There are no Federally Recognized Ohlone tribes. There are nine groups applying for recognition. Their are over 400 tribes across the country that have applications before the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The bureau processes the applications at the rate of 1.5 per year. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to document and defend a “normal” application.
As Rumsen Ohlone Chief Tony Cerda put it, “we don’t seek Federal Recognition. We are already a tribe. We have always been a tribe. We are seeking clarification of the relationship of the tribe to the federal government.”
As Ann Marie Sayers, Chair of Ohlone Indian Canyon Nation put it, “until the Ohlone are recognized in San Francisco, we will remain invisible.”
These two comments define the approach the Ohlone Profiles Project is taking. We are making the Ohlone visible in San Francisco. We are building relationships between the tribe and communities in the city. We are finding tremendous support for the Ohlone tribe and doing what we can to encourage the city to support an ongoing Ohlone cultural presence.
The Ohlone Profiles Project web site serves as a source of documents about the tribe’s presence in San Francisco. The blog documents the relationships we are building, the events we have produced, and the potentials that are unfolding for San Francisco.
This work of establishing a cultural presence is entirely separate from Federal Recognition. The recognition process is divisive and corrupt. The surest way to obtain recognition is to find a developer to build a casino. The Ohlone have no resources and the controlling political leaders in San Francisco do not want a casino. The tribal leaders we work best with want to preserve and restore their culture, they do not want to manage a casino and recognize how corrupting it often is.
As a charter city, San Francisco has the power to make a place for the Ohlone, to learn from Ohlone culture, to delve much deeper into the past of this land. We also have the chance to cross what has been humanities greatest divide: cultures that have been conquered and erased from cultures that have perpetrated those genocides. By crossing that division we have the opportunity to shift and deepen American culture, to step onto the world stage as San Francisco has done many times in the past and we think will take that step again by renewing the presence of its original people.