Blue Lake, Calif. (May 24, 2022) — This week at the annual Reservation Economic Summit (RES) in Las Vegas, NV, Mad River Brewery CEO and Yurok Tribal Member, Linda Cooley, accepted the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s (NCAIED) Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award. Each year, NCAIED, the longest standing and largest American Indian business and economic development organization in Indian Country, honors outstanding individuals and companies for their contributions to economic parity and the betterment of Indian communities. This year, the summit’s theme is, “Be the Change”.
“It is an honor and a privilege to receive recognition from such a prestigious organization,” said MRB CEO Cooley.
During the summit, Ms. Cooley delivered her acceptance speech, “I want to thank the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development for serving Indian Country for over 50 years as the largest American Indian specific business organization—one helping Indian Country reach economic goals that support our sovereignty. The Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year award is an incredible honor, not just because of the namesake, but because of all those who have been recognized in the past for their contribution.”
In 2020, the Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award was awarded to United States Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, the first Native Secretary of the Interior and the first-ever Native Cabinet Secretary. Selected for their accomplishments, the Tim Wapato award highlights leaders who demonstrate strong advocacy for America’s first peoples.
“Currently, we are still battling stigmas, suppression, and tokenism. Creating the change we need and reaching outside of Indian Country is imperative to change our reality. The leaders of business, mainstream organizations, and megalithic chain stores and franchises need to stand with us and create space for us tell our own story. Mad River Brewery has emerged as a leader in the craft beer industry and beyond by forging creative partnerships, and also through grit and determination. In deciding to tell parts of our story through our product labels, we are demanding room to create our own category.”
Cooley continued, “I want to thank the Yurok Tribe and Yurok People, for taking our struggles and turning them into mobilization, all while maintaining the balance of love and respect. Life along the Klamath River—battling for water for our salmon—reached the tipping point and triggered a call to action in the face of a critical absence of recognition and outright opposition. By carving a new path and creating Undammed, a product named for the soon-to-be-realized largest dam removal and river restoration project in US history; by joining together with incredible partners like the San Francisco Giants, the reach of this story and message stretches further, opening doors and creating opportunities across the board for Indian Country.”
Earlier this year, the Mad River Brewing Company formed an historic partnership with the San Francisco Giants baseball team. At every home game, Giants fans are treated to the brewery’s best-quality ales and seltzers. In early 2021, Mad River Brewery launched Undammed, the brewery’s line of small-batch brewed craft hard seltzers. A tribute to the efforts of the Yurok Tribe in undamming the Klamath River, the largest dam removal in US history, the line features cucumber and huckleberry flavors.
In similar fashion, since the purchase of the brewery by the Tribe in late 2019, just before the pandemic, the brewery has released new products with a purpose, including Historic State Park IPA which is named for an historic partnership between the Tribe and the California State Parks who entered a joint agreement to co-manage the visitor center at Humboldt Lagoons State Park, which falls within Yurok ancestral territory. Just like in 1989 when the dedication to craft began at Mad River Brewery, the brewery is making a splash in the craft beer industry, with exceptional craft brews and meaningful partnerships.
In February, the brewery announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with the beloved San Francisco Giants, marking the first partnership in the MLB with a tribal brewery. Additionally, during opening weekend at the Giants’ Oracle Park, Cooley was asked to throw out the first pitch at game 2, marking the first time a Yurok Citizen has done so. The array of accomplishments serves as a symbol of inspiration despite obstacles and setbacks of every kind for others in the grind, working towards a more equitable future, where their own stories are shared.
Cooley finished her speech with encouragement to attendees, “Focusing on inter-tribal commerce, committing to supporting each other, doing the work and collaborating to be the change and be the example is the advocacy we now need. I am immensely grateful for those who have helped us along the way and excited to see what is to come, with future plans and with our future partners. For every Indigenous person out there that feels invisible, we will be that change. We see you, and we won’t stop.”
About Mad River Brewery
Mad River Brewery, a women-led Independent Craft Brewery located in Humboldt County, California has been brewing best-quality beers for more than three decades. MRB employs a time-honored, cut-no-corners approach to hand-crafting the finest quality ales, receiving four Gold Medals, four Silver Medals and one Bronze Medal from the Great American Beer Festival, which offers the most prestigious awards in the industry. Paving the way for a new Native American category in craft beer, the Tribal Brewery, owned by the Yurok Tribe, has introduced new products that promote the decades-long fight for environmental restoration and justice. Mad River Brewery is committed to producing the best-quality beverages on the planet and continues to employ the most holistic brewing methods to craft products that are in a league of their own.
About NCAIED Tim Wapato Award
The Tim Wapato award is named after S. Timothy Wapato, a nationally respected tribal advocate, and member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington. A strong force for sovereignty in the nation’s capital, recognized as a brilliant teacher, philosopher, and visionary, Wapato led the way to protect inherent sovereign right for indigenous people, including tribal fishing rights and the notable Pacific Salmon Treaty negotiation between the U.S. and Canada. The award is presented annually by National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED)who has been assisting American Indian Tribes and tribal people with business and economic development for over 50 years. The largest national Indian specific business organization in the nation, NCAIED is actively engaged in helping Tribal Nations and Native business people realize their business goals while putting the whole of Indian Country to work to better the lives of American Indian people- both now and for generations to come.