July 16th, 2012

Ghost Tribes: The fight for federal recognition

It’s estimated that half of California’s 175,000 Native Americans are federally unrecognized, which means they can’t access Indian Health Services, they aren’t protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act, they don’t qualify for BIA scholarships, they can’t temporarily close public land in their traditional territory to hold public ceremonies and they often can’t apply for grants and other funding streams that could support their efforts to restore their culture. 

Many of these tribes, like the Winnemem Wintu of Shasta County, have well-documented histories but are still unrecognized. Members of the Winnemem are currently struggling to continue practicing their traditions without the legal rights and protections that federal recognition would grant them. 

Watch the video above for a look at the Winnemem Wintu’s fight for federal recognition and read the full investigation here. For more stories of forgotten people and places in the state, check out our California Lost series. 

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California Watch, the largest investigative journalism team operating in the state, was launched in 2009 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting. Areas of coverage include education, health and welfare, public safety, the environment and the influence of money on the political and regulatory process.

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