When I wrote about Chief David Belardes and his beef with Mission San Juan Capistrano, some members of the tribal council that considers themselves the legitimate Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation, were upset. That disappointment was spun into a story where Juaneño Chairman Anthony Rivera laid out a case for cross-town group leader Belardes not being a Juaneño, as he claims (and a separate blog post where Chris Lobo, late Chief Clarence Lobo's grandson, laid out a case for Belardes not being a chief).
Now another Juaneño is disappointed with my reporting. Sally Cruz-Wright lives in Florida and does not belong to the groups led by Belardes or Rivera. Until recently, she was the interim vice chairwoman of a third Juaneño group, which, she says, until recently was led by Joe Ocampo of Santa Ana. (There is also a fourth group led by Bud Sepulveda, also based in Santa Ana. Or, at least I think it is still led by Sepulveda.)
Near the end of the story in question, Ocampo makes an oblique reference to the interim vice chairwoman he appointed claiming he is not Juaneño. It came out oblique because I was not trying to dwell on his not-a-Juaneño woes in a story about Belardes'. When we spoke, Ocampo actually named Sally Cruz-Wright as his tormenter. Besides her name, I left out this from Ocampo: "I knew what I was getting into when I appointed her, just not to this extreme. . . . When those people who elected me ask me to step down, I will, and I don't mind making this public."
Cruz-Wright just made public to me, over the phone, that a new tribal council was elected over the weekend and that Benjamin DuBay is the new chairman of the former Ocampo-led group. Both Cruz-Wright and Ocampo are no longer in leadership positions, she said.
That's not the main reason she wanted to chat, however. She wanted to clarify that it was not she who claimed Ocampo is not Juaneño, but the Office of Federal Acknowledgment, which is under the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in the U.S. Department of Interior.
"The truth of the matter is we received a preliminary federal acknowledgment that identified those who had provided sufficient documentation or insufficient documentation that still linked them to a village or an identifiable [Juaneño] ancestor," Cruz-Wright explained. "I, personally, have not stated anyone is or is not an Acjachemen. . . . I find it offensive he put that implication to me. . . . I just felt it had to be clarified. For him to make comments that I am a liar to my own people and that I was making these claims, when he himself knows what the findings were--"
I interrupted her to say that Ocampo did not tell me whether he is a documented Juaneño nor did he call anyone a liar. He just said he is dealing with the same accusations as Belardes. "That's the same thing as saying I'm a liar," Cruz-Wright replied. "This is not something I decided or I made up. It is something that came out of the Office of Federal Acknowledgment."
She claimed her genealogical documentation shows she is a member of the Acjachemen Nation. So does everyone else's on the new tribal council, including DuBay, Cruz-Wright maintained. "The members who were unable to provide the additional documentation to link to a village by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment were invited to join our cultural community, until which time they are able to provide that documentation."
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When I asked why she does not simply enroll in Rivera's group, which is all about the certified genealogical documentation and does not recognize the other groups, Cruz-Wright replied, "That question would have to be addressed to Mr. Rivera." She claimed she submitted an enrollment application to his group nearly three years ago and has yet to hear back. (I'll add the answer to that when I hear back from the Rivera group.)
Cruz-Wright, who is originally from Anaheim, will have more time to press her case when she relocates back to the Southern California, she hopes in Orange County, soon. Meanwhile she had another interesting thing to point out about the article that miffed her. It concerned the BIA's revelation that it had received complaints that 50 previously unregistered tribal members the bureau had reinstated had been barred from tribal-government elections by the San Pasqual Band of Diegueno Mission Indians in Valley Center. Tribal security guards and San Diego County sheriff's deputies reportedly blocked those legitimate voters from the polls even after the BIA disclosed the previous disenrollments from the tribe were based on mistakes.
"That," Cruz-Wright said, "gets to sovereignty." In other words, if a sovereign tribe says you are not a member, you are not a member, no matter what the separate U.S. government says. In the same article, Belardes group tribal manager Joyce Perry raises the issue of sovereignty when it comes to the U.S. government saying who is and is not a documented Juaneño. Confronted with the irony, Cruz-Wright said it is moot anyway because until the Juaneños gain federal recognition (which Rivera says is right around the corner), they are "not really a sovereign nation."
But . . . then what you were saying . . . how come? . . . aw, forget it. My brain hurts.