Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support Petition #158, which seeks federal acknowledgment of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians as an indigenous nation.
The motion instructs the County Chief Executive Officer to send a five-signature letter of support to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior and the County Congressional Delegation in support of Petition #158, the Tribe’s application for indigenous nation designation.
Both the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission have recently voted to formally express support for FTBMI’s petition. This motion will bring the county’s support into alignment with that of the LANAIC and the City of Los Angeles.
“As this Board has acknowledged in the past, Los Angeles County has the largest population of American Indians and Alaska natives in the nation and, one such group is the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, which is nearing the end of its Phase l review for Federal Acknowledgement,” Ridley-Thomas said in a statement. “It is our goal today to join with the City of Los Angeles and the LANAIC to express our support for the Band’s petition seeking Federal Acknowledgment.”
“Federal recognition would open so many doors for this tribe. It would allow the tribe to invest in its people and allow tribe members to access the federal services and programs they are entitled to,” Supervisor Hahn said. “I hope that two centuries after their founding, the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians will finally get the recognition that they deserve.”
FTBMI is a sovereign Native American nation that was forcibly dispossessed of its lands during the 18th and 19th centuries and traces its origins to areas within Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, including the Santa Clarita Valley.
The tribe has continued a culturally rooted existence, maintaining various community-based relationship within the County of Los Angeles. FTBMI adopted by-laws in 1953 and has since adopted a tribal constitution, directly elects a Tribal president, and maintains a one-house legislature, an Advisory Tribal Elders Council, and administrative departments and programs that focus on education, cultural learning, wellness, and resource protection.
“My tribe has been pursuing recognition since 1892 – that’s 128 years since our people were last visited by a U.S. federal agent and observed for the establishment of a reservation,” stated Rudy Ortega Jr., FTBMI Tribal President.
“However, like many tribes in metropolitan areas with valuable land and water, our tribe was not successful in acquiring the reservation lands in our homelands of northern Los Angeles County,” Ortega said. “My father sought to correct this in the 1960s but was told that he could not move forward in acquiring land without fixing the Tribe’s federal status.
“Importantly, this communication predates the federal government having any process for tribes to petition for acknowledgment,” Ortega said. “We are currently continuing the legacy of our ancestors without government assistance and are going through the process; we are grateful to the Board of Supervisors for their support to correct our status.”
“I’m very pleased today to share the support of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission for the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians Federal Acknowledgment application. The FTBMI has been steadfast in their pursuit for federal acknowledgment since 1892,” said Alexandra Valdes, LANAIC Executive Director. “The Commission looks forward to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ determination.”
FTBMI is currently under active review for a proposed finding by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment, housed within DOI, through the Procedures for Federal Acknowledgement of Indian Tribes. It is among the first tribes to be reviewed under the new regulations, which became effective July 31, 2015.
Pamela Villaseñor, a member of LANAIC, said in her remarks to the Board that, “This vote taken today by the Board of Supervisors means taking action on the oldest social justice issue in Los Angeles by supporting the legally upheld sovereignty of the First Peoples of northern Los Angeles: the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.” The unanimous vote for this motion is an important step toward healing historical trauma.
FTBMI first requested information on the process for federal recognition in 1974. Then Congressmember (and former LA City Councilmember) James C. Corman took up the Band’s cause. But it was not until 1995 that the Band submitted its letter of intent signaling that it would be initiating the long and cumbersome petitioning process.
In 1998, the Band was awarded an Administration for Native Americans grant which helped to fund the research necessary to complete its petition.
On December 13, 2019, DOI notified the Band that it would be informing the Band of its decision on a Phase l Proposed Finding on or around March 13, 2020.