Native Americans cancel annual celebration over state parks fee dispute

7:01 PM, Sep 10, 2012   |    comments
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Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park

PIONEER, CA - Native Americans have cancelled their annual harvest celebration at Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park because park officials will no longer allow them to keep money collected at the gate.

Longtime participants in the Chaw'se Big Time gathering, which had been scheduled for the last weekend in September, said park administrators had always allowed the sponsoring tribe to collect gate receipts for the two-day event.

"The park employees, they just basically walked around and did nothing," said Joan Villa, whose husband was one of the original organizers of the event in the early 1970's.

Villa said money collected at the gate helped defray expenses for the event, which draws as many as 5,000 people.

The current day use fee at the park is $8 per vehicle.

Regional state parks superintendent Greg Martin, who recently assumed oversight of Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park, said he could find no provision in state law or park regulations that allows outside organizations to collect day use fees.

State parks spokesman Roy Stearns said the department was "reeling in" similar activities systemwide.

"It's not appropriate to use public money for a private event," Stearns said.

Stearns said groups can obtain special use permits and charge a separate admission to their individual events inside state parks, but he said visitors must still pay the state's day use fee.

Gary Lee, a past president of the non-profit Chaw'se Association, said he would try to help find a solution to save this year's Big Time gathering.

"There should be a dialogue," Lee said.  "As long as people are talking, things can get worked out."

by George Warren,



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