Former Yocha Dehe chairman dies

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Marshall McKay, former chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, has died of COVID-19. A statement issued by the Yocha Dehe Tribal Council on Thursday called McKay “a resolute protector of Native American heritage here, within our own homeland, but also throughout California and Indian Country.” McKay, who was born in Colusa, served on the Yocha Dehe Tribal Council from 1984 to 2015 and spent a decade as chairman. During that time, the tribe was a key partner with Yolo County on a number of fronts and a benefactor to many local nonprofits. “Marshall’s leadership was marked by a stalwart dedication to the preservation and promotion of Native American arts and culture, the affirmation of sovereign tribal governance, and the international effort to protect the rights of all indigenous people,” the tribal council said. “He was instrumental in helping Yocha Dehe achieve economic independence, he helped the Tribe grow and diversify its agricultural operations, and he helped greatly expand the Tribe’s land holdings within Yocha Dehe’s ancestral territory.” McKay became ill with COVID-19 while in Los Angeles. “The Tribe is profoundly grateful for the care Marshall received from frontline healthcare workers in Los Angeles where his illness developed, an area particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. “We know our pain is shared by so many families facing the devastating effects of this pandemic. We know also the pain of Marshall’s loss is shared by the many who loved him and learned from him. We will miss his strength and wisdom.” McKay was the son of renowned healer and basket weaver Mabel McKay and was the first of his tribe to attend college (Sonoma State University). He spent 15 years repairing and maintaining nuclear submarines for the Department of Defense, according to the tribe. He would become a founding member of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation and was appointed to the Board for Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. McKay also was the first Native American to be appointed Chairman of the Board for the Autry National Center (which includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of the American West, and the Institute for the Study of the American West). “Marshall was a fierce advocate for the environment and tribal land rights, and a champion for sustainable living and land-use practices,” the tribal council said. “He was dedicated to protecting tribal sovereignty and the rights of Native tribes and peoples, serving on the Board of the Native American Rights Fund. He was a founding commissioner of the California Native American Heritage Commission, whose charge is to protect Native American cultural resources, including places of religious and social significance to Native peoples, such as tribal cemeteries on private and public lands.”

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