FROM THE ARCHIVE

McCaleb rejects recognition of Calif. tribe

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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2002

The Bush administration last week denied federal recognition to a California tribe, affirming one of Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb's first rulings on the controversial subject.

In a press release, the Bureau of Indian Affairs said the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe failed to meet three out of seven mandatory criteria. According to federal regulations, a petitioning group must document continuous existence as an Indian group, along with a demonstration of Indian ancestry.

But the Muwekmas didn't provide enough evidence to show an unbroken line of history and community up until the present day, the BIA said. The tribe also failed to demonstrate political influence over its members, according to the release.

McCaleb's action marks the fourth time the Bush administration has denied federal status to a petitioner. Two Nipmuc tribes in Massachusetts, the Chinook Nation of Washington and the Duwamish Tribe of Washington have either preliminary or final negative decisions pending.

It also highlights a contentious practice that has emerged in recent years. "The trend has been to litigate all cases," said Scott Keep, a Department of Interior attorney, at a Senate hearing in June.

The Muwekmas applied for recognition more than a decade ago but never got an answer, prompting a lawsuit during the Clinton administration. A federal judge in early 2001 ordered the BIA to make a preliminary decision by that summer, a deadline the agency fulfilled.

The Bush administration tried to delay a final answer, however. In June, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina in Washington, D.C., rejected an attempt to set aside his timetables.

Attempts to reach Muwekma representatives yesterday were not successful. At the time of last year's preliminary denial, the tribe said it was confident it would overcome holes in the three criteria.

According to court documents, the BIA in May 1996 found evidence that the tribe was previously recognized as the Pleasanton or Verona Band earlier this century. For reasons unknown, the government-to-government relationship was terminated.

A Federal Register notice announcing McCaleb's decision will be published soon, a BIA spokesperson said yesterday.

Relevant Documents:
McCaleb Issues Final Determination to Decline Federal Acknowledgment of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe (BIA 9/9)

Relevant Court Decision:
Muwekma v. Norton (June 11, 2002) | Muwekma v. Babbitt (January 16, 2001)

Relevant Links:
Muwekma Ohlone Tribe - http://www.muwekma.org

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