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by Robert (Bob) Bracamontes
Friday, May. 15, 2009 at 3:48 PM
Natives always have to give some kind of proof they are Indigenous.
Juaneno Dis-enrollment by the Rivera Group
It was a great shock to the thousands of Juaneno Mission Indians of the Acjachemen Nation when they recently received their dis-enrollment letters from the Rivera Group. As a member of the Juaneno Tribe, according to my own self-
determination and apart from this one tiny letter, I honor my ancestors by repeating for the written record and oral history, that I am a Juaneno from the Acjachemen Nation.
Many governments throughout history have tried to purge our presence from their societies and have failed to exterminate us in that way. The following is an example of how the present system continues to divide Natives from the ruling class. Only those that are willing to conform to the white ways of governance (the dominate group) are given the green light. We
will once again be denied our birth and natural human rights. We have had to endure the paper chase of the western world philosophy in adherence with the privileged ruling class rules and laws, so Natives have had to fall into line or face expulsion.
There are millions of dis-enrolled Native Americans that have experienced the pain of being rejected one more time in their total historical lives. The anguish of all our ancestors and our living elders seems impossible to escape. The hurt runs deep for a people that long to be part of the Native social genome. The majority of elders in our tribe are against this dis-enrollment process. I agree with them. The leadership of the Rivera group has always refused to engage in meaningful unity meetings because it was easier to please the federal government’s required definition of Indians, rather than acknowledge all of the people in the tribe. It is evident that now the majorities of the Juaneno Citizens sit outside the Rivera Group, but are still entitled to all the rights bestowed upon any faction or splinter group recognized by the federal government.
In their April newsletter it is reaffirmed. “The Juaneño Tribe should be contacted individually and privately and NOT together with or in association with any other parties.” The code word parties really means excluding Juaneno family members, Juaneno clans, other Juaneno splinter groups that really do exist, which means they stand against unity of the majority of
They have used federal recognition as a tool to deny the majority of its citizens their full civil rights as trial members. Laws need to be created that protect us from this kind of indoctrination toward a documentation only view of history, which discriminates against the majority of us from our Native ancestry.
The only way to remedy the falseness of this moment is to be truthful and honest about the actions, rules, protocols set by the Rivera group and the Federal Government of the United States of America. These events to extract people from their birth history are being done with little conscious about what repercussions this will have on generations to come. It is being done hand and hand by some that have kidnapped our tribe with help from the outside.
Native groups should never allow any outside government to determine their identity, as the Rivera group has done. The Federal Government has decided that only direct descendants to a village are eligible for membership and the Rivera Group has gone along with this definition. They are letting the federal government dictate to us who we are and that is wrong. It is unconscionable to believe that yesterday we were citizens and then we were excommunicated with one swipe of a pen the next day.
Both of them need to consider protecting civil and human rights as this process moves forward. Many of us have long been defined through blood quantum and a large number of us in the dis-enrolled group have a stronger percentage than even the leadership of the Rivera Group. My own uncle Raymond Bracamontes was classified by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) as three quarters blood quantum from the Juaneno tribe. But Ray and all our family members were kicked out of the tribe. This is an example of how the disenfranchised are created, even before any official recognition by the federal government has taken place and while the California State Government has recognized all of us as Juaneno Citizens. State Recognition Bill AJR 48 of August 19, 1993 states:
“The Juaneno Band of Mission Indians were known as the Acjachemen Nation long before the expansion of the Spanish Empire in 1769 into their ancestral homeland, usurping their lands, their religion, and adversely affecting the well-being of their people; and
WHERE AS, The documented descendants of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation, whose ancestors were baptized at the Mission San Juan Capistrano consist of over4,500 tribal members registered with the Bureau of Indian Affairs; and
WHEREAS, Conservatively over 7,000 Juanenos have continued to live in and around Orange County and the Mission San Juan Capistrano; and…”
So I can only conclude that as far as the State of California is concerned, I am one of the 4,500 Juanenos that was acknowledged by them as a tribal member that was registered with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Rivera Group is denying these truths above by limiting his membership to only “1,941 men, women, and children…enrolled Citizens of the Juaneno Tribe.”
Imagine in the larger society if African-Americans were asked to prove they came here from Africa? Name the tribe your family is from in Africa and name the village. The percentage of Africa-Americans that could produce that would be slim to none. There is no other group in this country that has had to constantly give proof of ancestry or genealogy or blood quantum than Natives. In all my children’s college applications when they put Native, they were asked for proof. The point
being that this is how governments divide and conquer us when we allow these ridiculous rules of identification to
dominate our lives.
What is really needed to determine membership for Juanenos is a combination of several controversial definitions - blood quantum and genealogy, as well as the possibility of DNA. A person’s life long identification with the tribe, just saying it throughout one’s existence is significant because it is self determination. Speaking out when tribal sacred land is being jeopardized by encroachment of modern development, as in protecting Panhe our sacred village, this is profound in defining who we are. Yet Rivera, representing his group stood before a public hearing, in front of the Coastal Commission of
California and was in favor of destroying Panhe standing on the side of the toll road builders. This has to have been one of the most appalling actions by a so-called leader of any Native leader in recent history. I am sure his ancestors from his
home village were not too impressed either.
In the Rivera group’s April newsletter is listed new protocols for 2009. “The Tribe should NOT be referred to as: Group, Faction, Splinter, Rivera’s Group, Four Groups, Luiseños, Shoshonean.”
This is a blatant distortion of reality and what exist today. We are a Splintered tribe divided in to at least Four Groups with many different Factions within and between us. The strongest reality is Rivera’s Group, after the purge and dis-enrollment
of thousands, is now the smallest splinter group and most divisive of all. It has hurt many elders in a way that affects their very essence of who they have declared themselves to be at the core of their souls.
To show absolute disrespect to the elders and other dis-enrolled, the Rivera Group announced that they would destroy all papers and records by April 29th, if not contacted. These documents are of great historical importance and should be returned to each person regardless of contact. But under no circumstances should they be destroyed. I would think this is against the laws of common decency. If anything a court order should be sought to stop these criminal actions.
When governments try to control and distort history, present or past, in this fashion, it is usually called fascism. Adolf Hitler used fascism and propaganda to control and manipulate the society in Germany during WWII.
This Juaneno group, known to the majority of the Juaneno people as the Rivera Group, should NOT be federally recognized because it lacks a willingness to protect our ancestors at Panhe, it is unwilling to follow the strong tradition in the culture that calls for unity and remains culturally isolated from the majority of the tribe.
This dis-enrollment is a dirty business and is being done in a very divisive environment. This group has displayed little respect for our elders. It represents too small of a number of people to truly represent us in the international and national
arenas. In the real world, not in the fantasy world of protocols, but in reality they only represent a small elite group of conformist that have always had their own self interest in mind. Exclusion has been their best trait.
Robert (Bob) Bracamontes
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