OCEN’S FEDERAL RECOGNITION HISTORY

[The following dialogue was written several years ago in an effort to educate others about the process of federal recognition. This information is incomplete and should be updated soon.]

 

The Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation is currently in the process of reaffirming its status as an American Indian tribe with the Bureau of Indian Affairs through the Federal Acknowledgement Process administered by the Branch of Acknowledgement and Research (BAR). The Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation leadership submitted our tribal petition and narrative to the BAR on January 25, 1995 during a meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C. The completed petition, which meets all acknowledgement criteria, was hand-delivered to the BAR in August 1995. At present, we continue to work towards the goal of reaffirming our previous status as a Federally Recognized Tribe.

 

Although never legally terminated by any Act of Congress, the lineages comprising the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation were formally "recognized" by the United States Government as the "Monterey Band of Monterey County." The Monterey Band, as with other federally recognized tribes of California, was placed under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of the Reno and Sacramento Agencies between 1906 to at least 1923. As a result of the discovery in 1905 of the 18 unratified treaties negotiated between the United States and California tribes, and the ensuing Congressional Appropriation Acts of 1906 and 1908, the Monterey Band became federally recognized. Our tribe was specifically named in the Bureau of Indian Affairs' special Indian census, as well as its agents' correspondences and reports.

 

However, although we were recognized, due to an administrative error, our tribe was overlooked and neglected under the Congressional Acts to purchase land for landless and homeless California Indian bands and tribes. The Monterey Band did not have a ranchería purchased for them, yet neither did Agent Dorrington include them among the 130 tribes he administratively dropped. The tribe dates the federal government's neglect of it as an official tribe to this period. Without any benefits from the government and with only minimal compensation for the theft of California Indian lands, our families enrolled with the BIA in 1928-1932, 1948-1955 and 1968-1972. For the loss of 8,000,000 acres of land that was to be set aside for Indians as specified in the 18 Treaties of 1851-1852, our people were paid $150.00 per person in the 1950s. For the rest of the value of the remaining 70,000,000 acres, our people were paid with interest back to 1852, the sum of $668.61 in 1972. Our ancestors were here for over 10,000 years and in 1972 the United States admitted that the land was illegally taken from the California Indians, but the only compensation was approximately $700.00 with which to build our futures. The BIA recognized community members as Indians on an individual basis but did not recognize a collective community. Some individuals sent their checks back requesting land instead.

 

Since its inception in 1978, the Federal Acknowledgment Process has only acknowledged 14 tribes to date and there are approximately 200 tribes petitioning in the United States for recognition and reaffirmation. In some cases, such as the Cowlitz, Samish, Chinook and others, it has taken 20 to 25 years to negotiate this arduous process, ultimately leading for many to the denial of their status as Indian tribes. This process has been rendered invisible to the American public.

 

Nonetheless, our people, our tribe continues to thrive by revitalizing our tribal government, community, and heritage. We recognize that we are here because of those ancestors who came before us and gave us life and direction, and we will continue to fight for the rights to land and federal acknowledgement that our ancestors were denied.

 

Our men and women have served in the United States Armed Forces. Even before we became citizens in 1924, our men served overseas in World War I. During World War II, our men served once again overseas in both the Pacific and European Theaters. Our people have served in Korea and Vietnam, and some are in the Armed Forces today.


For over ten thousand years, the Esselen, Rumsen, Achastan, Guatcharron Indians lived in the Monterey Bay area without interruption. Despite missionization, government changes, broken treaties, devastation to our culture, and loss of land, we have survived. We are the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation.

 

Please consider helping us in our efforts either through a charitable, tax-deductible donation or by contacting our elected officials in support of our federal acknowledgement. Let these officials know that the Federal Acknowledgement Process is fatally flawed and is designed to further disenfranchise legitimate and previously federally recognized tribes.