Federal Recognition

BIA federal recognition process not favorable for California tribes

Only one California tribe has gained federal recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs process since 1978.

The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe won recognition in 1983. Since then, the BIA has denied federal status to four other California groups while decisions are pending in three more cases, according to a summary from April 2011.

“They’re not used to all these small bands and tribes and the way we lived in California, sticking to our small territories,” Martha Rice , a council member for the denied Tolowa Nation, told California Watch. “They have a model for what a tribe should be, and it just doesn’t fit in California.”

In total, 78 groups from California have sought recognition. Some, like the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, say they should already enjoy federal status but for administrative oversights at the BIA.

“I went to school on a BIA scholarship,” tribe member Jill Ward told California Watch. “Now they say my children aren’t Indian and can’t have those same scholarships.”

Other California tribes have won recognition through Congress, mainly because they were terminated, or through the courts.

Get the Story:
Without federal recognition, tribe struggles to protect sacred sites (California Watch 7/16)
React & Act: Understanding ‘ghost tribes’ (California Watch 7/16)

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