"The policies that you make should reflect your love for the community... If you can't do that, then you need to take a step back and go talk to your elders again." -Reno Franklin
SERIES: Role of the Tribal Leader
Did you know? - The first inhabitants of coastal Sonoma County were the Kashia/Kashaya Band of Pomo Indians!
In this episode, Jennifer sits with Reno Franklin, Chairman Emeritus of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians. He is also a longtime Board Member of Rebuild NorthBay. Reno will take you back in time to see what's here and what's coming in terms of disasters. He also shares priceless wisdom and values critical in serving others during a crisis. Being a trusted resource, Reno also talks about how to help tribal communities be more resilient, advocate for equity, make community-centered policies, and democratize information. There is a reason why tribal knowledge and practices worked effectively to avoid wildfires. As the saying goes, Think Like an Indian! Tune in as Reno shares what that means for us who are living in the present and the future generation.
- 05:58: Invasive Species and Their Part in the Rise of Wildfires
- 11:01: The Kashia Pomo Tribe
- 15:50: How to React to Fire
- 22:05: Be a Trusted Resource
- 26:58: Air Quality and Equity
- 31:17: Tools For Achieving Equity
- 36:57: Democratize Information
- 39:39: Think Like an Indian
- 41:36: Acknowledge Your Worker Bees
- How to Lead: Public Sector (Local) with James Gore
- How to Face Disaster on an Island (Hurricane Maria) with Kelly Thompson and Martin Bras
15:30: "You don't serve every community the same. Everyone deserves equal access to resources and ensuring that they get those resources and how they are delivered has to be cultural." -Jennifer Thompson
22:25: "The traditional aspect of it is who we are. It was never something we thought about, but it was something that needed to happen." -Reno Franklin
29:44: "Equity is the ultimate solution that environmental justice contributes to." -Reno Franklin
30:46: "There's no equity unless it's recognized." -Jennifer Thompson
31:17: "There's a number of tools for achieving equity. Sustainability is one, and environmental justice is one. But the most critical one, but one that gets overlooked frequently is resiliency in rural communities." -Reno Franklin
32:25: "Seize resiliency where resiliency is not given. To build true equity, we have to look for opportunities to do that." -Reno Franklin
35:45: "We can start to build on what we have but we need more jump-off points to where we can continue to do that." -Reno Franklin
38:14: "If we can't build upon the lessons of 2017 and start to share those collectively with each other, we're doomed to have it repeated again." -Reno Franklin
40:37: "Don't find somebody who agrees with everything you say because that's not right. Find like-minded people who have a strategy that's similar, but most importantly, have goals that are the same." -Reno Franklin
41:08: "At some point, you're going to get tested, and your relationship is going to get tested. If you have not built on a solid foundation, you're going to find out the hard way that all that stuff you thought was cool is crap. And you don't want to find that out during an emergency." -Reno Franklin
42:42: "The policies that you make should reflect your love for the community... If you can't do that, then you need to take a step back and go talk to your elders again." -Reno Franklin
Reno Keoni Franklin is the Chairman Emeritus of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, and Vice Chairman of the Sonoma County Indian Health Project, a position he has held since 2002. Franklin previously served as Vice Chairman of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians from 2010 to 2012. He served as Director of Government Relations for the Yochadehe Dehe Wintun Nation from 2009 to 2013 and as General Chairman of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers from 2009 to 2011. Franklin served on the Department of Health and Human Services Tribal Advisory Committee from 2010 to 2011. He was Chairman of the National Indian Health Board from 2009 to 2011 and Chairman of the California Rural Indian Health Board from 2007 to 2011. He received an A.S. from Santa Rosa Junior College.
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Jennifer Gray Thompson: Welcome to the podcast, How To Disaster. In this podcast, we try to show communities how to recover, rebuild and reimagine. My favorite part of this job is showcasing all of the, literally, hundreds of people that I've met along the way who are doing really important work in different areas.
Today, our guest is Reno Franklin. Reno has a lot of things, including a longtime board member of ReBuild North Bay. I've really enjoyed working with him and listening to his perspective. He's also the formal Tribal Chair of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians. In addition to that, he has served as an Obama appointee at the national level to be an advisor on Indian health. He continued in that position for a number of years. And one of the things I enjoy about Reno, in that position, what he brings to it is a history of being an EMT, a firefighter and an indigenous person. We believe that indigenous voices should actually be made central to the issue of how it is that we can and should do forest restoration projects.
A lot of the time when we talk about fuel mitigation, people just see like, are we going to log everything? Or what are we going to do here? And I think, and I'm not alone in this, this is not my original thought whatsoever. That if we take time to actually look back to in order to leap forward and to see how indigenous people approached land, and how they cared for it for many thousands of years that we can actually find a way through a lot of our climate crisis in a way that addresses the need, while also bringing back, centralizing and honoring the contributions and perspective of indigenous people. I'm really happy to have Reno with us today. He's a busy guy, and I know that you will enjoy him too. So welcome to the podcast, Reno Franklin.
Welcome once again, Reno Franklin to the podcast, How To Disaster.
Reno Franklin: Hey, thanks for having me. Excited to participate, talk about the data perspective to this whole thing. So thanks for having me.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, I really wanted to have you on for a few reasons. I've enjoyed working with you over the past three and a half years. I've also been watching you, a really strong voice for the indigenous people, and particularly for the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians. There is a distinct momentum and in need for us to look towards the indigenous community in order to, how we figure out land, tree treatments and forest restoration that actually get us to a place where we are much safer, especially in this age of climate crisis and global warming. Can you talk to us about your work there, and also your history because you are a trained firefighter and EMT.
Reno Franklin: Right, right. No, I think I'll probably start off first by saying that we're not the ones that screwed up this environment, but yet, we're the ones that are being asked to participate in fixing it. And so therein lies a little bit of frustration. And a lot of that is around, in these invasive species that exist now inside of, I want to call it WUI, Wildland Urban Interface areas, these are grasses that dry up and turn into fuel. Jack London was an amazing writer. But when it came to his selection of trees that he brought over, he probably never should have brought those eucalyptus trees, which are firebombs and contribute greatly to the death on the ground. You kind of look at things from a couple of different perspectives, and I don't really have much of a choice, that no matter what, I'm hardwired to think, to be shy at first.
And so in that process of thinking like a Kashia Indian wood, we're looking at our environment and how that contributes to the fire danger. Overall, fire danger exists. And then as in the company meant to that, company meant to that, there's always climate change. And the danger is that this global warming is just wreaking havoc on us. So as the droughts continue and they're longer, you know that the temperatures slightly rise, these plants and trees that aren't indigenous there and don't have deeper roots, these grasses that we have now are not from here. So they're shallow roots. And the native grasses have very deep roots so they stay greener longer, and are less likely to become fuel and as hazardous as some of these newer things that haven't adapted to the climate. And it all just is overall dangerous that, but first Indian tribes in rural areas and as we all learn in 2017, it's no longer limited just to us in these sub rural areas, excuse me, and then be known, it's hitting us in the urban areas now too. It's an unfortunate thing to have this shared concern between the cities, the county areas and tribal areas, but it's very much a real thing we've been dealing with for the last five or six years, really.
In Sonoma County, it's been solid for four and a half. But then if you look at Lake County with more than 52% of the county burning in the last five years, really, those six years that it kind of started, they were the example anyway for the North Bay on what we can expect and what's coming, and then now, what's here. So when we look at these types of concerns and issues as they come up from a fire perspective, it took us too long to finally start to do control burns again.
I love the fact that we're doing that everywhere now. But Indians, we've been using controlled burns for thousands and thousands of years to manage ecosystems. I take the approach of better late than never. It's nice to see Sonoma County jumping on board. We've got a lot of really good fire personnel here and smart people that wanted to do that. But there's always a lot of barriers burning in the rural areas where there weren't homes 250 years ago, 200 years ago, 150 years ago was a lot simpler than burning in rural areas today where you have huge communitie. Our friend, [inaudible], we want to make sure that as we burn with care about the folks there in the Austin Creek Watershed. As you see Geyserville is working on their areas now makes you want to be smart. And how we do that, those concerns weren't the same 150 years ago. Now, we have to take into account, I think we're doing a good job of it, but we need more controlled burns. And then tribes definitely have the ability to do those burns. You're starting to see a lot of it up in Humboldt County, where the Karuk and Yurok tribes are now doing large scale control burns for the purposes of restoration of that ecosystem, but also for fire protection as well.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think that I want to go into the word restoration in particular, because I've certainly learned a lot in the past year about, there's a huge difference between just mitigating the risk and actually restoring the ecosystem. And that ecosystem, that ecology, and that restoration has to do the element of fire. What I'd like you to do first is let's contextualize the history. So where we are in Sonoma County, and Sonoma County is much like Lake County, we're showing things to come for most of the West. And as you know, we are scaling up to include 11 states and our charter is after the fire. I would love to hear the story of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians in this particular area, and then talk about what does forest restoration look like? What's it like to be, that your whole life part of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians and actually have that moment when everybody is centralizing all of a sudden in prioritizing the methods and the paradigm behind how native people manage the lands?
Reno Franklin: Yeah. That's a really good question. As Kashia people, we believe that we pick our parents. You always hear people say, well, you can't pick your relatives. And I always just kind of chuckle because I know, like, wow, they're not shy. Because technically, we do before we come into the world. We'll tell people that our path as Kashia people start, and that before the world very much, before our birth actually happens. And once we get here, we're blessed with what we would call Kashia [inaudible], which is a cultural rule and law, and the things that pathways that we have to follow in order to honor our culture, our traditions, our ancestors, our tribe. So we get a healthy dose of that our entire lives. It's a blessing to have our people on the Sonoma County Coast, our ancestral lands stretch from the -- river down to what we would call [inaudible], which is Duncan's landing, and then go inwards to Austin Creek Watershed, and up to Monte Rio, and then up to Lake Sonoma where Skaggs Springs was, which was a place of Kashia doctors to heal people. We're very much of a practicing cultural tribe, speak our language, maintain our environment, they call traditional ecological knowledge TEK. So we maintain those teachings, whether it's got to do with our ocean, or our forests, our coastal prairies, which are very much coastal prairies, and all of the things that would make up the area that are Kashia ancestral lands. So we still have our ceremonies around the house, very much a culturally intact tribe. I probably would say we, one of the few tribes that never assimilated.
So in other words, we maintained all those things that make us who we are as a tribe, and by teaching our culture out of books, or having non Kashia people teach us who we are, we very much know who we are. And it's a blessing to be a part of that. And it's also a little rough, because our reservation is in a remote area. We went from about 220,000 acres of ancestral land down to 41.85 for a hundred years. And were forcibly removed, not just from our coastline, but from our lands. A series of mass murders and hangings that took place in our ancestral area led to a kind of a combination of all things after the Russian so we had signed a treaty with our Village Metini now, Fort Ross, after they left. Sutter came in, we kind of went through a really dark period in our tribe where our population estiments were, well, north of 12 to 15,000. And by 1906 when they did a census for us, we were down less than a hundred. We're talking in a very short period of time the Russians first got here in 1812, they left around 1846, 1848. That little 30, 40 years period of time, thousands of Kashia people were needlessly and senselessly murdered in acts of genocide. But that's history, don't forget, it definitely doesn't define us today.
We're thriving, we've hit a milestone of more than thousand tribal members the other day. Kind of looking back at it going, wow, this is just a beautiful thing to happen. Our land holdings have gone into the thousands now, so that 41.85 is no longer just the case. Our stewards point ranch area is now around 6, 700 acres, and we have our Kashia Coastal Reserve, an expanded land holdings and cultural access throughout our ancestral lands. We're really happy about that. With always the threat of potential fire, and my great great grandmother, actually lost her in the 06 earthquake in Healdsburg. She was killed, but luckily in Healdsburg. Unfortunately, we actually didn't keep records of Indians because we weren't worth noting. And so there's no official record of her death in Healdsburg, but it is what it is. Love the people in Healdsburg, but I didn't like some of the ones that lived there a long time ago so much.
"You don't serve every community the same. Everyone deserves equal access to resources and ensuring that they get those resources and how they are delivered has to be cultural." -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: One hopes for evolution. But in a way, it's like almost, that we're in a circular moment where we have to come all the way back, you know, and again, one of the things that we push for is we want to continually amplify and centralize indigenous approaches to land management. So take us to 2017. And, you know, we have it on October 8, these terrible fires erupt in North Bay. And one of the things that, of course, we learned is you don't serve every community the same, you know, while everyone deserves equal access to resources, actually ensuring that they get those resources and how they are delivered has to be by cultural, often bilingual. So talk to us about your experience with the additional background and being a firefighter and an EMT, tell us your fire story.
Reno Franklin: Yeah. 2017 was gonna send some interesting events that lead up to it. On the personal side, this tribal chairman, my son was playing football and had recently suffered a very severe concussion. So it was kind of out of commission. You're already sleeping lightly because it's a concussion, you're worried about him and it's just a number of things that contribute to what October is for Kashia Pomo Indians. That ceremonial time for us and our acorn ceremonies that take place in our way of honoring those trees and those acorns. This is just a lot of stuff culturally that happens. And then at the same time, a lot of other stuff that happens, kind of sidebar things, and all leading up until that night when the fires hit. And without getting too much into the initial fire story of my experience with flames around me and whatnot, I think it was just more about how we react to fire and how we reacted to that day.
So that night, and then that day, and the several days that followed, which were hellish, our native community got hit really bad. We had relatives in Lake County whose reservations were burning. We had relatives in Mendocino County whose reservations burned and lost homes. We had people in Sonoma County who were fleeing from the flames and just trying to get away as quickly as possible, not our tribal members, but other tribes in the areas, and people that we all knew and loved very much. So that was a bit of a trauma to wake, not wake up to, but to that night, I was up all night because the winds were heavy and a tree hit my house. We're more worried about that without realizing the fire was coming. Kind of you go through the whole process during the evening trying to help friends evacuate under just intense conditions. And then you go into help mode, once things kind of got to a point where you could assess what was actually happening. As a tribal chair, you have responsibility, first and foremost is to my tribal members. And I take that responsibility very seriously.
My brother's our chairman now, and he does a good job of that as well. But I think the challenge for us was that nothing like this had ever happened. And there was no playbook to draw from other than experience as a firefighter and EMT years of emergency planning, but care how much you plan for emergency planning. Nobody ever is prepared for this widespread, large scale. It's just trauma, mental trauma. We immediately started into action, we deployed a number of our tribal vehicles, we had federal vehicles and were able to drive out and just start handing out water to large groups of people that were congregated. The Veterans building, Safeways, parking lots, at school parking lots, and just praying for people, giving them water and whatever we had. A lot of dispelling rumors, people thought that the fire burned here and this place was evacuated, and then going into my tribal office and securing that because the people just couldn't get in. The first 72 hours were spent doing what we could, going into shelters, bringing people water and food, checking out our resources, both from Sonoma County, Indian health standpoint and also from the Shi'a standpoint, and securing our tribal office. Under duress, I had an individual pull a gun on me that was trying to loot our tribal office. And the looters, they came out fast and heavy. They've been very quick.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Confused by that decision. I've just never, never failed to, most people are great, but that's such a strange decision to go see as an opportunity too.
Reno Franklin: It happened as Coffee Park was burning looters, we're in there trying to get into houses. It just is what it is. It's an ugly, ugly mess of mankind that transcends race, gender, everything. It's just gross, that grossness exists, but it does. After we have secured those things, we decided that we needed to find ways as reports started coming in of helping people. So thanks to [inaudible], I reached out to Marjorie and asked for help. And she secured some funding for us that allowed us to open a resource center at our tribal office. So we were the only Indian Resource Center that existed for quite a bit of time, and just started bringing in supplies, started bringing in Indian people that were being displaced. And we were able to open that relatively quickly. Seeing the shock on people's faces as they came in, some of them were still wearing their pajamas because that's all they could escape in. These are people that you grew up with, that you love Indian friends and family, and being able to give them gift cards that they could take to, because really, helping folks that didn't know what they needed because they didn't know if they had a house.
But in some cases, they saw, or in some cases, they were hoping it was still there. In nearly all those cases, it was gone. And either way, they weren't getting back in for quite some time. So kind of just being able to give people food. We had donations come from all over the Bay Area. We had a scoop that was a Catholic group that came in at the same time as the employees of Hooters in San Jose. We had them both inside of our tribal office at the same time, and the Hooters folks were just amazing ladies, the Catholics were amazing, amazing people. And they both brought these huge donations of food and resources together, and we were thinking like, man, we're really bringing everybody together. It was awesome. So shout out to Hooters in San Jose, and shout out to the Catholic Church for looking out for Indians, and still love them for that, you know. We just had this outpouring from the community, and we set up ours because it was more Indian centric.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: That was my next question, I just really hope that you go into how important it is to be a trusted resource for any community that has a history of being betrayed by the government, or afraid of the government. So talk about how brilliant that is.
"The traditional aspect of it is who we are. It was never something we thought about, but it was something that needed to happen." -Reno Franklin
Reno Franklin: If you remember, I started this off by saying that KAshia has always been a place of refuge, always. And that reputation carried forward during this event that we had tribes who just looked to us for that guidance and leadership. There were other tribes that were doing what they could, we were on the ground center for this and this purpose only. And our youth were there to help carry water and items out to elders cars. We set it up so that people could come in and we would be the first line of screening, was our front office and with that front office would hand it over to our tribal council members who were participating in this. And we would talk to them and counsel them. And then we had traditional people there that could help pray for them, as well. We wanted that traditional aspect of it to be who we are. It was never even something we thought about, but it was something that needed to happen. We ended up actually bringing in James Gore and his amazing wife as well, and praying for them in a traditional way too. That prayer, those prayers were made for all of our Board of Supervisors as they went through this process.
To have a tribal community, again, Indians, we never will, we never should ever trust any government whether it's county, state or local, even though there are great people within them. It is what it is, right? So to have a tribal resource set aside, dedicated to help, helping out folks was really, it was what was needed during 2017. And it was very effective. We had hundreds of people come in all different shapes. Like I said, some just still in pure shock, some that had accepted their loss, and some that were just angry that it even happened.
So we just continued on, we did that for a couple of weeks, we set up a resource center on the reservation as well. Because overnight, our population of 70 hosts went above 500 in less than eight hours. And so getting resources up there as well because people are trying to escape the smoke, and the best place to go is to coast for that. And then spent some time reaching out to our Latino brothers and sisters who were having issues with state parks who refuse to let medical and food people come in to help feed those communities of folks with, how should I say this? Questionable immigration status, and not wanting to provide resources to them. At the time, we had some county supervisors that were just horrified the way that the tribe was, that this information had gotten to us, and the need was there as they were having an outbreak from food poisoning that was just sitting in a lot of people. I needed resources. We were able to help our non Indian brothers and sisters, and make sure that there were resources that were allowed. Those people were talking to who had raised that, or brought that issue of, or were the reason for that issue in the first place. So a lot of work is done, I think, on multiple levels to serve the community. But always with the idea of, we're serving the native and often the non native community, but we're doing it in the way that Kashia Pomo is supposed to, and the way that an Indian person is supposed to serve, and we never strayed away from that.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So one of the things that the 2017 fires really brought to the forefront of concern was, we know that the fire didn't really care if you were wealthy or not wealthy when it was blowing through. And the 9,000 structures after 23 days are gone. So actually, it was really, it was good from my perspective to actually look at Sonoma County and see that. I felt like your voice was centralized. And I think in some ways, it was helped by Supervisor Gore becoming the board chair in the opening of our recovery period. But I also want you to talk about like, you have a history of being a federal appointee, especially in the area of health. And we are really looking at how we amplify and support organizations, like opening cues that are distinctly looking where air quality meets equity. I would love for you to talk about your work at the federal level, and I'm hoping that there's a voice in a space for what your quality does in the area of equity. And in our case where we live, which is true in a lot of America, but there is a significant indigenous population, they also need PSAs in their native languages. How do you bring together, you're working to talk formally about your work at the federal level, but also, how are you integrating our fire response or fire issues into that?
Reno Franklin: That's a great question. It's kind of across the board for me, because as a political appointee, I'm appointed to the Advisory Council on historic preservation. That means that we advise the President and Congress on historic preservation and for tribes that translates loosely into sacred site protection and in a lot of places, and then we also make policy and enforce policy. For that perspective, especially with the rebuild, we're rebuilding places that, we're on top of burials, and we're on top of Indian villages, and some places and some instances. And that got sticky as they're trying to rebuild and dig down to remove all this soil. Those people should not have built that house where they built it in the first place, shame on them. And it also meant that they were heavily impacting archaeological sites as they were removing those materials, because the house was very disrespectfully built on them. And that's something that the Feds in this case had ultimate authority over because those are FEMA dollars. So that has to be used in a certain way. So there's that aspect, right? How do we manage that across multiple instances, like the Paradise was another one. I mean, it's even last summer as well. But I think we've got that narrowed down.
And the big part is when we look at, you mentioned air quality, there's this thing called [inaudible] Screening. [inaudible] Screening says what areas and what lands are disadvantaged communities, and defines what a disadvantaged community is. And it bases a lot of that off of air quality. That was kind of a wonder, they should probably update that for these, because the air quality in Sonoma County has been crap for a long time since 2017. And the multiple fires that have existed since, the ash just doesn't go away. Then a disadvantaged community like Sonoma County that would be open to more funding for air mitigation dollars. And that needs to happen, but it's not yet. They're doing pretty good, but the tribal communities weren't considered disadvantaged.
"Equity is the ultimate solution that environmental justice contributes to." -Reno Franklin
There were only two tribal communities that were considered as having bad air. One is a great ranch area with no Indians living on it. So we always kind of chuckled about that. And other ones in the Central Valley where they have huge air issues. But they have changed [inaudible] Screening to add that all tribal lands are now disadvantaged communities. And it opens up air mitigation for us outside of EPA, which is huge. Everybody talks about equity. Well, environmental justice first as being the thing that levels the playing field for tribes, and communities of color when it comes to air quality issues, and other similar environmental issues. And then equity as being the ultimate kind of final solution that environmental justice contributes too. One feeds into the other. So building equity into how we treat tribal lands, how we treat communities of color, what does that look like during these types of disasters?
"There's no equity unless it's recognized." -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I want to add something in here though, because we have an answer constructed for the federal register. FEMA has put out a request for input on the Federal Register that's specific to the question of equity. And one of the things we've always said from the beginning is we do equity. We do sustainability and resiliency. And so really like the lessons and how you do that, but what we're actually asking FEMA to do is we agree with how they have qualified equity, but we actually want them to include rural in that. Because rural communities, they cannot recover without a significant change. There's no equality, there's no equity unless it's recognized, that if you're a county like rural Oregon, you have 12 county employees, and you've had a devastating wildfire, your chances of recovery without significant investment, and the acknowledgement of that inequity are slim. I know that we are going to publicly push for rural communities to be included to also encompass. We see indigenous communities are often in rural areas, right?
"There's a number of tools for achieving equity. Sustainability is one, and environmental justice is one. But the most critical one, but one that gets overlooked frequently is resiliency in rural communities." -Reno Franklin
Reno Franklin: So there's a number of tools for achieving equity. Sustainability is one, and environmental justice is one. But the one that is probably, that you can ever say it's the most important or most critical one, but one that gets overlooked frequently is resilience in rural communities. And really, that's what needs to happen. And it's not just tribal, but I mean, I'm going to talk about tribal first, because tribal first. But outside of that, you will think about the town of Casa Daros, small little town, amazing people, great people, beautiful hearts, and the fact that they've been asking for quite some time for an Emergency Alert System, a bell and alarm and haven't gotten it yet. And we've had fires, they have been asking since 2017. And here, these fires are common.
"Seize resiliency where resilience is not given. To build true equity, we have to look for opportunities to do that." -Reno Franklin
They've come really close to Casa Daros. Their way of building resilience was the Casa Daros bulldozer crew. It was a bunch of really cool folks that are friends and family and got on their bulldozers, cut firelines around that town as the fires were approaching this year, in 2020 this summer. It's a great example of seizing resiliency where resilience is not given. But to build true equity, we have to look for opportunities to do that. And FEMA must look for opportunities, the state, the county to do that for these rural communities, and to help build those resources into those communities. They shouldn't have to ask more than once for the damn whistle. That's a community alert thing.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah. Well, and the technology exists. I have to say this a lot on podcasts daily, Gigi, stop snoring, she's snoring.
Reno Franklin: I can't hear it. But that's a good dog.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So people are like, oh, yeah, broadband, broadband, broadband, broadband. Yes, broadband. We would like to see a huge investment in broadband. But also, resilience hubs are all the technology exists. Amazon makes portable WiFi. I interviewed people who live in Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico, they have now three resilience hubs. And in those resilient hubs, they have walkie talkies, they've trained people in ham radios, and they have portable, they wouldn't dare say portable WiFi. I don't know if I did, but they have them. So we're not asking for these little communities, like anything to be invented. We're asking it to be applied. And it's actually a relatively small investment. So I hear you on that.
Reno Franklin: Yeah. And we're starting to see it more. And you asked about work on the federal level, a lot of it was looking at ways through the previous administration's dollars for COVID, and this administration to open up doors and pathways into resiliency. So we've done that in a number of different ways. We've done projects to create legislation to put line items in the federal budget, to get backup generation for tribal health facilities. We found that none of them had it, and it just wasn't something that they looked at and thought they needed. And now, they realize they do. And so that was successful. And then building infrastructure projects and tribes.
So one of the things that a lot of tribes did was go after broadband and install broadband, or at least put in the ability too. So we have a number of tribes that applied for and got FCC licenses to put poles, broadband poles to bring it on to their reservations. And those have been really successful. But again, it gets kind of overlooked. Nobody ever thought we'd do that. So all the training and stuff that's available to states and counties isn't available to tribes. It's like more work that we have to do. We did all this work to get this done and it's like, oh, damn, now we got to go back and restart this part because the operations maintenance, the OSHA safety courses for climbing those towers, don't you know that the tribes would have to pay for their own, whereas our state, county partners and city partners don't. And it was just because nobody ever thought we'd actually get the funds for the broadband in the first place, and for those cell towers in the first place.
"We can start to build on what we have but we need more jump-off points to where we can continue to do that." -Reno Franklin
Sometimes at the federal level, when you solve problems, you create more. And I think that when it comes to the wildfire, resilience and wildfire rebuilding, we have learned that lesson over, and over, and over, and over is that, as we kind of peel back the layers of the onion, it just gets stronger. And at some point, but we're going to be, I think, at a level where it's kind of level off, and we can start to build on what we have. And I think, we slowly are, but we need more jump off points to where we can continue to do that. I harp on it all day in this resilience in urban areas is huge. If we were selective in the way that we put fire barriers in.
One of the projects that they did last year, and not early 2020, late 2019 in the Orville is really cool. They worked with federal lands, and put in these huge fire buffers that worked with tribes to make sure that, as a part of that, they weren't hitting cultural sites, known archaeological sites, cutting into areas they shouldn't, put a lot of work into it, built these huge buffers, and they were selectively placed throughout areas that typically fire would have charged through, Mark West Springs road. And as the fires last year hit, I've watched as those fires made runs at those lines. It was blocked 100% of the time, and people will never know exactly how the town of Orville will say from these fires, that these fires were made, were making runs out. But some of us will. And we know that it was a result of planning in the wild urban interface, wildland urban interface that did it. When we think about like, well, how does, where does, like rebuild.
Well, we can help educate people in these projects that worked. Rebuild Butte County or Rebuild Paradise, let's get some amazing folks up there that have a lesson for all of us to learn, and get them front and center, and help them to teach their lessons because tribes will talk to you all day about what to do and what not to do. But collectively, when tribes partner with ReBuild North Bay, partner with Rebuild Paradise, and we start to have that collective voice. We're not like, it's not like we're saying like, hey, no offense, the city of San Francisco, but since I was six, they haven't had the same kind of fires that we're having here. Disasters? Yeah, they've had some earthquakes and some bad stuff. But nothing, no large scale fires anymore.
"If we can't build upon the lessons of 2017 and start to share those collectively with each other, we're doomed to have it repeated again." -Reno Franklin
But from doing so, when we start talking to people who have experienced and lived it, and have successfully prevented it from happening again, hats off to the firefighters in Windsor who saved that town, but they learned some lessons. They'd learned lessons from 2017. And at the end of the day, if we can't build upon the lessons of 2017 and the fires that have here, Sonoma County, or the fires that happened in Paradise, and in Oregon, and start to share those collectively with each other, then we're doomed to have it repeated again. So yeah, there's some really good lessons to be learned, and some really good strategies for fire prevention that are happening. And I love the fact that we're all sharing that with each other.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think that's key. And I think that is why we do this podcast about democratizing that information, so that anybody who can get to it on any of the platforms, either an audible platform or on YouTube, that they take what they need, they just take whatever they need. And if it will help with that time, if it's helpful at that time, that's what we're trying to do. So I would actually, like we have about five minutes left. What I really like to do is, what's your advice for a, it could be a public official, it could be an emergent leader, or it could be an indigenous leader or person who is in a fire vulnerable community, they've not yet been affected by wildfires, but they certainly are on their list. What kind of relationships could they build now? What kind of trust? What kind of practices? And it's also important for smaller county rural governments who may be like haven't reached into the wealth of knowledge and experience, and through traditional knowledge of an indigenous community and sort of taken that into account, how to navigate that from both sides, for both the indigenous perspective, but also the public servant perspective?
"Don't find somebody who agrees with everything you say because that's not right. Find like-minded people who have a strategy that's similar, but most importantly, have goals that are the same." -Reno Franklin
Reno Franklin: Yeah, definitely. I think the first thing is, don't think like an Indian, when I say that, I mean, talk to your elders. It's not like Indians are the only ones that have elders. The fire service and emergency operation service, they have elders. The amazing ones in West County that have an understanding of fire behavior, typography, and an environment, what time the weather's worst time to light, backfire all of that, talk to your elders and formulate a plan that is based off of your consultation with them, and start there. So everybody's got to start this somewhere. And it's overwhelming. And there's a lot of sneaky people out there that are trying to do these crap plans for folks that really have no intention of doing anything that's going to help, talk to your elders first. And then when you start to develop your plan, find minded people, don't find somebody who agrees with everything you say because that's just not right. But find minded people who have a strategy that's similar, but most importantly, have goals that are the same.
"At some point, you're going to get tested, and your relationship is going to get tested. If you have not built on a solid foundation, you're going to find out the hard way that all that stuff you thought was cool is crap. And you don't want to find that out during an emergency." -Reno Franklin
Some people want to protect parts of the watershed. Some people want to protect businesses first. Some people want to protect populations first, and then vulnerable populations. So find ways to make partnerships and build these coalitions that are meaningful and can produce results that can be duplicated. And that's the biggest part is, at some point, you're going to get tested, your relationship and your partnership is going to get tested. And if you have not built on a solid foundation, then you're going to find out the hard way that all that stuff you thought was cool is crap, and you don't want to find that out during an emergency.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I can make a plug here, though, that one of my strategies is avoid the heroes and the saviors.
Reno Franklin: Yeah, that's right.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I look for the collaborators and the helpers, period.
Reno Franklin: The fact that she said helpers is another big thing. I think that, especially for leaders, acknowledge your worker bees, man. Get out there and tell Jennifer, you're doing a great job as the executive director, to remind her of that and her staff. Reach out not just to the fire chiefs in your area, but you make darn sure that you're going over there and doing stuff for the guy, or the gal that is sweeping the floors of the fire station. And don't forget that for the volunteers, sometimes, moms that are watching their turnouts. Know your community, and make sure that you're given the praise where it's due, and then you look at the people who are long term contributors to the health of your community. Look at Henry Hansel and make sure that you tell Henry, my God, you've been doing this since 2017. Just put your money and your effort where your mouth is, and make sure you tell them thank you. None of us do it for things we do, because it's the right thing to do.
"The policies that you make should reflect your love for the community... If you can't do that, then you need to take a step back and go talk to your elders again." -Reno Franklin
So your policies, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Santa Rosa city and anybody else, any tribals out there, the policies that you make should reflect your love for the community. And if you're doing it right, then it does. And if you can't, at the end of the day, say, I just made this policy because I love my community. And sometimes, it might piss some people off, but it's the right thing to do. If you can't do that, then you need to take a step back and go talk to your elders again. I'm not an elder, I'm 47.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: But yeah, you'll get there. Now, I guess at this point, I'm 51. So yeah, I'm just making that up. It's been a great experience to have you on our board, and I really appreciate your perspective. You have a social media presence, especially in, we've had a lot of events here so I always appreciate it when you highlight who this land actually belongs to. If you can own land, but that site, what I'm saying, and you seem to carry those two perspectives of how to work together with people outside of your tribal community in order to bring more benefit to everyone. And at the same time, holding your tribal community the center of who you are, and bringing that voice and amplifying it. So we're always a big fan of amplifying people, systems and ideas that are solid. And I thank you for all your service.
Reno Franklin: Thank you. Appreciate it. It was on this thing when it was still burning center Sonoma County, Santa Rosa was still burning. When we started this, I still remember the very first meeting. So it's wonderful to see the direction that you've taken us into where we're at now. I don't think any of us ever, when we first started, in fact I know, we never anticipated that we'd be in a position to help other areas and bring that expertise out of Sonoma County, and start to ladle it out to the other areas that are affected by these disasters. So that's not going to stop anytime soon, unfortunately. But we'll always be here. Rebuild will always be here to help and the sounding board, so I love that.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yep, that's what we're doing long term. So thank you again for being on the podcast, How To Disaster. This has been Reno Franklin.
Reno Franklin: Thank you.