Rep. Eric Swalwell and Rep. Ro Khanna are publicly backing legislation sponsored by Rep. Anna Esho0 to reaffirm the federal recognition of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay, which has struggled for decades to reaffirm its relationship with the United States and to secure a portion of its ancestral land base — in the face of policies of state-sponsored violence and now relentless gentrification that have nearly decimated the Tribe of some 500 members.
That tribal status has never been terminated, but the Tribe was illegally removed from a key list several decades ago — causing the Tribe undue hardships. The members of the currently landless Tribe disproportionately suffer from homelessness and residential displacement.
Eshoo’s bill would allow the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe to require a land base and construct a native village in its aboriginal territory, complete with contemporary indigenous-styled architecture and compelling urban design, where the Tribe’s members will live.
The members of the currently landless Tribe disproportionately suffer from homelessness and residential displacement.
“The way Swalwell sees it, Silicon Valley belongs to the Muwekma people — these lands have never been ceded or surrendered by the Muwekma Ohlone people — and he wants to see justice delivered for California’s most marginalized Indians,” a source familiar with the Congressman’s thinking tells the Inquirer. “I’ve heard him say it a number of times: an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.”
In February 2016, the outgoing Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi elevated Swalwell to vice-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which sets the Democratic policy agenda and nominates Democratic members for committee assignments. In December 2016, Swalwell was named the co-chair of House Democratic Steering Committee, replacing Donna Edwards and serving with Rosa DeLauro. He now co-chairs the committee with Barbara Lee and Cheri Bustos.
A political operative with close ties to Swalwell explains that the young Congressman, age 42, continues to harbor presidential ambitions — which he might act on at some point over the course of the next two decades.
“He will want allies, and he is smart enough to recognize that Indigenous people in the United States are rising up and engaging in robust economic development and nation building activities. It’s a powerful community — and an impactful emerging market — that is only recently becoming involved in federal and state politics. He is going to want a record that he can run on, and he will want support,” the operative explains.
Khanna, who calls himself a progressive capitalist, supports federal recognition for the Muwekma and believes that local self-government and decentralized decision making will drive the Tribe’s economic advancement. Khanna has called for “a new economic patriotism” as a governing philosophy. Khanna served as the deputy assistant secretary in the United States Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama from August 8, 2009, to August 2011.
Khanna is more familiar with federal Indian law and indigenous economic development than most: he was a visiting lecturer of economics at Stanford University from 2012 to 2016, law at the Santa Clara University School of Law, and American jurisprudence at San Francisco State University. In 2012 he published a book on American competitiveness in business, Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America’s Future.
“Congressman Khanna knows that the first step towards justice for California’s indigenous people is federal recognition, which will enable this landless and dispossessed community to begin nation building,” the political observer explains. “Khanna is an expert in international development. He understands how profoundly important that federal recognition is for indigenous communities’ capacity to self-govern.”
“It’s the difference between genocide and survival,” he concludes.
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