Hoopa Addresses Hard to Find
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
Rod Johnson, interim manager of the K’ima:w Medical Center’s Ambulance Department, said that rescue crews in Hoopa really rely on directions from dispatchers who know the area well.
“They’ll say ‘go three roads down from this intersection and then take a right at the fork in the road by the old truck’,” Johnson said, “One time they told us ‘you’ll see the chickens in the yard, turn right there’.”
There are no house numbers in Hoopa, and most of the side roads in each part of the valley share the same name as the main road. Almost none of the road names are listed in the nationwide database used by GPS.
“It would make everything easier if there were signs on each road and numbers on the houses,” Johnson said.
Hoopa Tribal Council Member Augie Montgomery said that the situation can lead to safety issues.
“It’s a big concern, especially with Humboldt County,” Montgomery said. “If our Tribal Police need backup, and the county has to come in, it’s hard for them to know where they need to go.”
Safety concerns were one of the reasons that the Yurok Tribe installed road signs along Highway 169 to Weitchpec.
According to Yurok Today, the road signs were put in place to “reduce the response time for fire and medical services”, particularly for “elders who live in the area of the reservation and could very realistically need medical services at any time.”
There are currently no active plans to put in street numbers or road signs in Hoopa, although the idea was discussed by the Hoopa Tribal Council several years ago.
Some reasons for the delay in getting street names and signs in Hoopa are fears of vandalism and concerns over how to pick what names will be used. A number of road signs near Weitchpec were vandalized and had to be replaced.
“A lot of the roads are named after who’s been there the longest,” Montgomery said. “There could be multiple families living on one street – who determines which name goes on the street?”
Joseph Jarnaghan, Director of the Tribal Roads Department, said that the department’s priorities are set by the council and that right now that’s maintaining the roads that the community uses.
“We’re fixing potholes and we’re finishing up work on the Redwood Grove project,” Jarnaghan said.
Debbie Bailey, co-owner of Office FX, said that the lack of house numbers affects more than just emergency services.
“We have a lot of deliveries for people that come here instead,” Bailey said, “especially during December, because UPS can’t find where they live.”
Ken Malcomson, who delivers packages in the area for UPS, said that the situation in Hoopa has even stopped people from being able to order things online.
“Almost all the communities in America have addresses in an official database and companies use that,” Malcomson said.
He said that many companies have automatic shipping computers that will stop packages from being shipped to any address that isn’t in the database.
“A 92-year-old elder came up to me crying,” Malcomson said. “She’d been ordering from J.C. Penney since 1947 and they told her they now needed a specific address, and she didn’t have one.”