Federal Recognition

ICT Interview: Donna Miranda-Begay, chair of Tubatulabal Tribe





"Donna Miranda-Begay, Navajo/Tubatulabal, has served as chairwoman of the Tubatulabal Tribe of Kern Valley, California since 2006. She is in a rare position for a tribal leader: Her predecessors signed a treaty with the U.S. government in 1851, her people live on 1,600 acres of land allotted under the Dawes Act, government agencies recognize her people as being indigenous, and yet because the treaty was not ratified by Congress the tribe lacks a full government-to-government relationship with the United States. But she’s confident that will change soon.

What has been your primary focus during your tenure?

Basic needs of the allotment lands, federal recognition and developing strong government-to-government relationships with tribal, federal, state and local entities.

What have been your major challenges?

Sustainable funding for projects. There are many grant opportunities for initial projects, but the maintenance and ongoing support needs are the hardest to address, especially for a nonfederally recognized tribe.

What made you become a public servant?

My parents made it obvious that as tribal people we help out each other and support one another. As a young girl, I was influenced by a Maidu elder, Marie Potts. She was the editor of one of the first national Indian newspapers, Smoke Signals. She was also my babysitter. Marie would work with California and national legislators on Indian health care and on getting tribal voices heard. She traveled all over the U.S. and back-and-forth to D.C."

Get the Story:
A Candid Q&A With Donna Miranda-Begay, Tubatulabal Tribe Chairwoman (Indian Country Today 9/5)