In addition to Congressional acts which firmly confirm the continuity of our government-to-government relationship with the federal government, the genealogical record demonstrates clear ties and continuity between the present-day members of the Tribe and their Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo ancestors for whom the Graton Rancheria was established. Generally, genealogical records show that Marshall, Bodega, and Sebastopol people married within their own bands and also with members of other Graton residents. Amicable relations prevailed among these bands. Since the historical boundaries of the Bodega band abutted those of both the Sebastopol and Marshall bands, communication among bands was frequent and cordial, which facilitated intermarriage.
The records showing the genealogical past provide a basis for understanding and verifying continuity for the Graton people. For example, when church records are used in conjunction with the 1928 applications administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for inclusion on the 1933 California Indian Rolls, a clear continuum of descent is readily apparent. In turn, later rolls prepared in 1955 and 1972 required individuals to be descended from at least one individual identified on the 1933 roll, or to provide genealogical information relating back to an individual identified in government documents compiled in 1852. Some Graton tribal members know their personal history well before the 1933 Roll, being able to recite and verify ancestry back as far as five generations. These documents are a strong indication of the continuing cohesiveness of families and bands regardless of the disruptive influences of outsiders.
A. The Establishment of the Graton Rancheria by the Federal Government Formalized Our Legal and Political Status as an Indian Tribe.
In 1920, the federal government authorized the purchase of a 15.45 acre parcel in the town of Graton in Sonoma County for the collective benefit of the so-called homeless Indians of Bodega, Tomales, Marshall, Sebastopol, and vicinities thereof. These landless Indians were comprised of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo Indians who have always lived in present-day Marin and Sonoma Counties. The subsequent purchase and placement of this land into trust status established the “Graton Rancheria” as a homeland for the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo and resulted in their de facto recognition by the federal government.
The purchase of the original Graton Rancheria resulted from appropriations made beginning in 1906 under one of a series of federal laws that became known as the California Homeless Indian Acts. Congress enacted these laws in response to the public outcry which arose after the defrauding of California Indians and their tribes of land that had been promised to them through treaties that were signed in 1851 but which were never ratified. As a consequence of the Senate’s failure to ratify these treaties, California tribes were rendered landless. Although Congress, in 1864, authorized the executive branch to establish four Indian reservations in California, none of the executive order reservations established under this authority set aside lands for the protection of Indians in Marin and Sonoma Counties.
The Congressional statute authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to acquire lands in trust for Indian reservations in California provided:
That the Secretary of Interior be, and he is hereby, authorized to expend not to exceed one hundred thousand dollars to purchase for the use of Indians in California now residing on reservations which do not contain land suitable for cultivation, and for Indians who are not now upon reservations in said State . . . and mark the boundaries of such Indian reservation in the State of California as the Secretary of the Interior may deem proper.
The purpose of the statute was to acquire cheap lands, located in the general vicinity of surviving California Indian groups or families, so that these Indians could move onto these lands and escape the extinction that seemed inevitable. Few of the plots of land which were purchased, however, were of sufficient size or quality to sustain any more than a few resident families. In addition, these lands were often located far from places of employment or where Indians could harvest or hunt or fish. In other words, these were usually lands of little use to and rejected by non-Native settlers.
Many barriers prevented or made it very difficult for our ancestors to move to or remain on the Graton Rancheria.
Originally, BIA Inspector John J. Terrell attempted to locate land for the Coast Miwok along the coast, but found the costs prohibitive. He finally found land, located further inland but still intimately familiar to both the Coast Miwoks and Southern Pomos, which was purchased on their behalf as homeless and landless Indians of the Marshall, Bodega, Tomales, and Sebastopol areas.
The 15.45 acre Graton Rancheria was far too small to accommodate all the families who needed a home at that time. Further, it was difficult to build on the Graton Rancheria lands because the water supply was inadequate and the steep terrain allowed little suitable space for home sites. Home construction was costly and the Bureau offered no assistance for housing. Further, the Graton Rancheria was located far from where our people held migrant jobs and from the coast where many of our members harvested seafood. Of course, the Rancheria in those days had no tribal or public housing and the federal government, once the land was purchased and put in trust for our use, did nothing to help the few, but desperately poor Indians who tried to establish a community there.
See California Indian Judgment Rolls: Indians of California Census Rolls Authorized Under the Act of May 18, 1928 As Amended, Approved May 16-17; Revised Roll of California Indians Approved June 30, 1955 (California Judgment Roll, 1948); and California Judgment Roll Authorized in 1968 (California Judgment Roll, 1972.)
The Acts of June 21, 1906 (34 Stat. 325-328) and April 30, 1908 (35 Stat. 70-76) (emphasis added).
Correspondence, John J. Terrell, Indian Agent, to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington D.C., June 5, 1920, National Archives, San Bruno, RG 75 Central CA Agency, 060 Graton (Sebastolpol) Tribal Group Files 1915-1972, Land Allotments, 1920.
Correspondence, O.H. Lipps, Superintendent, Sacramento Indian Agency, to Steve and Mary Williams, Dec. 5, 1931.