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San Manuel Band Of Mission Indians Partners With Yurok Tribe In New Business Venture

San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is continuing their long-running partnership with the Yurok Tribe to start selling the Northern California tribe’s Mad River Brewing Company ale at San Manuel Casino. As KVCR’s Benjamin Purper reports, it’s part of a tradition of intertribal commerce in California.

Jacob Coin is the Executive to the Chair of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

He says while intertribal relationships in California have existed since before the arrival of the Europeans, the modern relationship between San Manuel and the Yurok tribe goes back to at least 1999.

In that year, the two tribes started collaborating on an elementary-school curriculum about Native American history and culture, and shared it through California Native American Day.

“Essentially what this program does is brings together 4th graders from throughout the San Bernardino schools and anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 kids will come during the week of instruction and cultural sharing. And you get the benefits of the curriculum again that was developed between San Manuel and Yurok. And beyond that, these two tribes have also shared a cultural sharing history, we routinely invited the Yuroks down for our springtime Yaamava’ celebration, as well as the summer yucca harvest, both are cultural events where exchanges of traditions and songs and culture and ceremony and things like that took place, so we've had a longstanding relationship in that regard," Coin says. 

That relationship endured when wildfires hit the Yurok Reservation earlier this year.

"They were bombarded with wildfires up in Northern California. Yurok was one of the tribes that were directly impacted. A number of their tribal families, tribal citizens, were displaced from their homes and San Manuel provided some financial resources to help them get through that period. We helped them buy emergency supplies and food and clothing and everything that they really needed to get by on a daily basis, Coin says. 

Now, the agreement to sell the Yurok Tribe’s Mad River Brewing Company ale creates a business relationship between the two tribes.

Credit San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

“This is just another element of this relationship between these two tribes. You know, first of all, before the Europeans came to this country, trade and commerce were robust activities, especially within the regions of North America. California region for example, as large as its geography is, there were still tribes from Northern California engaged in doing trade and commerce with Southern California tribes. I mean there were goods that we just didn't have here in the south, that we could get by trading with coastal tribes for example and tribes along the rivers like the Yurok," Coin says.

"And so that tradition and that exchange has been in place for many years. Several millennia, I'm sure. But this latest thing with Mad River Ale, we received a call from the Yurok tribal leaders wanting to come visit with our casino management to see if there was a place for their Mad River Ale here at our tribal casino here in Highland. Subsequently a group of business representatives from Yurok came and met with our casino management and worked out an agreement so that we can carry the Mad River ales.”

Coin says the agreement is beneficial to both tribes. The Yurok Tribe is in one of the most economically disadvantaged parts of the state, with a high unemployment rate. According to Coin, that’s why this business relationship is so important.

“Any time a tribe is able to generate government revenues it's a healthy situation because tribal governments, like all governments, really depend on revenues to be able to provide services. And sales of Mad River Ale in this case will help them generate revenue so they can continue to provide services within their jurisdiction, things like healthcare and education and law enforcement and security and public safety, those kinds of things that require revenues to pay for. This arrangement will help them at least pay for some of their services.”

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