Local Native American tribe seeks identity Comments on Stories, posted by Editor, Pleasanton Weekly Online, on Dec 5, 2011 at 11:00 am
The Muwekma Ohlones, whose ancestral lands are in Pleasanton and throughout the Bay Area, have lost a federal lawsuit seeking recognition of their tribe by the United States, according to [Web Link U.S. District Court documents].
Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 5, 2011, 7:03 AM
Posted by Mike Cheney, a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2011 at 11:00 am
It's sad to see an American Indian Tribe become extinct right before our eyes. I would hope that they could find the people and the docs needed to keep their ancestry alive. Truly a large part of our history in our area.
Posted by Sam, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2011 at 4:01 pm
Mike Cheney said "It's sad to see an American Indian Tribe become extinct right before our eyes. I would hope that they could find the people and the docs needed to keep their ancestry alive. Truly a large part of our history in our area."
No need to express sorrow over this. When you say that this Indian tribe became "extinct" you're simply referring to the fact that the Federal government that they will not officially recognize and acknowledge the tribe. That doesn't mean that the remaining culture of this tribe is going to be vigorously stamped out. This isn't some sort of death sentence on the tribal culture. As far as I can tell, what this basically means is that there will be no Federally recognized tribal lands along with the associated Indian stores and casinos. I just don't see anything to mourn over here. And I suspect that many or most of those who were pushing for tribal recognition were motivated more by the possible financial rewards that would accompany official tribal recognition than by any deep desire to preserve tribal culture.
Posted by Anthropologist, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2011 at 4:37 pm
Sam says, "As far as I can tell, what this basically means is that there will be no Federally recognized tribal lands along with the associated Indian stores and casinos. I just don't see anything to mourn over here. And I suspect that many or most of those who were pushing for tribal recognition were motivated more by the possible financial rewards that would accompany official tribal recognition than by any deep desire to preserve tribal culture."
I think you're assuming quite a bit, Sam. We are talking about 'political erasure' of a Native American tribe, and now the govt'l denial that members of that tribe can claim tribal status for the tribe they have traditionally belonged to. But the tribal members DO EXIST. So, with this most recent court decision, the tribe has again been 'politically erased'.
You assume that the those pushing for tribal recognition were "motivated more by financial rewards ... rather than any deep desire to preserve tribal culture." I'm not sure your assumption is valid. First, how do you know what the tribal members' motivations? And, second, why do you assume that "seeking financial rewards" and a desire to preserve tribal culture are mutually distinct? Cannot they be held simultaneously?
We need to begin serious discussions regarding financial renumerations for historically oppressed, 'politically erased', and excluded peoples. So doing may better enable the preservation of traditional values and an acceptance of diverse ways of life.
Posted by Sam, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2011 at 7:43 pm
"Anthropologist", for lack of any concrete information as to how government recognition would help to preserve tribal culture, yes, I assume that most proponents for recognition are motivated primariily by financial considerations. You dispute this assumption but yet you don't explain how government recognition would help preserve tribal culture. I'm pretty open-minded and willing to listen to reason. Please explain in concrete terms what cultural or non-financial benefits government recognition would confer.
Posted by Anthropologist, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2011 at 8:25 pm
First, thanks to Sam for not embarrassing me re. my abuse of the term remuneration....
I was recently in El Norte county where a number of tribal Klamath Native Americans live. With federal financial, there are many things a Native American tribe can do. Build better schools, for one, open a cultural heritage center for another. Provide better health and medical opportunities which uplifts the young and supports their own educational endeavors. Yet another I can think of is what (I think it's) the Yurok have done. Reconstruct an ancestral village using native materials that provides an educational opportunity for native and nonnative children and adults to better learn about and appreciate how a Native American tribe lived in the region that is now pockmarked with Burger Kings and McDonalds. These are all possibilities, I think, and not at all necessarily at odds with casino building.
Posted by Sam, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Dec 5, 2011 at 9:58 pm
"Anthropologist", the building of better schools and furthering the educational endeavors of young Native Americans sounds commendable. The problem is that in practice I see no evidence that government recognition of tribal status has been successful in supporting the goal of better education for Native Americans. On the contrary, Native Americans tend to score relatively poorly in standardized testing, whereas many Asian minority groups - who attend standard public schools - tend to score relatively highly in those same tests. So I have to suggest to you that in regards to better educating young Native Americans, the tribal recognition path is a failed experiment.
As for constructing a native village as an educational opportunity for native and non-native children, that sounds fine. Seems like there should be a way to do that without going through the process of gaining official tribal recognition by the Federal government, though.
Posted by Anthropologist, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2011 at 10:52 am
Let a few Native Americans have input into those 'standardized' (homogenized) tests and I bet you'd see a marked swing in numbers. Back in grad school I took an IQ test developed by black researchers aimed specifically for black students. The first question on the test was: 'Who shot Stago Lee?'
But even more to the point. Surely you must realize that comparing Native Americans' test performance with that of Asian Americans doesn't mean a whole lot. (You're beginning to sound like the right-wing huckster Michelle Rhee!) Standardized tests are merely one of many diagnostic tools used by educators to get a general idea of how students are learning in certain settings. I'd prefer not to engage in stereotyping about Native Americans not being as "imitative" as Asian-Americans; but we do both know that there are cultural differences between groups of people. I'd not venture to engage in any standardized comparison between what Native Americans might seek to gain from education vs. what Asian Americans might seek.
The differences are likely to be stark on many levels. Most importantly, here, Native Americans who have a _tribal_ self-identity probably differ in many respects from most Asian Americans whose self-identity is _not_ bound up with a tribal membership. This difference, by itself, would probably go some way toward explaining differences in group-based educational goals.
But I want to again point out to you what strikes me as being a critical fact: members of the Muwekma Ohlones tribe are being denied recognition as being who they claim to be. This amounts to a 'political erasure' of their existence. In any political sense, they are forced to remain invisible to others. I think the government's decision on this matter is a detriment to us all. Just another indicator of the increased McDonaldsization of American culture.
Answer to above exam question: Billy DeLyin. (Recommended: Taj Mahal's musical rendition, titled Stagger Lee, probably found easily on youtube.)
Posted by Sam, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm
"Anthropologist", are Korean-Americans "politically erased" because they don't have any sort of official government 'tribal-like' recognition of their ethnic group? Are African-Americans "politically erased" because they don't have official government recognition of their ethnic group? Of course not. The Muwekma Ohlones or any other tribe can organize themselves politically as they wish. Now it's true that due to their relatively small numbers they may not have much a political impact, and that official government recognition would give them enhanced political impact by a degree far exceeding their actual numbers, but that doesn't sound very fair or democratic to me.
As for your suggestion that scholastic achievement or scholastic aptitude tests are "culturally biased" against Indian Americans, all I can say is that this is the world we live in and if Native Americans wish to excel professionally and academically then they have to get with the system. The "cultural bias" of the standardized tests doesn't seem to slow down members of many other ethnic groups. No, many of them excel in the tests and go on to develop themselves academically and professionally. Instead of having young Native Americans also devote themselves to excelling academically and measuring themselves against the same academic yardstick used by everyone else, you seem to have some utopian image of some sort of parallel educational system devoted to the special needs of Native Americans which can compete on the same level as standard schools. If so, I think that that's a very expensive fantasy with no chance of succeeding.
Posted by oh please, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm
Tribe want recognition for one reason only -- tax free money. In the form of casinos, stores and anything else they can think up. Give them their recognition, even give them some land but make it contingent upon paying taxes on all revenue earned. See how fast they jump on that one.
Posted by History Buff, a resident of the Avignon neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2011 at 3:12 pm
Sam seems to harbor some kind of imperialist/colonialist world view that insists that all peoples conform to the same cultural standards as does he and so many other Americans.
Obey the same laws? Maybe. Conform to same cultural standards? No, not necessarily, at all.
In typical colonialist mind frame, Sam seems to ignore the specific cultural history and traditions of Native American tribes. Since Korean Americans don't have (and never have had) tribal status, he argues, why should Native Americans? Well, perhaps Sam can prove me wrong, but I don't think Korean Americans have any history in this country of being organized as a tribe. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, do Korean Americans identify themselves as members of a tribe. I wonder if Sam can name any Korean tribal sovereign nations on American soil.
With govt recognition of Muwekme Ohlomes tribal status, there likely would also be a parcelling of land and the right to declare sovereign nation status. In that sovereign nation, tribal members can decide what particular kinds of educational aims and standards they wish to embrace. Thus, as Anthropologist rightly noted, material gain and preservation of cultural heritage may not at all be mutually exclusive. They might indeed be mutually reinforcing.
On a personal note, I find Sam's comparisons of Native American culture with that of recent immigrant groups to be rather flip, and verging on insult. To the best of my knowledge, Korean Americans were not displaced as a tribe from their homelands by the American govt and then 'politically erased' after the govt's repeated violations of treaties that greatly disadvantaged Korean American tribal populations and their way of life.
Sam's idea of cultural diversity seems to include Korean Americans working side by side with other cultures at all of our countless McDonalds. The Muwekme Ohlones, in contrast, are pleading for something a bit different than that. I for one am sympathetic to their appeal.
Posted by History Buff, a resident of the Avignon neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm
How does one "earn" one's own tribal identity? That's rather like How does one "earn" one's family, or how does one "earn" being Jewish or African American.
Is it possible for a person to be any more stupid than this one is? (Oh, and calling oneself 'tonto' is not funny but only reveals the third-grade-boy-etching-nazi-signs-into-his-school-desk mentality behind choice of the name.)
Posted by hybrid owner, a resident of the Valley Trails neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm
I find the generalized statements that all the Native Americans want is money & casino's very offensive. I am a member of a tribe that is also trying to re-establish federal recongnition. WE DO NOT WANT a casino or stores, or any other money making operation. Let me enlighten you to the fact that in our last round of dealing with Washington DC, we were advised they would not reconognize us as a tribe UNLESS we found an investor to assist us in building a casino, which has caused an impasse lasting many, many years.
Posted by Mike Cheney, a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm
I thank (most of) you for an intelligent discussion on a good subject. We don't and likely won't know the TRUE reason for them wanting recognition. Only thous with in this tribe do.I for one am some what sympathetic to the Indian Culture and feel that they have been discriminated against for a long time. They and we need to be able to keep their history true and try to preserve of it what we can. I find their culture very interesting and knowing that they were here before we were makes a difference to me. They lived in a balance with nature that was commendable. It's just who I am. I do agree that we can't give every TOM, DICK and Harry land and money to create their own little world but I still go back to the thought that they should be recognized as a tribe because we all know that they were here. History says so. Why? Because through our own research we have made it so. No need to go on and on with stats and bla bla bla.....
Posted by History Buff, a resident of the Avignon neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2011 at 8:55 pm
Sam is the one who brought up what I think is a specious comparison between Native Americans and Korean Americans. How can they in any sense be compared? I apologize for distorting his words, for I truly had no intention of so doing. But as I re-read Sam's posts, I cannot in all honesty retract anything I have written. Hope there are no hard feelings.
Posted by Sister to a tribe member, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2011 at 8:45 am
My adopted brother is half Native American. My parents were very supportive of educating him on what they could find out about his "politically extinct" tribe - one of Louisianna. The federal education system does not support better education for tribal members unless they live off the "reservations". In research on a tribe in New Mexico, findings indicated that standardized testing and current federal education standards are at odds with some aspects of Native Tribal culture. Because Koreans or Chinese or most other ethnic groups but African and Native American, came to the white European culture willingly looking for jobs, they never had there culture forible erased. Both African and Indiginous peoples have had to fight to keep their culture and their identities in a different way. Political recognition for a tribe is one way. It is wrong for the federal government to 1)negate the political existance of this or any tribe that can follow it's existance back, and 2)require tribes to find investors and force them to build casinos. Tribes need to find their own solutions to the problems instead of someone from outside forcing what they think would work - because that has NEVER worked.
Posted by Sam, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2011 at 10:12 am
Sister said: " In research on a tribe in New Mexico, findings indicated that standardized testing and current federal education standards are at odds with some aspects of Native Tribal culture."
What does this sentence mean? Standardized testing and education standards are at odds with exactly what "aspects" of Native Tribal culture?
What many proponents of government recognition here seem to be saying is that if standardized testing and education standards are "at odds" with Native Tribal culture, then the solution is not for tribal culture to change and adapt, but for standardized testing and educational standards - the same tests and standards applied to all other ethnic groups -to change and adapt to meet the special needs of Native Americans. However well intentioned, that's a path to underperformance and mediocrity. Like it or not, after young Native Americans complete their education they'll have to step out into the real world and compete on the same basis and standards as everyone else. How well prepared will they be for that?
Posted by Anthropologist, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2011 at 11:02 am
I don't read many of the posters here so much calling for a change in standardized testings and educational standards (though this may very well be a good idea, as the tests have been proven to exhibit cultural biases that tend to work to the disadvantage of groups that historically have experienced exclusion from meaningful public sphere participation). Rather, I read the gist of many of the comments being that tribes should be recognized by our federal government as a required first step toward tribal self determination.
Sam says, "Like it or not, after young Native Americans complete their education they'll have to step out into the real world and compete on the same basis and standards as everyone else." This statement shows a good deal of hubris on Sam's part, and whether he acknowledges it or not, reflects a devaluing of the worldview of some Native Americans. "Real world" (Sam's world) v. the world of Native Americans (which Sam strongly implies in his above quote is "not real").
I became an anthropologist not long after I visited the Wounded Knee memorial which specified on its grounds where each "American" had died during Custer's Last Stand, and then made general mention of the "Indians" -- posed as a people distinct from "Americans." Each American is given a name and rank; the "Indians" are simply dumped into a general category. At that time, and still, I was struck by how Native Americans were rendered invisible by the memorial.
Denial of Muwekma Ohlones' tribal status continues the systematic erasures and denial of visibility of a people that comes with it. Native Americans may (or may not) want to partake of Sam's "real world." It should be their choice, not Sam's or anyone else's; and that choice cannot be a genuine choice without govt'l recognition of tribal rights to self determination. I believe we all have much to gain by the tribe being formally recognized.
Posted by Sam, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm
"Anthropologist", it should be obvious that when I say the "real world" I mean the life and world beyond beyond the world of the tribal reservation. But rather than debate or comment on my central claim (i.e., that young Native Americans will be unprepared to compete on equal terms with everyone else beyond the tribal reservation), you let my point slide by and instead engage in word games about my definition of the "real world". Why? Is my claim that young Native Americans educated by some special tribal education will be unprepared to compete with others in the "real world" not provocative enough for you? Or perhaps you just decided to concede my point and so you went off on some tangent about alternative world views instead.
It's interesting how people of so many other cultures are able to both embrace their ethnic identity and culture AND excel in educationally and professionally in the world we all share without special government programs and treatment. But you seem to think Native Americans are an exception. Apparently, according to you, not only are Native Americans unable to both practice their culture and excel educationally and professionally on the same level playing ground as other peoples of other ethnic groups, but they are so crippled that they also need government programs and assistance. What a fragile and weak people and culture you make them out to be.
Posted by Anthropologist, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm
I am not certain at all that, as you say, "young Native Americans will be unprepared to compete on equal terms with everyone else beyond the tribal reservation." You seem to be assuming a lot when you say this. Even if your assumption is valid, and I'm pretty certain it is not, it seems to me that a people should be able to make those kinds of life choices on their own and, yes, with govt'l recognition and assistance. As I'm sure you are aware, some people, for any variety of reasons, decide they do not want to partake of ("succeed in") the dominant, homogenized corporate culture. The range is great, from the Amish, to immigrants to the US who choose not to learn English, to those who embrace countercultural expressions of life (such as tattoo artists and those who adorn their bodies with massive splashes of artful ink). I think it is unarguable that the fed govt has prevented the Muwekma Ohlones and other Native Americans the rightful opportunity to pursue their own lifestyles, on their own terms, upon a tribal land they can call their own.
This shouldn't be about judging them on Sam's terms (success and achievement) and thereby using that as rationale for denial of recognition. But you persist in hoisting that standard (success cum achievement) and that standard alone without recognition of alternative worldviews and lifestyles.
Your claim that, according to me, a tribe's seeking recognition from the federal govt is an indication of fragility and weakness. Let's call it as it is. The Muwekma Ohlones are seeking recognition, and I am only expressing my sympathy. I doubt they themselves would take on the label of 'fragility and weakness'. But neither would they agree with your apparent assumption that they already exist on a level playing field. I do hope you realize your argument here is exactly that espoused by William Buckley in his opposition to the black civil rights movement. To paraphrase, Buckley claimed that African Americans' demands for "special" civil rights protections and a redress of grievances amounted to a concession that they are an inferior race. Of course, in this regard as in so many others, Buckley was dead wrong. The question wasn't "inferiority" or, in your words, "fragility and weakness" but rather whether an equal playing field did indeed exist. Here, Native Americans are pleading for a playing field that assists them in their struggle for self determination. That playing field has been disgracefully lacking as it pertains to so many Native Americans. The Muwekma Ohlones' appeal offers us the opportunity to repair, at least to some small extent, the damage done to a defeated people by a triumphant one.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Parkside neighborhood, on Dec 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm
Anthropologist, I'm sure you intentions are good, but govt handouts create a vicious cycle of dependency that always ends badly. If recognition is all that's required, that's an admirable goal. If, however, the goal is govt funding, using 'recognition' as the vehicle, that's just welfare under another name.
Posted by Wyatt, a resident of the Mariposa Ranch neighborhood, on Dec 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm
Steve the Sick, unable to distinguish between tribal sovereignty and social welfare, remains lost in his own private fog of ignorance and lack of education. Paddling through life with nothing but cliches. Very sad.
Posted by Educated Indian, a resident of another community, on Dec 24, 2012 at 7:29 am
Just a thought and friendly suggestion for all interested to take a college level course in American Indian history or government. They don't teach this in schools k-12 for a reason. This is why so many American citizens are innocently ignorant of tribal people and entities. Federal recognition status has many dimensions and means more than what has been debated here. You cannot base all your knowledge and opinion by what you see on TV or read in the news. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes in America; you might as well get used to it. We will continue to be here for a long time. Muwekma don't give up, it's just a matter if time before the future generations will recognize and may even depend on the values and contributions of Native people.