An indigenous Marin group keen to get involved in community decisions says the lack of federal recognition has limited their ability to get things done.
The Coast Miwok Council of Marin says it has been left out of a number of important land use decisions, such as the Point Reyes Elk and Ranch Management Plan and, more recently, discussions about normative burning.
Marin County’s new wildfire prevention authority said it had consulted with members of the tribal community on cultural burning practices, but Miwok’s council said it was left out of the conversation.
New state legislative changes put in place policies that, for the first time, encourage consultation with tribes on issues such as the burning of land. Assembly Bill 642, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor in September, requires state fire departments to engage with entities such as indigenous tribes. It aims to support indigenous peoples by providing them with cultural knowledge about the burning.
Mark Brown, chief executive of the Marin forest firefighting agency, said he looked at past Native American tribal burning practices with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
“The difficulty with embracing tribal burning is that it’s a whole different environment now,” Brown said.
Jason Deschler, a conservation officer for the Coast Miwok Tribal Council, said he was frustrated that Graton Rancheria, a federally recognized tribe, was part of the discussion, while the Miwok Council remained on the sidelines.
While Graton Rancheria, which includes the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo groups in Marin and Sonoma counties, achieved federal recognition in 2000, Miwok’s council never achieved that designation.
The tribe wants Graton to include them in federal discussions. Deschler said Graton had a representative on the Native American Heritage Commission along with other tribal representatives, which gives Graton the power to recognize the Coast Miwok Council if he wishes.
“The problem we have is that Graton just doesn’t want to accept members, and we don’t know why,” he said. “They always closed the door to us. “
Sausalito resident Lucina Vidauri, who is not on Miwok’s council but is a tribal member, said the Graton members “have neglected Marin so much”.
In making decisions regarding land management and cultural artefacts, Graton makes the ultimate decisions, even though council members who can prove they are Coast Miwok “get the job done” and attend meetings, she said. declared.
“It’s not fair that they come here and make decisions about what is happening on our land,” Vidauri said.
Graton Rancheria declined to comment.
Disagreements over who has ancestral lineage began in the past when Indigenous peoples were defined by federal policy, Deschler said.
“We have learned to fight and not to accept each other,” he said.
Failure to recognize another tribe can have financial repercussions, as families may lose financial support without recognition of a federally approved tribe.
Deschler said there are several ways the tribe can express itself, for example through activism over the Point Reyes management plan and cultural burning practices.
“We have to make ourselves known. We have to show up and make ourselves present, ”he said.
They could also get involved by offering prescribed burn consultations, demonstrating where the ceremonial fire took place.
For the tribe, the burning was historically part of everyday life – for everything from arriving on new land to restoring the land before leaving it, Deschler said. He demonstrated the spot where fires once took place around the Kule Loklo Historic Site in Point Reyes, called “the Hummingbird” after a traditional creation story about a hummingbird that caused fire to fall from the sky.
The National Park Service noted that fires were common at Point Reyes for thousands of years before 1850, when the Coast Miwok intentionally started fires to manage vegetation to increase the availability of food, seed harvests. and facilitate hunting.
“This is a place we are going for the ceremony,” Deschler said. “We want to fence off these areas, protect them and keep people out.”
While Brown said the changes in county and state policy to include tribes are fairly new, he said current regulations require his agency to work with a federally recognized tribe. He said he was unsure how Miwok’s advice could be incorporated into the “more than they have been” discussions.