Rancheria blasts hotel critics
Madrone says he's always supported smaller hotel concept
The Trinidad Rancheria is firing back at critics of the tribe’s proposed five-story hotel project, saying that some of the proposal’s critics have unfairly maligned the project and employed racist rhetoric to do so.
In an open letter attributed to tribal chairman Garth Sundberg, the rancheria addressed what it called “the opposition and racism surrounding our inherent right to self-govern and to develop our trust lands.”
The letter, titled “History Repeats Itself,” calls out Humboldt
County Supervisor Steve Madrone — whose 5th District includes Trinidad — saying the official has “made it his mission to discredit the Rancheria.”
The tribe also blasts a local group, the Humboldt Alliance for Responsible Planning (or HARP), saying the group’s attorney has
singled out the tribe’s efforts to expand economically.
“While we do not have the space in this letter to document all of the negative and discriminatory attempts to stop the project, we do want to call out a recent attempt to prevent the Tribe from receiving State Environmental Funding to move into the next phase of our project,” the tribe states in the letter.
Specifically, the tribe alleges that Madrone and HARP have individually sent letters to state agencies, opposing any state funding for a highway interchange that would facilitate traffic going toward the proposed hotel.
On Thursday, Madrone sent the Times-Standard a statement saying he supports “responsible development” on the rancheria’s property, but that the tribe’s rights to develop are not open-ended. A publicly funded interchange would end up benefiting only a private entity, Madrone argues in the statement
“I do not support funding this project with public funds as is currently happening,” Madrone said. “The public funds should be going into maintaining Scenic Drive. That would benefit the entire community.”
HARP attorney Bryce Kenny could not be reached for comment. Since the hotel was first announced, the group has raised alarm about the project’s environmental impacts, including its visual imposition on Trinidad’s scenic bay.
In an interview earlier this year, Kenny told the Times-Standard that the group “is totally committed to doing whatever we can to see that the hotel does not come to existence.”
The rancheria’s letter suggests that criticisms of the hotel are racially motivated, since they have singled out the rancheria.
“We find this to be an unsettling deja-vu,” the letter states. “Indian People have experienced this over and over again. It is an overwhelming sense of something that should not be familiar at all — discrimination, prejudice, systemic racism, and a lack of social justice.”
The hotel is planned to be finished with construction in the next year, but the rancheria has said that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could delay those efforts.
A number of Trinidad residents have opposed the project, speaking vocally at City Council and state Coastal Commission meetings about the hotel’s potential impacts.
Madrone has been among the hotel’s more prominent critics. But the official said Thursday he and other Trinidad residents had always supported a two-to-three-story, rusticstyle hotel, not the rancheria’s current five-story project, which has struggled to secure a permanent water source.
“This is about sustainable development and working together as a community to help make that happen,” Madrone said. “I have spent the last 47 years volunteering in this community to help us develop sustainable water supplies and to create sustainable development. I will continue to do just that.”
A rendering of the Trinidad Rancheria Hotel, which Garth Sundberg, chairperson of the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria, is being opposed by local officials because of racism around the tribe’s right to selfgovern.