According to most recent census data, California is home to more people of Native American/ Alaska Native heritage than any other state in the Country. There are currently 109 federally recognized Indian tribes in California and 78 entities petitioning for recognition. Tribes in California currently have nearly 100 separate reservations or Rancherias. There are also a number of individual Indian trust allotments. These lands constitute “Indian Country”, and a different jurisdictional applies in Indian Country.
For Indians and Indian Country there are special rules that govern state and local jurisdiction. There may also be federal and tribal laws that apply.
California American Indian/Alaska Native Data Sources
Insufficient tribally-specific data makes it exceedingly difficult for American Indian/Alaska Native communities to document the magnitude and nature of problems such as child abuse, domestic violence, or crime so that tribes can secure the funding necessary to address these problems. It also makes it difficult for tribal/state/local partnerships to work on these problems together. To begin to address this issue, the California Administrative Office of the Courts, in collaboration with the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, investigated what tribally-specific data is available and prepared a summary of these data sources and a related annotated bibliography.
Native American Statistical Abstract: Population Characteristics
Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Native American Programs Training “Working Effectively with Tribal Governments”. This training gives a good overview of the historical, legal and cultural considerations involved with working with tribes. Registration is required for first time users.
A: There are 109 federally recognized Indian tribes, including several tribes with lands that cross state boundaries. There are also about 45 tribal communities of formerly recognized tribes that were terminated as part of the United States’ termination policy in the 1950s or tribal communities that were never recognized by the federal government.
A: California’s tribes are everywhere throughout the state, including
A; California’s tribes are as small as five members and as large as 4,000 members. Compare these numbers to those of Oklahoma’s tribes, which range from 200 members to 240,000 members.
A: Like all other tribes around the country, California’s tribes have a tragic and tumultuous history.
• Before the missionary, fur trapping, and gold rush era migrations, California’s Native American population was estimated at about 200,000.
• Between 1840 and 1870, however, that population declined to 12,000 due to disease, removal, and death.
• Between 1851 and 1852, 18 treaties were signed between the tribes and the United States. The treaties reserved 7.5 million acres for the tribes but were rejected by the U.S. Senate in secret session at the request of the State of California. The tribes, believing that the treaties were valid, relinquished the historic territories and moved to the reserved acreage. However, once they reached their new locations, they were turned away. The tribes were not officially notified of the reason for this until 1905, some 55 years later.
• In the 1850s, California passed a series of laws pertaining to its Native American population. These laws allowed:
o A justice of the peace to remove Indians from lands in a white person’s possession
o Any Indian to be declared vagrant (upon word of a white person), thrown in jail, and sold at auction for up to four months with no pay
o The kidnapping, selling, and use of Indian children as slaves
o Indentured servitude of any Indian (one report mentioned 110 servants who ranged from ages 2 to 50, 49 of whom were between 7 and 12 years old)
o Prohibited Indians from testifying in court against a white person
• In the 1950s, nearly 100 years later, the federal government’s continued attempts to force assimilation on the entire Native American population resulted in the termination (i.e., loss of federally recognized status) of over 109 tribes throughout the United States. In California, this came about through the Rancheria Act of 1958, which resulted in the termination of federal status of 44 Indian tribes.
• The Relocation Act of 1956 provided funding to establish relocation centers for Native Americans in urban areas like Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and to finance the relocation of individual Native Americans and their families.
oFunding for similar reservation-based programs was denied.
o Those who participated in the federal relocation programs were usually required to sign agreements that they would not return to their respective reservations to live.
o Between 60,000 and 70,000 out-of-state Native Americans settled in Los Angeles and San Francisco. To date, these cities have two of the largest urban Native American populations in the United States.
A: This history, combined with the treatment of Native American children that resulted in the passage of ICWA, the effects of Public Law 280, and the county-based system in place in California provide significant, but not impossible, challenges.
Continuing the Dialogue
This broadcast features discussions by state and tribal court judges on the history of Native Americans in California, U.S. government impact on Native American families, federal and state laws, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and application of the ICWA.
Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Leader’s Directory (List of California Tribes can be found at beginning at the bottom of page 138)