East Bay Ohlone Tribe's Struggle for Federal Recognition

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Charlene Nijmeh, chair of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe in the Bay Area, stands for a portrait next to Strawberry Creek on the UC Berkeley campus on Friday, November 27, 2020 in Berkeley, Calif. (Photo By Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

A recent DNA analysis has found that the federally unrecognized  Muwekma Ohlone Tribe has been in the Bay Area for at least 2,000 years. The evidence bolsters the tribe’s decades-long case to reinstate their federal recognition which they lost, along with dozens of other California Indian tribes, in the 1920s. Tribal leaders say recognition is a necessary first step for the Muwekma Ohlone to establish a reservation. But tribal law experts say the process for gaining federal recognition is complicated and political. We’ll talk about why some tribes are– or are not – recognized, what federal recognition means for them, and the current efforts from tribes such as the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe to gain recognition.


Lauren van Schilfgaarde, director of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Tribal Legal Development Clinic, UCLA

Charlene Nijmeh, chairwoman, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe