Down to the last particle of sawdust, every piece of wood that enters the Lindgren Lumber Company property leaves in the form of a commercially valuable product.
Built from the ground up by Yurok elder Joe Lindgren and his son Joseph, the thriving business employs an extraordinarily innovative approach to producing a wide selection of environmentally sustainable redwood lath, which are sold everywhere from big box stores to regional wholesalers to local mom and pop shops. Late last year, Lindgren retired after running the business for nearly 30 years and offered the tribe an exclusive opportunity to purchase the cutting-edge lumber company.
“The Lindgren Lumber Company has a longstanding reputation as a premiere producer of finest quality redwood products,” said Joseph L. James, the chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “We added this business to our economic development portfolio because it is a successful enterprise with an exemplary environmental track record. We will not be altering the operation of the company. However, we have a plan to capitalize on existing business relationships to bring the well-established brand into new markets.”
“In developing new revenue streams on and off of the reservation, we are strengthening our sovereignty and the stability of our nation. The Lindgren Lumber Company exemplifies the Yurok Agricultural Corporation’s low impact business practices and has a proven track record of economic success. We sincerely thank Mr. Lindgren for presenting us with a great opportunity to invest in the future of our tribe. This acquisition will serve our people for many years to come,” added Toby Vanlandingham, the president of the Yurok Agricultural Corporation, a Yurok-owned entity. “YAC and Mr. Lindgren agreed on a unique business arrangement that is based on our shared cultural values.”
While Lindgren is no longer overseeing the company, he is serving as an unpaid advisor to ensure that the bustling mill continues to perform at full capacity during and after the transition.
“I couldn’t wish for a better way to cap off my career. I care deeply about my tribe and my former employees. Members of my crew have raised children from infancy to adulthood while working for the company, and I want this legacy to continue for the foreseeable future,” Lindgren said. “My father told me that if you ever make a business deal with another Indian person, you must take extra care to make sure that it is equally beneficial to both parties. That is precisely what I intend to do. I’m staying on to prove that the business will perform like I said it would.”
Established in 1993 and based in Arcata, the Lindgren Lumber Company employs more than 20 individuals, many of whom have been with the company for multiple decades. Year round, the veteran saw operators quickly and efficiently transform rough cut planks into some of the most beautiful lath on the market. Many units of the precisely cut redwood lath are sold to The Home Depot and Lowe’s for the manufacturing of lattice.
Following a cultural imperative to use every part of what is harvested from the land, Lindgren intentionally and ingeniously customized the layout of the two-story mill. He also modified every machine in the building to maximize productivity and minimize waste. For example, beneath each saw is a sophisticated catchment system that transports sawdust to a central location, where it is stored until there is a sufficient quantity to sell. A local potting soil producer regularly purchases the loads of fine wood powder. The mill uses this as well as many other proprietary methods to eliminate all waste and to maintain a competitive advantage in the industry.
Yurok Economic Development Update
In 2020, the Yurok Tribe invested in three new economic development enterprises, including the Lindgren Lumber Company, the Weitchpec Nursery and the Shoreline Market. Located in Orick, the Shoreline Market will soon be transformed into a state-of-the-art fueling center. The Tribe invested CARES Act funds into the Shoreline Market and the Weitchpec Nursery. Both will provide essential services, such as food, fuel and water, to the Weitchpec and Orick communities. The two-story fuel mart will also serve as a satellite tribal office, which will make services more accessible to tribal citizens. In the spring, the Weitchpec Nursery will again offer organic produce as well as plant seeds, vegetable starts and gardening equipment. Purchased in late 2019, the Yurok Tribe’s Mad River Brewing Company launched a creative marketing campaign this year, which netted a new business partnership with the San Manuel Casino, one of the most lucrative gaming operations on the West Coast.
In addition to the recent acquisitions, the Yurok Tribe owns the following businesses: Redwood Hotel Casino, Abalone Bar and Grill, Pem-mey and Pek-tah Fuel Marts, Yurok Country Visitor Center and three RV parks. Growing every year, the tribe’s combined workforce is currently comprised of approximately 650 individuals, the majority of whom work in natural resources restoration and management, the primary economic drivers on the Yurok Reservation. As one of the largest employer’s in the region, the tribe offers living-wage job opportunities in many different fields, including: tribal governance, fisheries management and restoration, sustainable forestry, environmental protection, cultural preservation, social services and language revitalization.
“Whether it’s restoring the Klamath River, marketing tribally own businesses or administering essential services, we want the next generation to have access to fulfilling, well-paying jobs and the ability to comfortably raise a family. We still have a way to go, but we are firmly on the path to making this dream a reality,” concluded Chairman James.