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Muwekma Ohlone denied recognition

WASHINGTON ? The Interior Department has declined to grant federal recognition to a California tribe from the Bay Area. On Sept. 6, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Neal A. McCaleb issued a notice of final determination stating that the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe had failed to meet three of the seven mandatory criteria for federal recognition.

Despite the fact that the tribe was "determined to have had unambiguous previous Federal acknowledgement until 1927," Interior said that the Muwekma Ohlone "had not been identified as an Indian entity on a 'substantially continuous' basis since 1927."

The Department further said that the documents and oral histories submitted with the tribe's application failed demonstrate the group's present existence as a "distinct community." The tribe also failed to demonstrate that it "has maintained 'political influence or authority' over its members since 1927."

In the early years of the 20th century the Muwekma Ohlone were known as the Verona Band of Alameda County. On its web site, www.muwekma.org, the tribe says that "the direct ancestors of the present-day Muwekma Tribe were federally acknowledged by the U.S. government in 1906," and that between 1906 and 1927, the Verona Band fell under the jurisdiction of the old Indian Service Bureau.

In 1927, the tribe says, Lafayette A. Dorrington, Superintendent of ISB's Sacramento agency, was directed to list tribes and bands in his area "who had yet to obtain a land base for their 'home sites' so that Congress could plan an allocation budget for fiscal year 1929." Dorrington, according to the tribe, "apparently" failed to prepare the required list; after a second request, he "responded by administratively dropping from their federally-acknowledged status approximately 135 tribes and bands throughout California."

The Muwekma published on the web the following passage attributed to Dorrington: "There is one band in Alameda County commonly known as the Verona Band, located near the town of Verona; these Indians were formerly those that resided in close proximity of the Mission San Jose. It does not appear at the present time that there is need for the purchase of land for the establishment of their homes."

"Thus with the stroke of a pen and without any communication or due process, the Muwekma/Verona Band, along with another 134 tribes and bands of California, lost their status as federally recognized tribes," the tribe said.

Interior's finding, however, was not completely unexpected. On Aug. 3, 2001, Interior issued a notice of proposed indicating that recognition would not be forthcoming. Despite extending the public comment period for the determination a couple of times, the reviewers did not reverse their decision.

The tribe has 90 days in which to appeal the decision.