The Chairwoman of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, Charlene Nijmeh, is calling Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D – Silicon Valley) “a fierce champion for justice” following her commitment to sponsor federal legislation to recognize the Tribe and help it restore a tribal land base following a decades-long struggle for federal reaffirmation of its tribal status.
“Rep. Eshoo has the courage to stand up to wealthy casino gaming Tribes that have been trying to deny our existence as a people, reducing the genocide of our people to their business matter,” Chairwoman Nijmeh explains. “The Muwekma Ohlone people are going to stand by Anna, because she is willing to stand up for us.
In recent years, California’s wealthiest gaming communities have been spending heavily to prevent landless and unrecognized California Indians from receiving the federal status that they are entitled to under federal law, on that fear that they may invest in casino gaming as an economic development strategy (thus competing with other Tribal casinos).
Eshoo is one of only two Armenian American women in Congress (with Jackie Speier being the other), and has been sympathetic to issues of indigenous extermination and survival and in recent months has emerged as a champion of Muwekma recognition. Speier publicly confirmed her support for the Muwekma’s reaffirmation earlier this year at an event of the San Francisco Democratic Party.
Eshoo’s mother fled from Armenia to Iraq, and subsequently to the United States. Her father was a jeweler and watchmaker, and as a Chaldean Christian he understood religious and ethnic discrimination in his Assyrian homeland.
“Anna is committed to justice, and is unwilling to genocide us out of existence because some casino Tribes dole out campaign contributions,” the Chairwoman explains. “This is about indigenous survival, and our continued existence as a people. Anna knows that and is as offended as we are by what the casino tribes are doing to us.”
Eshoo has worked hard to protect indigenous Assyrian Christians in Iraq from continuing religious persecution and political exclusion, and authored an amendment to H.R. 2601, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, stating that “special attention should be paid to the welfare of Chaldo-Assyrians and other indigenous Christians in Iraq.”
Eshoo has been a strong supporter of the Congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide and supports closer ties between Armenia and the United States.
“Chairwoman Nijmeh and I are very grateful. We are also very excited to have the Congresswoman’s support for legislation for federal recognition of the Muwekma people. I have taken Rep. Eshoo’s words to heart and was on the phone with Rep. Khanna’s office this morning,” Rev. Erik Swanson, an influential leader in Silicon Valley’s Presbyterian community, said last month. The Presbyterian community is engaged in an active “ally-ship” with the Muwekma Tribal Council, as a matter of their social justice work in the area.
Eshoo was selected by her colleagues in 1995 to serve on one of the busiest and most important committees in Congress. The Energy and Commerce Committee is responsible for legislation affecting Medicare, Medicaid, telecommunications, energy, the Internet, health-based environmental laws, children’s health, biotechnology, high technology, bioterrorism, interstate commerce, consumer protection, and food and drug safety.
Eshoo is currently the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Health and a Member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
In 2003, Eshoo was elected by her Democratic colleagues in the 108th Congress as an At-Large Democratic Whip, and she has served in that position to the present.