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Updated 3:46pm - Apr 15, 2014

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Yurok Council member dies

Served six terms as tribe representative, one as vice chair

Bonnie Green was serving as the South District representative.
Bonnie Green was serving as the South District representative. Courtesy of Yurok Tribe
Yurok Tribal Council member Bonnie Green, who served six terms as South District Representative and one term as vice chair, died Saturday, the tribe announced Wednesday.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss,” said Yurok Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. “Bonnie Green was a force of nature and as dedicated as they come. Her many contributions to the tribe’s success will never be forgotten.”

Green leaves behind a long history of working for the benefit of the Yurok people. Starting before the tribe’s formal organization in 1993, she was an advocate for Yuroks in the Jessie Short Litigation, for health care and other issues of tribal rights protection. 

Green served as the tribe’s South District representative from 1995 to 2006 and as vice chairperson from 2006 to 2009. Most recently, she was serving a second consecutive term, beginning in 2010, as South District representative. The district goes from Little River (just south of Trinidad) south to Honeydew.

The tribe issued a statemnet saying that throughout her tenure, her ultimate goal was to make life better for not only her constituents, but all Yurok people. To that aim, she improved access to health care, supported economic development opportunities and was a fierce advocate for fish and the tribe’s fishing rights, the tribe said.

“The Tribe’s quality of life is and always has been my first priority which will not stop until the expectations of my people are met,” she wrote in her most recent candidate statement.

Green was intent on the tribe becoming financially independent and providing ample employment opportunities for the membership. She envisioned a diverse economy anchored by sustainable timber harvest, salmon fishing and gaming, the tribal statement said. 

To open the door for gaming on the Yurok Reservation, she helped secure a tribal gaming compact. 

“I was quite emotional when it finally happened. I had a tear or two,” she said at the time the gaming agreement was finalized.

Green was a key negotiator in the 2012 Nez Perce Settlement, which netted the tribe $27.5 million, for the federal government’s mismanagement of tribal forest lands, the tribe said. The settlement agreement funds were split between the tribal membership and the construction costs for the Redwood Hotel Casino, which is slated to open this summer.

Green’s advocacy for the tribe’s fishing rights ran deep. She was a vocal participant in the “Fish Wars,” which took place in the late 1970s. The federal government sent in the National Guard, armed with assault rifles, riot gear and steel jet 
boats, to try to stop the 
tribe from fishing, the tribe said. 

Through a sustained campaign of peaceful civil disobedience, the tribe prevailed in protecting a practice that has taken place on the Klamath River for centuries. 

Green played a critical role on the management side of the tribe’s fishery too, the tribe said. Every year, she contributed to crafting the Harvest Management Plan, a legally binding document used to regulate subsistence and commercial salmon fishing, as well as ensure fish stocks for future generations. 

“As a tribal leader, Bonnie listened more than she spoke,” Chairman O’Rourke said. “She took others’ ideas as seriously as she did her own. Despite dealing with long-term serious health issues, her energy level was nearly endless. The void she left will be hard to fill.”  

 


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