month, on June 8-26, four members of the Tubatulabal tribe traveled
to Washington, D.C., to meet with the Director of the Bureau of
Indian Affairs about the tribes ongoing process for federal
recognition and do some historical research on their tribal language
unforgettable trip was sponsored by the Tule River Indian Reservation,
that supports their neighbors federal recognition efforts
and donated the necessary $12,100 for airfare and hotel.
Click, Betsy Johnson, Donna Miranda-Begay, and Louise Miranda-Akers
were among the 42 applicants selected to attend the Breath of Life
Conference, an event designed and funded by the National Science
Foundation for endangered languages.
focus of the conference was looking at various resources, including
the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Museums Native American
section and Anthropological archives, that are available for researching
their ancient languages.
and Johnson found 1935 recordings of Steban Miranda, Donnas
great-grandfather, as well as documents by C Hart Merriam, a biologist
who garnered interest in the California tribes on behalf of Smithsonian.
came to the Kern Valley in 1902 and started working with Tubatulabal,
then returned in 1935. Merriam had a standard word list, akin to
a rosetta stone of the three factions of the Tubatulabal language:
Bakalanchi, Pakanapul, Palegawan, thus reinforcing Begay and Johnsons
theories about their tribal dialects. It confirmed our beliefs
about ourselves and there were tears of joy, said Begay.
a hard copy of Miriams journal was exciting and enlightening.
The group was able to follow Miriams journey of California
step-by-step. Maps, photos, and written accounts of Miriams
adventures from 1800 on contained maps of Kern, geology, natural
water path and watersheds.
June trip to D.C. was a first for all but local Native American
advocate Begay, who traveled to the nations capital many times
during the 1990s. At that time, she attended the Urban Indian Health
Conference and worked at subsequent advocacy and education efforts,
securing funds for health care for Indians in cities.
groups first goal was to address the Native American Graves
Protection and Repatriation Act. One issue, in particular, concerns
a mummified 12-year-old child that was found in 1903 at the mouth
of the Kern Canyon. The girl, whose remains have been carbon-dated
to around the year 1300, has been kept in a special mummy room in
the Smithsonian Museum for decades.
ladies said they wanted to pay their respects to the child, while
continuing their efforts to bring the child home for proper burial
in her tribes traditional manner. They are working with the
Tachi Yokuts (Santa Rosa Rancheria Tribe) on this issue because
Tachi Yokuts are federally recognized.
focus of the groups 17-day was the Tubatulabals federal
recognition efforts. The women met with Lee Fleming, Director for
the Department of Interior, BIA Office of Federal Acknowledgment,
to learn more about the seven steps the tribe must take in an effort
to gain federal recognition. Fleming provided the group an overview
of the federal recognition process. In turn, the group gave Fleming
a tribal membership role, their constitution, and a demonstration
of the Tubatulabal language.
to make the most of their meeting, Begay and the others talked with
Fleming about the historic village sites located in the Kern River
Valley and surrounding areas. The women told Fleming about the tribes
work with the Forest Service and BLM on the ancient sites, thus
offering up a evidence of the Tubatulabals strong, existing
government- to-government relationships. This reinforced the case
for the tribes prehistoric presence in the Valley.
the tribe has been diligent in revitalizing their native language
and is working with a variety of governmental agencies, coordinating
with Kern County in the development of the Kern River Valley Specific
Plan and CalTrans by identifying cultural sites in areas where projects
of cultural sites in our area have been mapped with a GIS mapping
system. We are advancing with our relationships with the government
but also with technology and ourselves, said Begay. We
are taking care of business; water projects, housing, getting our
kids through high school and higher education. We cant wait
for federal recognition; we are doing these things ourselves.
the Breath of Life, Begay and Johnson had to come up with a final
project, and for that they created The Breath of Life song, which
is a tribute to the things that they saw. They based the song on
one of the recordings of Steban Miranda, using his tone which had
touched both women profoundly. The song, according to Begay, reflects
that they have big knowledge with learning the language and the
connection to the past.
fourth goal was to view traditional Tubatulabal baskets stored in
the Anthropological department of the Smithsonian, and they were
granted a private tour to see them.