What Federal Recognition Means for Indigenous Tribes in Los Angeles


There are no federally recognized Native American tribes in Los Angeles, Ventura, or Orange County. In large part, that’s because it can be an incredibly long and difficult process – including collecting historical records, genealogy documentation, and tribal history – and it doesn’t always end in success.

But gaining recognition can mean a lot to a tribe, according to Rudy Ortega, Jr., the tribal president of the Fernandeño Tataviam Indian Mission Band.

“You can legally and effectively open an account for your own tribal government in order to bring trade to your tribal government, to create jobs and resources, to bring programs and to have a path to programs. health care and even education programs, ”he says. “But as a state or a federally unrecognized tribe, we don’t have one. And so we have to think of alternative and creative ways to keep us going. “

Researchers from his tribe have been collecting documentation for two decades in the hope of one day receiving this recognition. Until then, his tribe has established nonprofit and for-profit businesses to sustain themselves and continue teaching the younger generations, who he says struggle to connect with their heritage while growing up in society. ‘today.

“In this huge metropolitan area of ​​Los Angeles, you play football, baseball, all those other sports,” he says. “When you find out about this heritage that you have, you get ridiculed, joked. If you say you’re Native American, they’ll say, “Well, you don’t look like the ones on TV. You don’t have that long hair ‘or’ You don’t dress with feathers. ‘ “

But Ortega recognizes that the company has come a long way. His father, born in 1926, could not publicly acknowledge that he was a Native American, practice openly or speak in his native language. Young people today can openly discover their heritage and culture, both in person and online.

“[Young people] go to YouTube, social media, and there’s these pages where they can reconnect miles from each other and learn and understand their heritage and their culture, and learn these traditional songs and dances and that’s what arouses that pride, ”he said.

He is also happy to see companies and organizations doing land surveys, like the Oscars.

“This is a step towards the recognition of the first peoples,” says Ortega. “But we have to keep the momentum going and really start within our own communities to be proud and connected.”


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