2 victims and survivors in California and everywhere else in the United States. The databases that do exist are largely inaccessible to tribes and are woefully inadequate when it comes to tribal populations,” says Yurok Chief Justice Abby Abinanti, who is also a former San Francisco Superior Court Judicial Officer. “Parallel to the database component of this project, we are creating a cooperative plan that seeks to mobilize tribal, county, state and federal agencies in response to future MMIWG2 cases. I would like to thank the Tribal Court and SBI staff as well as all of the families and law enforcement representatives who contributed to this report. Together, we have a lot better chance of addressing this indelible issue.”

“Similar to the Yurok Tribe, tribes across the state have the capacity to positively influence the resolution of MMIWG2 cases,” adds Frankie Myers, the Yurok Tribe’s Vice Chairman. “I am confident that the collaborative approach called for in this report will facilitate real progress toward preventing future tragedies. We hope tribes across the US will one day use this project as a model to achieve justice for victims, survivors and their families.”

“I am blown away by the strength and bravery demonstrated by all of the families and survivors that took part in this project. Our hope is that this report will bring healing to all of those who are impacted by MMIWG2 by bringing real change to societal and governmental institutions. For far too long, California has been left out of
190 Klamath Boulevard Post Office Box 1027 Klamath, CA 95548

the national MMIWG2 dialogue,” explains Annita Lucchessi, the Executive Director of the Sovereign Bodies Institute. “This report is a call to action and a template for our communities. We know that innovation and resilience are skills within all Indigenous communities and it is those skills that will bring our relatives home.”

Since the Gold Rush, tribes in California have lost countless women, girls and two-spirit individuals to violence. Most commonly, these crimes are perpetrated by non-Indians and away from tribal jurisdictions. These incidents impact every aspect of tribal communities, ranging from an increased need for services for survivors and their families to heightened strain on tribal law enforcement. The Yurok Tribal Court initiated the To’ Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-Wo-Chek’ Project to improve outcomes of MMIWG2 cases in the state and eventually the entire United States. There are more federally recognized tribes and tribal citizens in California than any other state.

The Yurok Tribal Court contracted with Sovereign Bodies Institute (SBI), a Native American-owned nonprofit research center dedicated to gender and sexual violence against Indigenous peoples, to collaboratively compile and analyze data on past and ongoing MMIWG2 incidents. This builds on over five years of work Sovereign Bodies Institute has done to build a MMIWG2 database spanning the Americas. SBI manages the much-needed database, which is available to tribes, Indigenous service providers, and other relevant stakeholders upon request. It will also assist Tribal, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies in recording and resolving cases.

Currently, a trio of databases track missing persons cases, including the federal government’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), which until recently, did not make victims’ tribal affiliations accessible. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is similarly lacking as is the State of California’s version of this digital tool. According to the SBI report, 62% of all missing Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people in the state are not documented in any of these data repositories.

Working with Yurok Tribal Court attorneys and administrative staff, SBI researchers, including Dr. Blythe George, a Yurok citizen who recently earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University’s Sociology & Social Policy Program, have assembled and evaluated 165 MMIWG2 cases for this first-year report. The multidisciplinary team also interviewed numerous survivors and their families. With consent, their stories will be used to inform law enforcement, legislators and court officials as well as direct service providers and others about the many facets of this issue.

In addition to creating the comprehensive database, the project endeavors to introduce a formal protocol, integrating tribal, county and federal law enforcement resources into the response to MMIWG2 cases. The first recommendation is for local and federal law enforcement agencies to form cooperative agreements with their tribal counterparts. In conjunction with clarifying jurisdictional concerns up front, this will ensure that an adequate quantity of personnel is dedicated to these cases, 97 percent of which occur outside of tribal law enforcement jurisdictions.

The Yurok Tribal Police Department cross-deputization agreements with the Humboldt and Del Norte County Sheriffs’ Offices are used as an example of positive working relationships among law enforcement agencies. The agreements authorize Yurok officers to enforce all state laws. These pacts are especially important in California and directly pertain to MMIWG2 because of Public Law 83-280. This antiquated piece of federal legislation applies in only nine states and confers jurisdiction over major crimes to non-tribal law enforcement. Since this bill was passed in 1953, it has severely limited the amount of federal funding available to expand tribal police departments.

There is also a need for state courts to strengthen relationships with tribal courts. Specifically, the report calls for an expansion of concurrent jurisdiction arrangements, such as the joint Family Wellness Courts led by Yurok Chief Justice Abinanti and the presiding judges of Del Norte (Judge Darren McElfresh) and Humboldt (Judge Joyce Hinrich) Counties. In the report, Chief Justice Abinanti suggests that state courts institute a special, recurring proceeding for dependency cases involving foster children who have a missing or murdered parent. Court intervention will ensure that children receive the care they need when they need it most. Tribal law enforcement, courts and attorneys can also assist in the successful investigation/prosecution of perpetrators and with connecting survivors with culturally appropriate services.

The To’ Kee Skuy’ Soo Ney-Wo-Chek’ Project is funded by US Department of Justice’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) grant. A similar progress report will be released yearly until the project is finalized in 2022.

The Yurok Tribal Court is a branch of the tribal government. The main role of the Court is to apply and interpret Yurok laws to resolve disputes or disagreements that are brought before it. These matters can include civil disputes, child custody and support, divorce, civil infractions or code violations, guardianships of children, children in need of aid (child welfare), restraining orders, criminal, and probate matters. The Court also has various tribal programs to assist tribal community members who are involved in matters related to the application of the various justice systems including the various court system or who may be at risk of becoming involved.

The Yurok Tribe is currently the largest Tribe in California, with more than 6,000 enrolled members. With approximately 600 employees, the Tribe provides numerous services to the local community and membership. The Tribe’s ancestral territory comprises 7.5 percent of the California coastline, spanning from the Little River to the south and Damnation Creek to the north. The eastern boundary is the Klamath River’s confluence with the Trinity River.

Sovereign Bodies Institute (SBI) builds on Indigenous traditions of data gathering and knowledge transfer to create, disseminate, and put into action research on gender and sexual violence against Indigenous people. SBI encourages families and survivors to contact the organization if they would like to be interviewed for the next publication as part of this multi-year project. SBI also connects Indigenous MMIWG2 survivors as well as their families with support services and can be reached at mmiwdatabase@sovereign-bodies.org. For more information about SBI, please visit sovereignbodies.org or call (707) 335-6263.

To download and read the full report: Click Here

Yurok Tribal Court News

Contacting Yurok Tribal Court during COVID-19 Pandemic

The Yurok Tribal Court, programs and services are still operational during this time.  The Yurok Justice Center and all offices are currently physically closed to the public at this time.  Court hearings are physically closed to the public and are currently being held by Zoom Conferencing. A Request for Telephonic Appearance or a Request for Video Conference Appearance can be requested and emailed to CourtClerk@yuroktribe.nsn.us or by fax (707) 482-0105 or by mail to PO Box 1027 Klamath Blvd. Klamath, CA 95548.

 Court Operations

  • The Clerks Office is still accepting court filings at the Clerk e-mail at CourtClerk@yuroktribe.nsn.us
  • A drop box is placed at the front of the Justice Center for court filings and checked regularly
  • Yurok Justice Center’s front door is closed to the public.
  • Phone Contact: (707) 482-1350 ext. 1406

Legal Access Center

  • Facebook page created at the following location @yuroklegalaccess
  • Staff are still available during this time to assist with filing and documents via Facebook, phone calls or video conferencing. No face to face contact with staff.
  • Email Contact: ylac@yuroktribe.nsn.us
  • Phone Contact: (707) 951-6813

Yurok Child Support Services

  • Staff are still available for phone and email contact
  • YCSS is still receiving and processing payments
  • Email Contact: ycss@yuroktribe.nsn.us
  • Phone Contact: (707) 684-6116

Yurok Wellness Court

  • Staff are still available for phone and email contact
  • No face to face contact
  • Drug testing referred to an outside agency
  • No scheduled driving assignments during this time
  • Email Contact: Wellness@yuroktribe.nsn.us
  • Phone Contact: Lori Nesbitt (707) 954-3552 or Melinda Escarcega at (707) 561-2731 or Marie Decora at (707) 458-5911 or Tay Buck at (707) 951-2978 or Eleonor Beall at (707) 954-6310

Youth At-Risk Program

  • Staff are still available for phone and email contact
  • No face to face contact
  • Email Contact: bshorty@yuroktribe.nsn.us
  • Phone Contact: Bessie Shorty at (707) 951-9372 or Lisa Hayden at (707) 951-4423

Yurok Hey-wech-ek’ Program (domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking)

  • Staff are still available for phone and email contact
  • No face to face contact
  • Email Contact: vbates@yuroktribe.nsn.us
  • Phone Contact: Vicky Bates at (888) 225-8720/(707) 954-8737 or Kapoon Tripp (707) 951-6553 or Erika Meyer at (707) 951-9735
  • Laura Woods, Community Outreach Specialist at (707) 458-4116

Yurok Elder Advocacy Program

  • Staff are still available for phone and email contact
  • No face to face contact
  • Email Contact: njones@yuroktribe.nsn.us
  • Phone Contact: Noreen Jones at (707) 954-9179

Yurok Reentry Program

  • Staff are still available for phone and email contact
  • No face to face contact
  • Email Contact: ytcrp@yuroktribe.nsn.us
  • Phone Contact: (707) 954-2374

Yurok Batterers Program

  • Groups are being held by Zoom conferencing.
  • No face to face contact
  • Email Contact: slowry@yuroktribe.nsn.us
  • Phone Contact: Sandra Lowry at (707) 951-5747

Veterans Honoring Ceremony

Yurok Veterans Honoring Ceremony held at the Yurok Veterans Cemetery November 11, 2019.  The Ceremony was sponsored by the Yurok Tribal Council and included a Wreath Laying Ceremony. The event was coordinated by Yurok Veteran Wellness Coordinator Jared Ammon (far right).

Veterans Day Ceremony

Wellness Court

Jessica Carter (left), the Yurok Tribal Court’s Assistant Director and Yurok Chief Judge Abby Abinanti were presented with an Honors Award for the Yurok Wellness Court’s innovative, cutting-edge and collaborative approach to administrating justice.

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