Tribal Groups of the San Francisco Bay Region (and How To Pick a Tribal Consultant)

Tribal Groups of the San Francisco Bay Region. Compiled and Plotted by Gabriel Duncan, for the Alameda Native History Project.
Version 2.1.5.8.21

“Tribal land claims are complex, and overlapping.”

You’ve probably heard that before.

While one group may be the most vocal about claiming their ancestral land, rest assured, there are other groups who claim that exact same place.

While it’s true Indigenous People shared many spaces with each other for a plethora of reasons, including mutual survival, the actual “Tribes” in the San Francisco Bay Area were formed thousands of years ago.

In spite of the fact that the California Native American Heritage Commission recognized corporations as Tribes, it’s important for you to recognize the difference between a corporation and a Tribe.

This is especially important Today; when seeking out indigenous people and tribes to consult with on various projects like land acknowledgements, cultural easements, land back, or deciding whether or not to pay into a “land tax” scheme.

When seeking a Tribal Consultant:

It’s totally appropriate to ask if someone is an enrolled member or a recognized descendant of a tribe.

Indigenous People/Native Americans/First People can all do something that the Bureau of Indian Affairs refers to as “Establishing Indian Ancestry”.

Proving our Ancestry, or Blood Quantum, is a common challenge Native Americans face. It may not be right, but it’s the reason we know who our nearest Full Blooded Relative is.

Blood Quantum is an ugly, racist concept. [A tribe is made of family. That’s how tribes work.]

But it’s how we separate the Elizabeth Hoovers and Ward Churchills from actual Indigenous People.

“Who’s your grandmother?” Is one of the most common questions you get asked when you talk about the rez. We keep track of who is who. It’s not hard, because it’s such a small world. But, even if we aren’t close, we’re still native; and we still look out for each other.

It’s appropriate to ask someone basic questions about their tribe, such as:

  1. What is the name of your tribe?
  2. Where is your tribe from?
  3. Who is your Tribal Chairperson?
  4. Are you enrolled in your tribe?

If they are a Tribal Chairperson, it’s okay to ask them how long their term is, and when the next elections will be held.

If this person represents a group of tribes or villages, they should tell you which villages they represent without you having to ask.

Tribal Consultants are Affiliated with a Tribe

It’s true that the Native American Heritage Commission is the agency in California which determines the proper Tribes To Consult for NAGPRA and Planning Purposes.

But, the Native American Heritage Commission does not seem to vet the lists, judging by how many corporations are considered not only Tribes, but the “Most Likely Descendant” to Native American Burial Grounds and Cultural Resources.

Land Trusts, and Consulting Agencies are not real Tribal Consultants because Corporations are Not Tribes.

Corporations cannot be Tribal Governments because the exercise of sovereign powers is not a charitable purpose. Sovereign powers include the right to repatriation of remains, as declared in the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights, article 12.

By Gabriel Duncan

Recognized descendant of the Utu Utu Gwaitu Benton Hot Springs Paiute Tribe. Adopted out of his tribe at birth, raised by white people in Alameda, California. Gabriel is the chief researcher, webmaster, graphic designer, catrographer, etc. of Alameda Native Art, and the Alameda Native History Project.