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California Indian country at a glance

Tubatulabals host three days of healing events

ONYX - The 11th annual White Blanket Spiritual Gathering will feature three days of healing events, including a Bear Dance ceremony.

The gathering is April 25 - 27 on the White Blanket Rancheria near Onyx, in the Kern River Valley (off Highway 178 east of Bakersfield). It is sponsored by the Owens Valley Career Development Center and White Blanket Rancheria.

The gathering begins with a Health Run/Walk for diabetes awareness, starting at 10 a.m. at the Onyx Emporium, the oldest continuously operated store in California. The walk will continue to the White Blanket Gathering. T-shirts will be given to all runners and walkers who participate.

Gathering events include a community Sweatlodge ceremony; drumming with Walter Hansen, Shoshone-Paiute; Pakaaniil language with Betsy Johnson and Anthony Stone, Tubatulabal; hand games with Monty Bengochia, Bishop Paiute; and Bear dancers, Tachi Yokuts.

The Bear Dance was revived by Tachi Yokuts spiritual elder Clarence Atwell Sr., who was given a vision to bring back the Bear Dance to the people for healing. Bear dancers wear bear skins and become the Bear. The Bear takes on the ills of the people assembled and the ills are transmuted into healing power. The dancers are bathed in sage smoke so the dancers themselves don;t take on the illnesses.

The Bear Dance is sacred and photographs are not allowed. For more information, call Dee Dee Scott at (760) 378-1032 or Josephine Stone at (760) 417-2618.

United Auburn Indian Community opens school

AUBURN - The United Auburn Indian Community opened its first school this year, offering a culture-based curriculum and with a noted Sicangu Lakota educator at the helm.

Roger Bordeaux is the school's superintendent. He was formerly superintendent of Tiospa Zina Tribal School on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate reservation and executive director of the Association of Community Tribal Schools. He testified before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor in April 2007 on the positive impacts of properly funded Native schools.

United Auburn's school - built at a cost of $30 million generated by Thunder Valley Casino - has an enrollment of almost 60 students in grades kindergarten through 12; it also has an adult education program.

The school is one example of the new future being built by the Maidu and Miwok peoples, who lost federal recognition during the termination era. They regained recognition in 1994.

Since then, United Auburn opened the 200,000-square-foot Thunder Valley Casino in 2003; plans to build a 23-floor hotel with a performing arts center, restaurants and spa; and has gifted more than $5 million to local nonprofits supporting the arts, community development, education, environment, health and social services.

United Auburn also acquired 1,100 acres for a new community of 110 single-family homes, an administrative center, community center, day care center, health care services, open space, and the school.

150,000 pages support KVIC's recognition effort

KERNVILLE - The Kern Valley Indian Community has gathered more than 150,000 pages of documents from local collections and federal archives to support its effort to become federally recognized.

Ethnohistorian Heather Howard of McClurken & Associates interviewed members of key families of KVIC in 2006 and 2007; one member contributed nearly 15,000 pages of supporting documents.

Howard has organized all of the documents in a database.

''This work has helped us to understand and describe the complex genealogy and intertribal composition of the Kern Valley Indian Community,'' Howard wrote in a report to KVIC families and supporters.

She is preparing a report that documents KVIC's relationship with the U.S. government since the beginning of American jurisdiction to the present.

''The record of the Kern Valley Indian Community's history is rich and detailed,'' Howard wrote.

KVIC - predominately Kawaiisu and Paiute - is one of two groups in the Kern Valley seeking federal recognition. The other is Tubatulabals of Kern Valley. Ancestors of both groups signed treaties with the U.S. government in 1851 and were allotted land on which many of their descendants live today.

Like Tubatulabals of Kern Valley, KVIC has an elected council and provides cultural, educational and social services to their members. Both say federal recognition will lead to economic development, improved housing and health care, and other essential services.

Central California Indian leaders discuss issues

FRESNO - Leaders and representatives of central California Indian nations that are state recognized or seeking federal acknowledgement met in a conference April 5 to discuss ways to expand and improve the services they provide.

The conference was held in the state Department of Transportation district offices in Manchester Center in Fresno. The conference opened with a welcome and a blessing.

Session leaders included Daniel Gonzalez, chairman of the Lipan Apache in Texas; Ron Goode, chairman of the North Fork Mono; Lalo Franco, cultural specialist for Wukchumni and Tachi; Margie Kirn, Merced County Association of Governments; Rob Ball, Kern Council of Governments; and Joetta Fleak, California Indian Legal Services.

Gonzalez opened the sessions with an update on the federal acknowledgement process.

Other session topics included political action, grant and loan funding for water improvements, environmental justice, issues related to land allotments, language classes and grants, repatriation and protection of cultural resources, legal services, and services for veterans.

Rancheria Ride raises funds for Indigenous Permaculture

SONOMA COUNTY - The Rancheria Ride will be held May 3 - 4 to raise funds for the Indigenous Permaculture program and to promote awareness of American Indian nations in California.

A rancheria is a small area of land set aside around an Indian settlement. Some rancherias developed from communities of Indians who were displaced by American settlements or who wanted to avoid removal to reservations.

The 110-mile bicycle ride will wind through northern Sonoma County and will feature travel to the Kashaya Pomo reservation.

This is an unsupported ride. All donations will go to support Indigenous Permaculture projects on the Pine Ridge Reservation and in Sonsonate, El Salvador.

A $70 donation can purchase all the materials to build a high-efficiency stove in El Salvador, saving fuel wood and the respiratory health of Central American mothers, who otherwise work over open wood stoves for hours a day breathing in wood smoke.

For more information, e-mail David Jaber at, visit, or write to Ecology Center/Indigenous Permaculture, 3288 21st St., No. 192, San Francisco, CA 94110.

Richard Walker is a correspondent for Indian Country Today. Contact him at