From Tracy Edwards — CEO, Redding Rancheria
It is with a heavy heart that we announce on the passing of Barbara Murphy, former Chairwomen, CEO and Tribal Elder of the Redding Rancheria. Barbara was our last living original distribute of the 17 original distributees. She was Yana, Norelmuk Wintu and Madesi Pit River. She is survived by three children, six grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren.
Barbara was born and raised on the Rancheria where she and her husband built a house. She worked as a nurse’s aide at the former Shasta General Hospital. In 1965, the family headed to Canada. She got involved in civil rights at her very first sawmill job. When the owner told her she couldn’t have the morning and afternoon breaks required by Canadian labor law, she became a civil rights worker with the Human Rights and Civil Liberties Organization in Quesnel. She set up human rights field offices and was responsible for helping Indians who ran afoul of the law. She made sure they had a lawyer and understood their rights. She also worked with landlord-tenant disputes, worker’s compensation and unemployment claims, family relations and child protection agencies.
She wrote the Tribal Constitution in 1986, which has never needed to be amended. In 1988, she took a six-month leave of absence and returned to Redding. She found herself elected to the first seven-member Redding Rancheria Tribal Council and then elected as Tribal Chairwoman. She moved back for good in 1989. Barbara believes she was called home to the Rancheria by the power of Mt. Shasta. It happened as she was driving along Interstate 5 near the mountain in Siskiyou County in 1988.
“Suddenly it was like something touched my head and went right through my body and I started to cry,” she said. “The thought that went through my head was ‘You have to be at the Rancheria. It was (the spirits’) way of telling me what I had to do. I had no choice.”
Barbara served as Redding Rancheria’s CEO for 16 years. She served as the Tribal Chairwoman for several years. Her vision for the Tribe’s future has made it very successful. She taught Tribal Members that our Tribe is a sovereign nation. She was instrumental in compacting with the Federal Government and used the funds to create programs that were beneficial for Tribal Members and the Native community. She was very involved in the Tribe until the very end, and when she was not attending to Rancheria business, you could find her either in the poker room or out of town selling her collection of beautiful native baskets and jewelry.
Our Tribal community mourns and will always be appreciative of her life work and impact that it has had.