Nearly five months after his abrupt resignation as the executive director of the Yurok Tribe, Javier Kinney has been rehired to serve as the tribe’s forest carbon projects manager, according to an email obtained by the Outpost.
Back in November, Kinney’s resignation was announced via press release by the Tribe without clear explanation as to why he was resigning — however within the press release, the Tribe mentioned its “sexual harassment policy.”
In the days after Kinney’s resignation a number of women came forward both to the Outpost as well as during a Tribal Council meeting to express their concerns and experiences with Kinney. An investigation by the Outpost found allegations of physical, verbal and emotional abuse by Kinney’s soon-to-be ex-wife, allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation by a former employee and what appeared to be a habitual disregard from tribal management of formal complaints filed by Yurok employees.
Messages left with the Yurok Tribe were not returned by the time of publication.
There has been some backlash on Facebook from Yurok Tribal members about Kinney’s rehiring, which seems to have prompted Yurok Chairman Joe James to issue a response. In a Facebook post, Chairman James says he believes in giving second chances and getting people the help they need. He also understands not all share his viewpoint.
“I understand that people will not agree with me and that’s okay,” the post reads. “As tribal chairman and a traditional leader, I will continue to pray, to care, to heal and love one another.”
In the comments on the Chairman’s post a number of people agree with Chairman James, however there are a number of others who issue sharp condemnations of his decision.
“Traditional leaders do not dismiss testimonials of the tribal woman and allow the re-hiring of an individual who has violated our women,” one post reads. “This person left his position for a reason. We have not healed from his years of abuse of his positions. This is not traditional. Unless this behavior is your new version of traditional. Shame on you [for] pulling the traditional card concerning this serious issue. My elders would not call accepting this behavior traditional.”
Another condemnation was by a young man named Donald Moore. Moore said he is frustrated with the favorable treatment Kinney has received and called the rehiring “morally wrong.”
“You’re a dance leader that holds fire, yet supports sexual assault… and harassment, so when you put root on that fire I’m guessing you don’t pray for our women and ones who are affected,” Moore wrote.
Moore told the Outpost that he grew up in Klamath and Crescent City and eventually moved to McKinleyville. He is a 21-year-old college student attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., where he is studying environmental studies with a focus on food systems and natural resources. He plans on returning to the area once he finishes school and to possibly work for the Tribe one day. Moore is saddened and upset by the decision to rehire Kinney. He feels that Kinney should have been fired and not able to resign.
“I’m upset because I trusted this council to lead us somewhere and to not be like past chairmen, but I was proven wrong,” Moore told the Outpost. “I think they had him resign so that this exact situation could happen. So they could follow their ‘policy’ and make it out so there was no wrongdoing as he was never fired. I just don’t think it’s right someone can sexual assault women at work on the clock, get asked to resign, then pretty much [be] welcomed back with open arms. I guarantee any other employee, not so close to [Chairman James], would’ve been terminated.”
Another person to speak out in condemnation of the decision to rehire Kinney is Elizabeth Azzuz. Azzuz is a Yurok Tribal member and works for a nonprofit called the Cultural Fire Management Council. Azzuz said she thinks nepotism is a reason for why Kinney was rehired with the tribe. In an interview for a previous story, Kinney’s ex-wife told the Outpost that Chairman James and Kinney grew up together and maintain a close friendship.
“[I’m] very upset… . He was allowed to quit and [was] not fired,” Azzuz told the Outpost.
In a post on Facebook, Azzuz said she thought the Tribe was moving in a new direction, away from when women were not treated as equals.
“Well with the swoop of a pen we are back to those days where women have to watch their backs or look over their shoulder in fear and intimidation, even a few men also,” Azzuz wrote. “This is so sad, this is not our way, this is not the native way, the Yurok way, the right way!”