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Posted: April 2, 2020

A February 2020 food distribution. Photo: California Valley Miwok Tribe


April 2, 2020

California Valley Miwok Tribe Chairwoman Issues Statement in Response to Passage of Federal Stimulus Package

California Valley Miwok Tribe Among Native Americans Shut Out from COVID-19 Relief

La Grange, CA— The California Valley Miwok Tribe’s Chairwoman Silvia Burley issued a statement today in response to the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill passed by Congress.


“Our Tribe, like many others throughout the United States, will not see a penny from the federal stimulus package despite our members’ dire need and right to these funds. An ongoing dispute with the Bureau of Indian Affairs over our Tribe’s right to self-govern has placed our Tribal members’ health and safety, including that of my mother- the last full blood Miwok Indian, at immediate risk.


Our Tribe is losing access to healthcare including Coronavirus testing and treatments and many of us could be out on the streets thanks to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s decade long interference in our Tribal affairs; the same Senator who is also embroiled in an insider trading scandal related to COVID-19.


Because of our ongoing dispute with the BIA, spurred by Mr. Arlo Smith and his casino development interests a decade ago, members of our Tribe are no longer eligible for critical programs and services that have been opened up to all Indian Tribes in Congress’ COVID-19 relief packages. Sen. Feinstein’s involvement in our Tribe’s affairs has now escalated from a legal issue to an immediate quality of life crisis placing the health of our members in jeopardy.


While we await a costly and cumbersome court battle to play out, our members are struggling to access food, health care and government assistance while Sen. Feinstein and some of her colleagues use their positions of power to access information pertaining to the current health crisis, which was not made available to the public, to better position their financial investments including stock assets.


Our Tribe sent an official letter to Sen. Feinstein earlier this year requesting an explanation of her involvement in our Tribe’s dispute with the federal government at the behest of Mr. Smith, a long-time political associate who has been hired to pitch a casino in the Bay Area under our Tribe’s name. We, unfortunately, received an inadequate, albeit ill-informed response back indicating she is either an unwitting pawn in an attempt to replace our Tribe’s leadership with leadership chosen by non-Indian gaming development interests, or worse she is intentionally side-stepping her involvement. Sen. Feinstein’s involvement in our Tribe’s affairs is made more confusing and suspicious given her staunch opposition to Indian gaming in urban areas.


Now, following the Bureau’s invasive and unwarranted genealogy determination that mirrors and tracks ancestry information that Mr. Smith provided to the BIA, members of my Tribe are fighting for their lives.


My Mother, the last full-blooded Miwok, is in her 80s and at extreme risk for contracting and even dying from COVID-19 without lifesaving funds from the federal government. She, like the rest of our members, have a right to federal assistance as lawful members of this Tribe and do not deserve threats to their health and safety while the BIA continues to play games for the sake of non-Indians that want to steal a tribe to build a casino..


This public health crisis really puts things in perspective and shows the BIA is out of touch with Indians and its mission and, further, appears to be in the pocket of people abusing their positions of power like Senator Feinstein.


I call on the BIA to immediately cease their intrusive and unwarranted attempts to reorganize and interfere in our Tribe’s governance and recognize our lawful right as a sovereign Indian Nation within the United States entitled to the full benefits of Congress’ COVID-19 relief package.”




To view previous press releases on this matter issued by the CA Valley Miwok Tribe click here.


To view official letters on this matter issued between the Tribe and Sen. Feinstein click here.


Additional documents related to the Tribe’s dispute with the BIA will be made available upon request.

The California Valley Miwok Tribe is a federally recognized tribe. The Tribe, formally known prior to 2001 as the Sheep Ranch Rancheria, is listed on all lists eligible to conduct relations with the United States from 1947 forward including the February 1, 2019 List. The Tribe and its current leadership have conducted relations at various times with the United States since adopting governing documents in 1998 with the assistance of Department of the Interior officials. The Tribe is landless and desperate to access congressionally mandated government programs to support its members. The Tribe and its leadership have no casino development plan and no plans to develop a casino. 

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