MUWEKMA OHLONE TRIBE OF THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
RESPONSE TO THE FINAL DETERMINATION
BY THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS
The Muwekma Tribe is disappointed by the Final Determination issued on September 9, 2002 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) declining to acknowledge our Tribe under its recognition regulations. Unfortunately,
the decision comes as no surprise to the Tribe that has suffered for so long
from the 152 years of deplorable U.S. Indian policy in California. However, the Muwekma Tribe will not cease its efforts to restore the historic "Trust" relationship with the United States that it once enjoyed and that was unjustly and improperly stripped from it.
The Muwekma Tribe vigorously disputes the BIA's conclusion that the evidence submitted did not satisfy the criteria in the recognition regulations. The Tribe submitted to the BIA a substantial amount of new evidence and charted each piece of evidence for each decade and for each criterion spanning the decades from 1900 to the present. However, the BIA in their pre-determined Final Determination decided to either dismiss the submitted evidence or not consider the evidence collectively.
Furthermore, the BIA failed to address the Muwekma Tribe's claim that it continues to be recognized since it was previously recognized and has not been legally terminated. In fact, the BIA failed to refute any of the evidence that the Tribe submitted. The Branch of Acknowledgment and Research (BAR) reviewers only decided that the type and weight of evidence, and the "reasonable likelihood" of such evidence, did not meet their impossible-to-meet standards.
For example, the BAR rejected the three BIA enrollment periods (1928-1933, 1948-1957, and 1968-1972) in which the landless Muwekma tribal community participated. All of the Muwekma families were approved by the Secretary of Interior, however according to the BIA these legal documents do not constitute any evidence under criteria 83.7 (a) External identification, 83.7 (b) Continuous existence, and 83.7 (c) Political authority, even though the very same reviewers informed the leadership of the Congressionally created Advisory Council on California Indian Policy (ACCIP) in 1995 that the Muwekma Tribe could indeed use such form of documentation as evidence.
On August 1, 1995, Dena Magdaleno, Chairwoman of the Recognition Task Force of the Congressionally mandated Advisory Council on California Indian Policy, informed the leadership of the Muwekma Ohlone Indian Tribe in a letter stating:
Under the concluding section entitled §83.6 General Provisions for the Documented Petition, the 1994 Revised Final Regulations provides the following guidelines to petitioners:
Notwithstanding its decision declining to recognize the Muwekma Tribe, the BIA confirmed once again in its Final Determination that the United States previously "recognized" the Muwekma Tribe as a tribe under federal law at least as late as 1927. The BIA also confirmed again that 99 percent of the members of the Tribe descend from the prior recognized tribal entity.
Furthermore, the BIA failed to address the Tribe's claim that it continues to be "recognized" since it was previously "recognized" and has not been legally terminated. Indeed, the Bureau of Indian Affairs positively confirmed in its Final Determination that the U. S. Congress never terminated the Muwekma Tribe. The Congress has made it explicitly clear that only it has the authority to terminate tribes (see HR 4180 below).
The BIA failed to provide any evidence that the Federal government made a formal decision, or took any formal actions, to cease recognizing the Tribe. Nor did the BIA provide any evidence justifying such action or establish its authority to do so. The BIA's refusal to "recognize" the Tribe without addressing the lawfulness or propriety of the agency's prior actions with respect to the Tribe was an error and an infringement of the Tribe's rights and on the authority of Congress.
The BIA failed to address the evidence submitted by the Muwekma Tribe of "Gross Negligence," "Crass Indifference" and dereliction of duty by Sacramento Superintendent Lafayette A. Dorrington. Superintendent Dorrington was the principal BIA agent contributing to the demise of the landless Muwekma/Verona Band community when he opined on June 23, 1927 that: "It does not appear at the present time that there is need for the purchase of land for the establishment of their homes." (1927:1)
Muwekma provided the BAR copies of official BIA Office memos demonstrating Dorrington's dereliction of duty. For example, Dorrington wrote to Commissioner, Rhoads on April 23, 1930, that:
Furthermore, the Muwekma Tribe supplied the BIA with additional evidence which the BAR decided it would not include in its review that by July 1931, Dorrington had either quit, transferred or was replaced by O. H. Lipps as Superintendent of the Sacramento Agency.
In his letter Superintendent Lipps responded to Assistant Commissioner J. Henry Scattergood with specific concerns about conditions affecting the homeless California Indians for whom land was to be purchased:
"Receipt is acknowledged of your letter, dated June 30, 1931, relating to the matter of purchasing land for homeless Indians of California..."
The BAR also failed to either address or consider any of the Congressional and legal documents dating after 1985 that was submitted by the Muwekma Tribe as part of its response to the Proposed Findings. These documents include Congressional legislation that addresses the statutory authority of the Secretary of the Interior as defined within the Federally Recognized Indian List Act of 1994 (HR 4180) as well as other determinations and recommendations issued by the Advisory Council on California Indian Policy in their 1997-1998 final reports to the Congress.
The Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List of 1994 Act (HR 4180) explicitly states:
The Muwekma Tribe also submitted to the BIA a copy of the September 1997 Advisory Council on California Indian Policy final report to Congress. In that report entitled Advisory Council on California Indian Policy Recognition Report Equal Justice for California the ACCIP made the following conclusions about Sacramento Agency Superintendent Lafayette A. Dorrington's actions in 1927:
The BIA informed the Muwekma Tribe in its Final Determination that "[w]hen a Final Determination is negative, the regulations direct that the petitioner be informed of alternatives to this administrative process for achieving the status of a federally recognized tribe, or other means by which the petitioner's members may become eligible for services and benefits as Indians (25 CFR 83.10(n). ... In addition, Congress may consider taking legislative action to recognize petitioners which do not meet the specific requirements of the acknowledgment regulations but, nevertheless, have merit." (page 7-8) [Emphasis added]
Finally, under the Summary Conclusions Under the Criteria (25 CFR 83.7) in the Muwekma petition, the BIA determined that: "[t]he review of all the evidence in the record concludes that the Muwekma petitioner has satisfied the requirements of 25 CFR 83.7 (d), (e), (f), and (g). That is, the petitioner's constitution and enrollment ordinance describe its membership criteria and governing procedures, its members have demonstrated their descent from the historical tribe (in this case, from the Verona band last acknowledged by the Federal Government in 1927 and as defined in the Proposed Finding and Final Determination), the group is principally composed of those persons who are not members of another North American Indian tribe, and neither the group nor its members are the subject of congressional legislation expressly terminating or forbidding the Federal relationship." (page 7) [Emphasis added]
Even though having "merit" as a historic and previously "Recognized" tribe, according to the BIA, the Tribe does not meet its standard as the BAR subjectively interprets the Recognition Regulations; nonetheless, the Muwekma Tribe will not abandon its quest for its legitimate right to having its Federally Recognized status "restored" which the BIA so unjustly and improperly deprived it over the past seventy-five years.
The Muwekma Tribe has now exhausted the administrative process and through that arduous and demeaning process the Tribe encountered the very same "gross negligence" and "crass indifference" with the current BIA bureaucrats and decision makers as it had encountered seventy-five years earlier with Superintendent L. A. Dorrington in 1927.
In 1881, the great Indian policy "reformer" and later Special Indian Commissioner, Helen Hunt Jackson, published her scathing report on U. S. Indian Policy entitled A Century of Dishonor. In that landmark critique Jackson wrote:
One hundred and seventeen years later, in 1998 the ACCIP completed its charge to report back to the Congress on the issues confronting California Indian tribes and the Federal Recognition Process. Copies of the ACCIP final reports were submitted to the BIA by the Tribe as part of its response to the BAR's Proposed Findings. In their Final Determination the BAR made clear that it would not review any evidence prior to 1927 and after 1985. The BAR staff wrote:
Thus the ACCIP reports, and in the case of the reports from earlier commissions have essentially been "tossed aside and forgotten" by both the Congress and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Muwekma Tribe is now examining its options for responding to the Final Determination the BIA's Final Solution to rid the United States of legitimate historic tribes.
Makse Xata-mu At-cun Atuemi
Now that the Muwekma Tribe has exhausted the administrative process, if you have a desire to help in the Tribe's efforts, please email and/or call your Congressional representatives and send them a copy of this press release. Please voice your concern and seek their support for proposed legislation for the Tribe's "restoration" as a Federally Recognized tribe.
If you have any questions regarding this press release, please call the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal office at (408) 441-6185, or e-mail us at Muwekma@muwekma.org.