Inconsistent standards hinder recognition process
Posted: August 12, 2008
by: Duane Champagne
Indian Country Today
In analysis of a recent petition to OFA from the Indians at the former mission of San Juan Capistrano, now often called Juane�os, were classified as a mission tribal group before 1832. The Spanish Franciscan priests gathered them, taught them agriculture, and used their labor to build and economically support the mission. The mission Indians of San Juan Capistrano were classified by OFA as a historical tribe even though the Spanish Catholic Church assumed control of the land, held powers of enforced labor over Indians, and imposed political authority over them. The priests used their energies and resources to detribalize the Indian neophytes, as the Indians were called in the missions. The mission Indians did not exercise political self-government, have independent political organization, were not free to practice their culture, and lost practical control of the land. Yet the OFA recognized the Juaneo as a mission tribe in 1832. (so what in the world is the hang-up here)
Many other California Indian mission populations were composed of geographically local, but culturally and politically distinct groups, village, lineages, and tribelets that exercised local sovereignty, but did not form extensive or centralized political organization. California missions and many federal reservations are not composed of unified and cultural homogenous tribal political and social organizations, but are generally composed of several or more autonomous local and sovereign entities.
Rather than forming centralized homogenous nations, missions and reservations are often more akin to international or intertribal associations of local sovereign entities that are reluctant to cede power, even though the federal government chooses to ignore them in favor of more centralized reservation governments, often under federal policy design and organization. In these cases, running tribal governments is more like trying to govern the United Nations than administering municipal, county, state or federal government in European or U.S. tradition.