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Yurok Tribe opens first tribally operated state park visitor center

 Members of the Yurok Tribe cut the ribbon on the newly remodeled visitor center.
Yurok Tribe
Members of the Yurok Tribe cut the ribbon on the newly remodeled visitor center.

The Yurok Tribe of California’s northern coast celebrated the grand opening of the first tribally operated visitor center within the state park system.

The Chah-pekw O’ Ket’-toh center is located on the banks of the Stone Lagoon next to Redwood National Park. It will teach visitors about the tribe’s connection to the coastal bay, and the hardships faced by indigenous communities.

Rosie Clayburn is the tribal heritage preservation officer for the Yurok Tribe.

“We have so many exhibits," she says. "We have so many stories to tell here. This place is so deep in history and there’s such a significance here.”

Clayburn says the visitor center has been completely remodeled. She’s excited the tribe not only has a place for people to learn about the tribe’s history but which also welcomes tribal members.

Yurok Tribal chairman Joe Jones says this partnership helps to honor the indigenous communities from the region.

“This is a special place," says Jones. "For a long time parks weren’t always a welcoming place for indigenous people. We’ve been working hard to establish relationships and intend to change that.”

Jones says too often the story of indigenous people has been told by non-natives. But this center will be run by members of the Yurok tribe to help share their story.

Some members of the community say it’s intimidating to be the first tribe to enter into a partnership with the state of California like this.

Jones hopes this new partnership with the state parks will serve as a model for future relationships with indigenous communities across the state.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.