You're only an Indian if the government says so

Forget that the Juaneno Indians helped build Mission San Juan Capistrano, or that they had a very real and very different name (the Acjachemem) before the Spanish renamed them after the Mission, or that they've been around for 9,000 years. The federal government just ain't buyin' it.

The blow came today, when the The Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected two separate applications for federal tribal recognition by members of the Juanenos, which were once scattered all over Orange County.

Recognition as a tribe would have guaranteed the Juanenos federal money for schools and health care and would have permitted the tribe to buy land and build a casino on that land. But the Bureau said tribal members did not meet four of the seven criteria required for recognition. Tribal members have fought in the past, not surprisingly, over whether to build a casino. The group is now divided into two factions, one in San Juan Capistrano and the other in Santa Ana.

At least one person, Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) is convinced all the tribe wants is recognition so that they can build a casino. He's done what he can to block their federal recognition, including introduction of a bill that would block any newly recognized tribe from building a casino for 25 years. He's even considering a bill that would block all future tribes from receiving federal recognition.

Juaneno tribal members say they will continue with their appeals to the Bureau, which they initiated when they first began the long process for recognition in 1982. Read past coverage of the Juanenos in the Weekly here.

Jacque Nuñez, a 'living history character,' courtesy of

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