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Living Downstream

Val Lopez webIn this podcast, “Environmental Justice for Non-Recognized Tribes,” you heard about the challenges faced by federally non-recognized tribes such as the North Fork Mono Tribe, the ytt Northern Chumash Tribe and the Amah Mutsun Tribe. These tribes are among 55 other indigenous communities in California that are not recognized by the local or federal government since the United States Senate declined to ratify 18 treaties in 1851 and 1852. Reporter Debra Utacia Krol also points out that California has the largest number of unrecognized tribes of any state in the U.S. For listeners who want to read more about these tribes and their importance to restoring and sustaining biodiversity in California, we have included additional resources on this page. 

What tribes are federally non-recognized in California? The Office of Historic Preservation in California lists non-recognized tribes in California and other states in the U.S. In contrast, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) lists federal and state recognized tribes by state

[Photo: Valentin Lopez. Credit: Debra Utacia Krol]

The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is one of the non-recognized tribes in California working on environmental and cultural restoration as well as protecting their ancestral sites. Amah Mutsun created a land trust to restore, conserve and protect the Popeloutchom lands. Their website also includes a map of the Amah Mutsun’s traditional territory spanning areas in San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Año Nuevo State Park in Santa Cruz County is one such restoration project undertaken by the Amah Mutsun through their land trust. 

The ytt Northern Chumash Tribe in San Luis Obispo County has similar cultural protection goals as Amah Mutsun. They outline these goals on their website. The North Fork Mono Tribe website describes their tribe’s history and environmental protection projects. 

Several state laws and policies providing protection to non-recognized tribes in California include executive order b-10-11, signed by Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. in 2011. The executive order outlines several policies such as the inclusion of tribal members in state policy discussions that may affect the tribes. In addition, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) provides cultural protections for federally non-recognized tribes since its amendment in 2014. Assembly Bill 52 also provides legal standing to non-recognized tribes if a project under CEQA occurs on the tribe’s lands. 

State agencies have also made other efforts to ensure the rights of California tribes. The California Coastal Commission adopted a Tribal Consultation Policy to enhance outreach and collaboration with Native American Tribes. The California Native American Heritage Commission (NAHC) also makes efforts to protect tribes’ cultural resources and ancestral sites.



A quick guide to the resources linked on this page:

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