New tribal leader hopes to help first people of O.C. in long battle to gain federal recognition

New tribal leader hopes to help first people of O.C. in long battle to gain federal recognition

9/23/2021 8:33:00 AM

New tribal leader hopes to help first people of O.C. in long battle to gain federal recognition

For more than 30 years, the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians has been fighting to gain federal recognition. With a new leader, that goal may be within reach.

of the amount of Native American blood in a person. It’s a controversial system some claim is a way for the federal government to rid itself of its responsibilities to the Native American community, as more people have children with people of other races.

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“Throughout history, blood quantum was used to define a point at which responsibilities to tribes, entitlement programs, treaty rights and reservations would end,” Maya Harmonwrotein a legal article in the California Law Review. “The government hoped that using blood quantum would eventually eliminate Native peoples — that intermarriage would ‘dilute’ the amount of ‘Indian blood’ in the population, causing descendants of Native peoples to become indistinguishable from the rest of the population.”

Some tribes adopted the system, but others use different methods to determine tribal enrollment. Lucero said her tribe is moving toward using lineal descent, which requires that members link to a historic village and ancestor genealogically. Thus, members have to comb through historic records such as birth certificates, death records or marriage certificates.

AdvertisementLucero’s experience as a researcher primes her for leading the effort. She is a phlebotomist with Kaiser Permanente and has a master’s degree in anthropology, with an emphasis on cultural anthropology and California archaeology, and another master’s degree in cultural sustainability.

Podcast: How Native Americans became a vaccine success storyDistrust of the U.S. government could have led Native Americans to shun COVID-19 vaccines. Instead, they have the nation’s highest vaccination rate.“I think that my background would be a plus in really being able to research ... and find all that material,” Lucero said. “Because I have a good deal of knowledge about the tribe — the ceremonies of the tribe, language and everything that makes us unique as a tribe — I think that is what makes me qualified.”

Lucero served in 2013 as a member-at-large on the tribal council and later as a cultural resource director for the tribe. This is her first time as chairwoman.AdvertisementAs a cultural resource director she monitored construction sites for artifacts or human remains that could be important to the tribe. The 405 Freeway widening project

waspaused in 2019 after Native American remains were found during excavations.“We just make sure that if something is discovered, we stop the project in order to make sure we take care of our ancestors,” she said.Another major focus for Lucero will be regaining the tribe’s nonprofit status, which was suspended about a decade ago after the prior leadership failed to file taxes, so it can receive grants.

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The tribe also can’t bring in money through donations and fundraising until the suspension is lifted. Lucero said the tribe has about six months in reserves, but she would like to have at least a year’s worth. Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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