Ryan Burns / Monday, July 31 @ 3:22 p.m. / Business, Tribes
(AUDIO) Rob Arkley Wants to Buy Indian Island to Keep Eureka From Returning it to ‘The Natives’
Note: Rob and Cherie Arkley responded to this post via email. Read that response here.
Rob Arkley, Eureka’s notorious real estate tycoon/political powerbroker/bankruptcy expert, went on KINS Radio’s “Talkshop” program this morning and told host Brian Papstein how frustrated he is that the City of Eureka is trying to transfer ownership of Indian Island back to the Wiyot Tribe.
“They want to give away Indian Island to the In- to the Wiyots,” Arkley said, sounding incredulous. “Well I use Indian Island. I like it. My kids do.”
Indian Island (or Tuluwat), you’ll recall, was the center of the Wiyot Tribe’s spiritual life for countless generations until the night of February 26, 1860, when a group of white settlers armed with hatchets, clubs and knives crossed the channel from Eureka and systematically massacred every man, woman and child they could find. The attack launched a five-day killing spree in which several hundred local tribe members were murdered.
In 2004 the Eureka City Council unanimously approved a resolution to return the northeastern tip of the island to the Wiyot Tribe, and a decade later the tribe resumed its traditional world renewal ceremony. Last year the city council unanimously agreed to return the rest of the island to the tribe.
But Arkley, whose kids — let’s not forget — like the island, sees this prospect as a historic injustice. He told Papstein he’ll try to buy the island himself by offering above-market value.
Here’s that clip:
He continued to take jabs at the city council throughout the interview, saying they’re “sitting on their thumbs” and adding, “I am not afraid of going to war with them.”
But he quickly returned to the topic of Indian Island.
“We’re giving it away!” he protested. “To the natives! We already gave them one thing. Now we’re giving them another? I don’t know what these— the women on the city council are thinking.”
Yes, as a proud American and savvy businessman, Arkley cannot stomach the idea of giving away land that was acquired 157 years ago through hard work and wholesale slaughter. And, curiously, state law may help him squash the deal.
As Arkley mentioned in the interview, the city now considers its remaining Indian Island land surplus property, and when cities in California get rid of surplus property, government code seemingly requires them to first offer sale or lease of the land for the purposes of affordable housing or recreational use.
Whether the city is required to accept the highest bid is another question.
Asked for a response to Arkley’s comments, Eureka City Manager Greg Sparks sent the following statement via email:
Since the City of Eureka and the Wiyot Tribe began work on this transfer over two years ago, the City Council has received a great deal of positive comments in support of the transfer from Eureka residents. On July 18, the Eureka City Council unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Wiyot Tribe that re-committed the city and tribe’s desire to keep the discussions ongoing and to address the legal issues necessary prior to transfer.
He did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about whether those “legal issues” include a requirement to accept the highest bid.
The Outpost also reached out to Wiyot Tribal Administrator Michelle Vassel. We’ll update this post if we hear back.
Listen to the full interview on the KINS website: CLICK HERE.
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UPDATE:, 4:51 p.m.: Michelle Vassel, Wiyot tribal administrator, sent the following message via email:
After the 1860 massacre, Wiyot people were denied access to this a traditional village, a ceremonial site and were unable to protect their ancestors buried on the island. Through grassroots efforts the Wiyot Tribe purchased 1.5 acres of Indian Island in 2000. In 2004 the Tribe received more than 40 more acres from the City of Eureka. The Wiyot Tribe has spent the last 12 years restoring the Island. The Tribe was successful in removing over 60 tons of scrap metal, and many tons of garbage; shoring up and preventing the erosion of an ancient middin (Shell mound) preventing further destruction of the mound. The Tribe removed tens of thousands of tons of toxins and hazardous waste from a boat repair facility that once operated on the Island, removed evasive species such as spartina and planted native plants that will create and enhance wildlife habitat today and in years to come. After the hazardous waste removal project was complete the Wiyot Tribe was able to complete the ceremony from 1860 in 2014. The Tribe has spent many years working with the City of Eureka in a good way. We look forward to continuing this work; healing both the Island and the people.