MUWEKMA OHLONE TRIBE OF THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
LAWSUIT AGAINST THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR
AND BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS
On June 6, 2003, the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. against the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for a declaration that the Tribe continues to be federally recognized and entitled to special benefits, services and protection afforded to Indian tribes.
Download copy of lawsuit as filed
This is the most recent effort in a decades-old battle waged by the Tribe to establish its clear rights as an Indian tribe, which were taken away by the federal government sixty years ago. The complaint seeks reversal of a recent Bureau of Indian Affairs determination declining to recognize the Tribe. In its decision the Bureau failed to confirm the Tribe's continuing government-to-government relationship with the United States, which was previously recognized and never properly terminated. While the federal government dealt with the Tribe in the early part of the twentieth century, sometime after 1927 the Department ceased recognizing the Tribe for some purposes and substantially reduced the benefits and services provided to the Tribe. This occurred without notice to the Tribe or the public or any formal decision by the Department.
Notwithstanding the Department's neglect, in the approximately sixty years that followed only two generations the Tribe survived and even grew, continuing its tribal activities. Indeed, the Tribe established itself as a leader in the region, state and nation on political and cultural issues important to the Tribe.
The suit asserts that the Bureau of Indian Affairs arbitrarily and capriciously rejected substantial evidence of ongoing tribal status. It also presents a claim for violation of the Tribe's right to equal protection because the Bureau did not reaffirm its tribal status on the same basis as other prior recognized tribes that were reaffirmed. Finally, the complaint alleges that the BIA decision was tainted by bias resulting from the Tribe's successful litigation against the Department.
The people of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe are aboriginal to the San Francisco Bay Area and descend from the Indians of Mission San Jose and other San Francisco Bay Area missions. The Tribe currently has a little over 400 members.
Makse Xata-mu At-cun Atuemi Muwekma-mak!
If you have any questions regarding this press release, please contact the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal office at (408) 434-1668 or