~ No Stone Unturned Genealogy ~
Lorraine Escobar, CG/NALCM

Bio & History Page / Worthless Paper / Continued

Worthless Paper & Shattered Identities

(Continued - 1)

The Golden Carrot

In 1978, Congress passed legislation known as the federal acknowledgment process for Indian tribes. [25 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] – Part 83] The purpose of this legislation was to “establish a departmental procedure and policy for acknowledging that certain American Indian groups exist as tribes.”[2] If a tribe could pass all seven criteria, it could then enjoy the status of being federally recognized and all that comes with being a sovereign nation.

Since the passage of the federal acknowledgment bill, over three hundred groups have notified the United States Department of the Interior of their intent to petition for federal acknowledgement as an Indian tribe. Of those, 74 letters of intent were from California groups.

Tribal reorganization became a flurry. The regulations demanded each group to prove seven criteria—one of which is proof of descent from a historic tribe.[3] The approach to meeting this criterion varied from group to group. Some groups buckled down, did the research, and collected the hard evidence for every single tribal member and claimed ancestor. And, without question, some foolishly relied on paperwork from the Bureau of Indians Affairs (BIA), as a final authority. Why was it foolish? Because this authority was based on an

[2]25 CFR part 83.2

[3]25 CFR part 83.7(e)

~ No Stone Unturned Genealogy ~
Lorraine Escobar, CG/NALCM

imperfect collection of data—the 1928 California Indian Jurisdictional Act [CIJA] database.

The 1928 California CIJA Database

But, then she quickly snapped out of it and said, “Give me a couple of weeks to get over it. Then tell me who I really am.” If only all my experiences could have been that simple. When I had to be the bearer of bad news to hundreds of people who believed throughout their lifetimes they belonged to a certain Indian tribe, the emotional costs were far greater.

About 50 years previous to the passage of 25 CFR 83, California Indians had a unique experience which ultimately led to the creation of a massive database which is controlled by the BIA. The legislation that created it was the California Indian Jurisdictional Act of May 18, 1928. This act was the beginning of the triple enrollment process wherein people, who thought they were descendants of California Indians in 1852, signed up to become litigants in the lawsuit against the government for the undelivered land that was promised to them through the unratified treaties of Guadalupe Hildalgo of 1851. This enrollment process involved contacting all possible California Indian descendants and having them fill out a five-page questionnaire, which was then submitted to review for approval by BIA staff. By 1933, the data from over 11,000 applications was extracted and compiled into several indices, which serves as a database, in the least modern sense.[4] Also, a “roll” or list was also developed, in 1933, which listed the names of all persons who applied and were accepted. [5]

[4]The database is not being referred to here as an electronic database but a paper database.

[5]The lists are available on microfilm at the Pacific Region National Archive & Laguna Niguel National Archive. The film is cataloged as I-31, under the 1928 California Indian Jurisdictional Act microfilm collection.

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