Let’s talk about recognition.

Do you know what recognition is? In terms of federal policies and laws concerning Native Americans, recognition means the government has decided that a particular group is a “real” tribe and is entitled to the rights, privileges, and limited sovereignty the government grants such groups.

Now, recognition is established various ways. Either the government recognized you as a tribe back in the day – on the Dawes Rolls, or under IRA, etc. – or recognition was established at a later date. If the latter, the tribe had to apply for recognition. The recognition process is complicated and lengthy – it can take decades for a recognition case to be settled. The government requires proof that a tribe has been a united entity since the time of contact. This type of proof is not always easy to come by.

In California, recognition is made more complicated by the fact that most tribes never had an “official” relationship with the federal government. The treaties negotiated in 1851-1852 that should have established that relationship, and which most California tribes signed, were never ratified by the Senate. Anthropologists and government officials later deemed many tribes to be “extinct.”*