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California tribe loses bid for federal recognition

Washington, D.C. (AP) 11-07

An Orange County tribe has been denied federal recognition 25 years after first petitioning for the status.

Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Carl Artman said the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians didn’t meet four of the seven criteria required for federal recognition. Artman’s finding was preliminary, and the tribe can object before a final determination is made.

Federal recognition would give Juaneno tribal members federal money for education and health care, as well as the right to seek reservation land and negotiate with the state to build a casino.

The Juanenos say their ancestors helped build Mission San Juan Capistrano, famed for its annual return of the swallows. Their forebears once occupied a native village where the coastal town of San Juan Capistrano now stands, and are buried in the area, tribal members say.

However there have been long-standing divisions within the tribe, including arguments over whether to push for a casino. In the end the federal government considered two separate bids for recognition, one from a Juaneno tribal faction located in San Juan Capistrano with 1,640 members and one from a Santa Ana group with 908 members.

Artman found against both claims. In both cases he said that “the available evidence does not demonstrate that the petitioner evolved as a distinct community from the historical Indian tribe that existed at San Juan Capistrano Mission in 1834.”

Artman’s announcement starts a 180-day public comment period, after which the tribe has 60 days to respond. At that point the Bureau of Indian Affairs will begin work on a final determination.
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