UCLA law students support Yurok Tribe in navigating food sovereignty

Nicole Hansen was one of three law school students who worked to improve food safety and sovereignty for the Native American Yurok Tribe in northern California. (Courtesy of Nicole Hansen) Three UCLA law students helped a Native American tribe in California navigate decades of legal framework that inhibited their food sovereignty.

The Yurok Tribe’s ancestral territory stretches through northern California, including a reservation along the Klamath River.

As a result of colonialism, Yurok territory was forcibly reduced to what is now the current Yurok reservation, said Lauren van Schilfgaarde, director of the UCLA Tribal Legal Development Clinic.

The UCLA Tribal Legal Development Clinic and the Frank G. Wells Environmental Law Clinic collaborated on a two-part project last semester that contributed to the Yurok’s food sovereignty efforts.

The tribe’s ancestral territory is now divided into a patchwork of national and state parks, as well as privately owned land.

Each land status has different regulations that variably impact hunting, the control of plants and animals and Yurok access to the land. These regulations inhibit the Yurok’s ability to harvest and protect culturally significant species or to harvest in culturally meaningful ways, van Shilfgaarde said.

The project was third-year law student Nick Bascom’s second time working with the Yurok Tribe.“It just seems really perverse to say, ‘You can be great caretakers of this land, but we won’t allow you to sort of carry out this traditional hunting and gathering that has always been a part of your culture,’” Bascom said.Until the Yurok’s rights to harvest in their ancestral […]

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