Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,
The article “Anti-casino group says leader of rival tribe not Indian” on Greg Sarris and the Graton reads, “The [Graton] group was one of dozens that lost federal recognition in 1958, but they regained it in 2000.” That statement is much more myth than fact.

When the Rancheria existed, the residents of the Rancheria were not “recognized” or treated as a tribe. In fact the 1958 Senate Report on the legislation to distribute the Rancheria lands to their residents acknowledges, “The group is not organized, either formally or informally.” No one lived at Graton in 1934 when the IRA was passed. Nor did later residents ever organize as a tribe under the IRA, so there was no group to recognize. The Rancheria was just a type of federal housing.

It is true that in 2000, the Graton gained recognition as a tribe for purposes of obtaining federal benefits; but they never had been recognized. Further, recognition was only for purposes of qualifying for federal benefits. The statute does not purport to recognize their sovereignty. In fact, the only Congressional Report on the Graton Act claims “This bill is not intended to preempt state…law.”

The Graton Rancheria housed just a few stray Indians. The residents were Indians who had left their tribes. They weren’t a tribe and weren’t recognized as such, and they didn’t “lose” their recognition in 1958.

The line quoted gives an erroneous picture of the history of the Graton Rancheria and of the 1958 Congressional Act.
Alan Titus
Mill Valley

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