of us have not had an opportunity to learn the facts about
the unique relationship between the United States and the
American Indian tribes. Sovereignty is the foundation upon
which this relationship is built. The purpose of this document
is to provide the reader with a basic understanding about
the sovereign status of American Indian tribes.
American Indian Tribes and reservations are synonymous
with each other in most of the United States. In California
it is a different story. Between 1851 and 1852, 18 treaties
were negotiated between the United States Government and more
than 100 California Indian Tribes and Bands. The treaties
called for reservations of more than eight million acres for
the tribes. However, on July 8, 1952, the U.S. Senate secretly
rejected the treaties and from 1852 to 1854 Indian Tribes
were forcibly removed to temporary reservations.
In the early 1900s a researcher discovered the unratified
treaties and reformers petitioned Congress to appropriate
money to provide land for the homeless Native Americans of
California. Congress appropriated the money to purchase 9,000
acres of land that became 50 separate Rancherias. Originally
the small pieces of land or ranches were intended to provide
housing for homeless and landless adult Indians. It was not
intended to be reservations for separate tribal governments.
Instead of getting their own reservations, some Indian Nations
were splintered into tiny postage stamp bands that lumped
together Indians from different tribes. Despite the obvious
obstacles, many of the Rancherias, as they came to be known,
petitioned for federal recognition.
In 1953, the California Rancheria Act called for the termination
of federal trusteeship for Indians in California. During this
period, 38 tribes were terminated in California and tribal
members were encouraged to sign away their official status
in efforts to assimilate Indians into "mainstream"
The Indian Self Determination and Education Act of 1973
allowed tribes and rancherias to regain federal recognition
and today 104 tribes are recognized in California with over
50% being Rancherias. Self Governance, along with economic
and gaming opportunities, have helped the California Native
Americans regain their sovereignty