by Andrés Felix Romero
On the first day of November on a pleasantly warm sunny afternoon at the edges of Old Town in Eureka, members of the Yurok Tribal Council gathered in front of their office building at 930 Third Street, Eureka. The council smiled as they cut the big red ribbon to signify the grand opening of their new office space for the Yurok’s court services. The new building houses a meeting place for the council within the South District. Eureka is located in what is known as the South District for the Yurok tribe.
Among other duties, the council is responsible for managing the ancestral lands of the Yurok that they are in direct control of, as well as managing the salaries of tribal personnel.
Lana McCovey is the council member of ten years who oversees the South District (and held the large scissors to cut the ribbon). McCovey was ecstatic about the opening of the space as now employees and residents can be closer to court services.
“What we found is that there’s a large amount of employees and members down in this area,” McCovey said. “We found it necessary to accommodate them. People from [the South District], to do normal, everyday business, would have to drive to [Klamath] to get that done. So we want to be able to offer [tribal court services in Eureka] also.”
This is the second office that the Yurok holds in Eureka; however, the 930 Third Street address focuses on court services. One service that the office will provide are diversion programs Court services that the Yurok offer in the space focus on supporting at-risk youth and elders, supporting victims of crimes such as domestic violence, probationary services, visitation services, foster services, and more. Space for council operations and an office for the tribal prosecutor also reside at the new address.
The Yurok staff that occupy the new building have found the space to increase their productivity in a number of ways. Besides the new office being able to support individuals in Yurok’s South District, Court Director at the Yurok Tribe Jessica Carter notes the building is only blocks away from Humboldt County’s courthouse.
“We can walk and get coffee and food,” said Carter, “And we can go to the jail if we have to file something or go visit our clients. Definitely accessible.”
COVID-19 played an important role in the development of the office building, as it was paid for thanks to the CARES Act during the pandemic. The tribe acquired the building in 2020. After renovations, the court services began to steadily move their court services away from their previous location, the Aawok Bonnie Green Site. The former site was located at Worthington Elementary School, and the office there was a portable classroom. The Yurok are now able to house many of the employees hired during COVID, who now need an in-person desk to work at.
“You can hire all the people you want for the job,” said McCovey, “but if you don’t have the space for them, then what’s the point?”
The new office space is much larger than the previous location. Now that many of the court services within the Yurok court system have their own suite within the office space, communication has become more efficient. The Yurok Tribal Child Support Services (YTCSS) staff enjoy the opportunities for more efficient and safe communication with each other now that each program has its own suite to chat amongst themselves.
The YTCSS staff is happier now that each court program has their own defined space within the new building. Each department has increased confidentiality thanks to the privacy and are able to speak to each other about cases rather than needing to communicate through emails.