Tish Tang Falls Article Has Hoopa Tribal Members Worried

Chairman: ‘No Picture Please, in Fact, no Tresspassing’

By Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune Contributing Writer

A photo of Tish Tang Falls recently published in the Times-Standard has locals worried that kayakers will flock to the sacred site, exploit its beauty and disrespect its exclusive ceremonial value.

Hoopa Tribal Chairman Leonard Masten said he was inundated Friday with calls from tribal members who are concerned about the photo, which shows a German kayaker navigating the 70-foot drop on Tish Tang Creek.

“Folks need to realize that our roads and waterways that are off of the Valley floor are closed to the public and violators will be cited with trespassing if they are caught,” Masten said. “Not only that, but this site is sacred to our people, held in secret and should not be exploited in any way. I hope outsiders understand and respect that without taking offense.”

During a phone interview Friday, Masten pledged to increase Tribal Police patrolling in the Tish Tang creek area to protect the site.

“I doubt the kayakers understood or considered the severe impacts their adventure could have on the Hoopa people,” Masten said. “I’m sure they wouldn’t have visited if they had known. This is an excellent opportunity to remind folks that we are a sovereign nation and have laws intended to protect our sacred sites and cultural resources.”

The Hoopa Valley Tribe’s trespass law, Title 15, signed in 1989, states that the reservation is closed, meaning its resources are only meant for the beneficial use of Hoopa Tribal members. To clarify, the reservation is closed off of the Valley floor. Non tribal members found off the Valley floor can legally be cited for trespassing.

Masten said that many tribal members were dismayed and curious about how the kayakers found and accessed the site as the trail is difficult to find and navigate. It is rumored that the kayakers put in at an access point a ways above the falls and navigated down the creek.

Calls to the photographer, Wes Schrecongost and Arcata kayaker, Paul Gamache were not returned by press time.

Hoopa people have lived in the Hoopa Valley and continue to use the same sacred sites their ancestors used for at least 10,000 years. Tish Tang falls is one of those sites.

Only a few tribal members alive today have visited the site. Although a few women have reportedly visited the site, most culturally knowledgeable folks will tell you it’s taboo for women to visit there.



Writer’s note: This story is largely incomplete due to the inability to contact key sources on deadline. Please email allieehostler@yahoo.com if you would like to comment on this story or the topic of Tish Tang Falls, tribal property rights, or cultural propriety. If there is interest from the readership I will write a follow up report. Use ‘Tish Tang Falls’ in the subject line. If you don’t have access to the Internet please contact the Two Rivers Tribune office at (530) 625-4344.


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December 15th, 2010


12 to “Tish Tang Falls Article Has Hoopa Tribal Members Worried”

  1. Jon says:

    I am one of the people that was there that day. We spent hours doing non intrusive research looking for that trail. which included speaking with locals who were on the road (Who were throwing logs down hill near the access point). We met no resistance. I can tell you that if we had seen any form of no trespassing signs that we would not of been there.
    My friend the photographer has received more than a few phone calls. I understand that you have the right to deny access to people on your land. That is your right. But there was no sign of this being a sacred spot (which I personally would have respected) or of access denial. We were picking up a fair amount of trash along the trail. This confused me greatly when I heard that people were pissed at us for being there. I’m also confused about the last paragraph, why were women allowed if it is taboo? This was one of the main talking points someone used to harass my friend so it intrigues me.
    Perhaps there should be signs where the road breaks off from the Valley floor? We were not assisted in being lawful. There were no signs that we should not be there. I understand that these laws seem commonplace for you, but most the people I was there with only knew we were on reservation land because I told them.
    We as kayakers do what we do with great respect. No disrespect was shown that day and I personally apologize for being there.

  2. g says:

    Other than it being sacred and for MEN only (taboo), I can’t see how a kayaker can “exploit” a waterfall or any environment whatsoever. I mean they can hurt themselves and they do often, but from what I can tell this seems like people are up in arms about nothing. I mean they float around in a plastic shell with paddles. Other than the damage of their footsteps trampling on vegetation and the possible plastic scraping off their boats, they really can’t harm this water source. Seems to be more of a respect thing than anything.

    2nd off, their fear is that more kayakers are going to somehow overrun this zone. I’ll bet you that even with this recent exposure, you won’t see more than 20 people even THINK about attempting to do this 70ft waterfall per year.

    Maybe this waterfall is only meant for Kayakers of MALE Native American descent.

    • B says:

      This waterfall is not meant for any kayakers. period. your ignorance shines bright in your writing. you are however correct about ONE thing, even if you are only partially correct, it is a respect thing. Respect for a culturally significant and important place. It seems that the only thing you know here is that this involves a waterfall, and quite honestly that is all you need to know. It sounds like you are neither Na:tinixwe: nor a kayaker, so i am wondering why are you even attempting at being heard here??

  3. Allie says:

    Thank you for your comment. It’s too bad that your friend felt harrassed. I was able to speak to Paul, but unfortunately the article had already been sent to press. I want to write a follow up article because calls and comments have trickled in, including more detailed information about the cultural significance of the falls. I agree, Tribal laws should be more accessible. Perhaps a sign at the trailhead is inappropriate, but your idea to post signs on access roads as they break off from the valley floor is a good one. On the taboo issue…check this site in a couple weeks when I hope to have a follow up published. Feel free to contact me by email as well.

  4. Enrique says:

    Tish Tang A Tang is a great place to donate the contents of your car to the local economy. The only disprespect the tourists contribute is the glass from their broken windows.

    I, like the kayakers, pick up quite a bit of trash when I visit the place. Go there right now! At the upstream end of the lower gravel bar there are three local(illegal?) campfire rings. Full of trash….

  5. wes says:

    I am the photographer that took the photo in the sacred site. We had no idea this was a sacred site and like the article says had we known we were trespassing on tribal land we would not have entered the site. I felt as though we had just as much respect as any other that would of gone into that area what makes you think we don’t have spirits that we follow as well and our spirits led us to this beautiful site its not like somebody showed us where it was we had to work hard to find this gem. We also saw a bit of trash that wasn’t left by us however we took the liberty to remove that trash to continue the beauty of our resources. We pride ourselves on taking care of our resources they are not owned by anybody and nature will always rule man. I agree with Jon there needs to be a sign maybe on the 96 entering town stating there is no trespassing outside of the valley floor. But after reading the law I am a little confused does this mean that we are not allowed to float the trinity river thru the gorge because it goes thru the reservation? Can we not drive into the six rivers wilderness towards the green trinities because it passes thru the reservation outside of the valley floor? When I first read the law I read as if it were related to the use of a resource which to the best of my knowledge we weren’t fishing we weren’t doing anything for personal gain other then enjoying our time in nature which not enough people do. I received a fair amount of emails and phone calls and was told there was going to be retaliation which was uncalled for in no way did we make any threats towards your tribe or people and after talking to one individual for a bit I explained our reasoning for what we did and expressed our apologies and ended the phone call since nothing was coming of it and it was going in circles. I want to express my apologies to the hoopa tribe for the taking of the photo however I feel as though this is a good lesson for both parties and a great time for the tribe to get people back into the native ways that once were. Are there not laws that allow anybody to pass thru navigable waterways whether it be on reservation land or private property because again no individual owns the river or creeks right?

    • B says:

      look more depthly into the history of our valley, i would encourage you to seek out a book entitled “our home forever”. it is a good thing that you pride yourselves in taking of our resources but when you start talking about reservation boundaries you really should educate yourself on the history of reservations.

  6. simone says:

    the site you went to is a place where u change your luck at so i was told by an elder from my tribe if u have bad luck it will change your luck to good being in that water obviously change your luck to bad cause that trip didnt end very well for you beleive it or not but your luck was changed because of that trip you took down our sacred falls

  7. melavon (ANDY) BIGOVICH JR says:

    I personally know firsthand that your statement about only a few people have ever been there is totally false. Ask around, everybody who owns a fishing pole has been there at least once. It’s the single best trout fishing in the world. I expect some backlash for this because I’m Yurok, not Hupa but I was born and raised here and my wife and both my daughtersare daughters are hupa tribal members. My main complaint is that I’m not legally allowed to harvest or gather on the res, so my family is basically not allowed any of our culturally significant activities, yet at the same time most every hupa member is allowed on the mouth of the Klamath to catch eels. I think its long past time for this B.S. to end. Most importantly I’m tired of being harassed, every time I try to provide my family with the basics like wood to keep them warm, fish and mushrooms and acorns, . This is just plain wrong. As tribal members they are entitled. But simply because I belong to a different tribe they can’t get these basic staples.

    • Rodney Zastrow says:

      I am a Hoopa Tribe Member. The Mouth of the Klamath is used by Sportsfishers of all ceeds and colors. I have to get a California State Fishing license to go Eeling at the Mouth of the Klamath just like the Non-indiginous folks that frequent the Area. And you must be saying that there are no culturally significant items or fire wood that you can harvest on the Yurok Reservation? The Hoopa Reservation was closed because of the threat to OUR NATURAL RESOURCES by people that had no business being on the RESERVATION and others who showed no respect for the environment. I can not take many of my family members off the Valley Floor because they are not part of my Tribe. I don’t like it, but it is the result of PEOPLE taking advantage of OUR NATURAL RESOURCES something with which even Hoopa Tribe Members are forced to deal.

  8. Lisa Morehead says:

    I really appreciate the dialogue that is borne from articles such as this one, and I am truly glad that so many people understand the significance of cultural sensitivity. At the same time, I think we would all be served well by simply helping others understand rather than slinging negative comments about human ignorance. Sometimes a person does something considered disrespectful by another culture without meaning to. To use the Karuk word so as not to seem crude: sometimes “aaf” happens.

    • WC local says:

      Having been to this “culturally significant” location I can say that it is both naturally beautiful and culturally trashed. The amount of garbage left behind reminds me of the old saying that those who visit a place may come to appreciate that place more than those whom “live” there their whole lives. I honestly get a kick out of the notion that this is an area where females (tribal included) are not welcome. Nice, what can you expect when the ones most responsible for the upbringing of the next generation are banned and the “men” just want to get high, drunk and -uck whomever. If the Natives really cared and weren’t just looking for some reason to complain then they would take care of the spot, share it with all those who could also appreciate it and keep it clean themselves. As it stands now, the falls, the reservation and the cultural in general have been completely trashed and there is a natural desire to blame someone, anyone but themselves.

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