Local Indigenous Tribes Address Invisibility to UCI | New university

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Most of Orange County, including the UC Irvine site, is located on the shared territory of the native Acjachemen and Tongva tribes. While the UCI was built on tribal land in 1965, today members of the tribe, as well as UCI faculty and staff, seek to remedy the invisibility of indigenous nations through active community involvement.

No federal recognition of the Acjachemen and Tongva tribes

Almost 200 indigenous nations exist in California today, 111 of which are federally recognized. The Acjachemen and Tongva tribes are among the tribes that have not been recognized at the federal level.

According to the US Department of Indian Affairs, a federally recognized tribe “is recognized as having a government-to-government relationship with the United States” and “is eligible for funding and services from the Office of Indian Affairs.” Federally recognized tribes also have “certain inherent rights of self-government.”

“Federal recognition would provide us with resources, such as educational resources and medical resources,” said Joyce Stanfield Perry, director of the Acjachemen tribe. “The federal government would have more of a say in how we run our tribal government because the federally recognized tribes are wards of the state under the United States of America.”

The Acjachemen tribe had actively sought federal recognition for decades, but were continually denied recognition. According to Perry, part of the Acjachemen tribe recently withdrew completely from the federal recognition application process, while the other part of the tribe was again denied recognition.

According to Angela Mooney D’Arcy, a member of the Acjachemen Nation and Founder and Executive Director of the Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, the Acjachemen and Tongva tribes have not received federal recognition due to the geographic location of their tribes. land.

D’Arcy explained that Orange County is “home to the most racist tweets west of the Mississippi” and is a very “privileged and expensive” area, and therefore is not in the interest of the United States government in assigning legal jurisdiction to this area. to Native Americans.

The leader of Acjachemen, Clarence Lobo, stood at the site of the UCI construction in 1963. While he feared the invisibility of indigenous nations in future generations, the UCI is today the center of collaboration between indigenous communities.

“The reason we don’t have federal recognition is because it would give us the brown people the ability to assert their legal and territorial jurisdiction over land in one of the richest, most important areas. white and most privileged in all of the United States, ”said D ‘Arcy. “We see the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment in Orange County by the fact that the KKK was actively recruiting on Martin Luther King Day in Santa Ana this year and last year. “

Perry explained that not being recognized by the federal government has its pros and cons. Although tribes not recognized by the federal government do not receive federal resources, they exercise their sovereignty through internal government, which has a more “communal” and “popular” orientation. Perry added that many officially recognized tribes might not have this approach, as they have their own reservation and specific criteria to meet in their dealings with the federal government.

While not federally recognized, the Acjachemen tribe has also asserted sovereignty outside of its internal nation. For example, the US Marine Corps consults with tribes, including the Acjachemen Nation, who have ancestral ties to the area on which Camp Pendleton is built. In 2008, the US Department of Commerce refused a building permit that would have affected a sacred site in Acjachemen.

Yet even federally recognized tribes have difficulty acquiring land trusts and legal jurisdiction. Former Acjachemen chief Clarence Lobo actively sought more than mere federal recognition at the turn of the twentieth century. He started a political movement with a coalition of other tribes to claim the stolen tribal lands, but the move has been largely ignored.

In order to bring attention to his cause, Lobo dressed in the famous Plains Indian outfit – the most stereotypical outfit associated with Native Americans by the public – and stood at the construction site of the UCI in 1963. He expressed concern that Native American history would be completely erased in future generations.

“Our children will not have the experience of wandering these hills and listening to wild birds when they talk to nature,” Lobo said at the UCI construction site. “Our imprints on the sands of time will be history for them.”

Invisibility of Indigenous Nations

As the Acjachemen and Tongva tribes have not been federally recognized and may never receive their location in Orange County, the invisibility of these tribes – and indigenous nations in general – continues today. nationally, as Lobo feared.

“Most people don’t recognize that there are nearly 200 nations in California today alone,” D’Arcy said.

This invisibility of native tribes is also increased by the lack of media coverage of Native Americans, D’Arcy explained. For example, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ), an organization that studies police brutality and criminal justice, “the racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement is Native Americans.” .

Perry added that when they talk about underfunded and disadvantaged minorities, Americans think of African Americans, Hispanics, or Asian Americans. Native Americans are “among the poorest minorities,” but they are still unrecognized.

“I think the main thing is that if [the American public] recognizes that Native Americans are still there, they have to recognize the history of the nation, and that is very contrary to the image they want to project today, ”said Perry.

Addressing invisibility at the UCI

The invisibility of the Acjachemen and other nations, which Lobo feared to run for the UCI in 1963, is actively addressed at the community level by members of the Acjachemen and Tongva tribes, as well as faculty and staff at the UCI. UCI today.

Last year, the UCI Law School organized a symposium entitled “Cultivating Consciousness of Acjachemen Homelands” to discuss the relationship between Indigenous nations and the academic community. Speakers included D’Arcy and Perry.

Abby Reyes, who heads the UCI Sustainability Initiative, which promotes sustainability on campus through community engagement, described that the initiative worked with tribal chiefs Acjachemen and Tongva.

“Indigenous communities here in Southern California and around the world are truly leading the social movement for environmental balance, economic vitality and social justice,” Reyes said. “We believe that these communities have a lot to learn on this subject. “

Reyes added that many of these communities face economic disparities and injustices, and lack access to the land and resources necessary to maintain traditional practices. The Sustainability Initiative has worked on various projects to draw attention to this injustice and to create strategies to address it.

In addition, D’Arcy encourages students to work on correcting invisibility. California’s 200 indigenous nations today affect all areas of student research, including land use, health, political representation, law, and public policy.

“It is important to have the skills and ability to engage with Indigenous nations, and if people have no understanding of the real history of California and no real understanding of Indian federal law, they will very difficult to prepare adequately. to engage with Indigenous nations, ”D’Arcy said. “The reality is, especially in a place like California, there’s going to be a growing need for this.”

In October, indigenous organizations, indigenous nations, community organizations and universities from around the world will gather at the UCI Beckman Center for the World Conference on Indigenous Law.

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