Bay Area Democratic Party endorsements of Muwekma recognition roll in as support for Tribe grows

Several county organizations of the Democratic Party in the Bay Area have formally endorsed federal recognition for the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, the 500-member tribe whose land the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose sit atop — putting pressure on some of the most senior members of the party to take a more progressive posture on indigenous justice issues.

The San Francisco Democratic Party, the Santa Cruz Democratic Party, and the Santa Clara Democratic Party — three of the most powerful political organizations in California — have all passed formal resolutions calling on the region’s congressional delegation to act now. Another county Democratic Party organization in San Mateo is expected to consider a similar resolution.

Growing grassroots support for the Tribe seems to be having an impact.

Rep. Anna Eshoo — who has spent decades of work on genocide awareness in foreign contexts — has agreed to carry legislation to reaffirm the Tribe’s federal recognition, which is currently in draft form.  Rep. Eric Swalwell and Rep. Ro Khanna have enthusiastically joined her as co-sponsors.

Supporters of the Tribe — many of them student organizers leading ‘Justice for Muwekma‘ chapters at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and San Jose State University — are now calling on Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Zoe Lofgren to join them.

The region’s booming tech industry has been a relentless driver of the gentrification of the Bay Area, which for the indigenous communities of these lands often means erasure through displacement and homelessness — which the Muwekma Ohlone suffer from at disproportionate rates.

Rep. Barbara Lee is one of the most liberal members of the House of Representatives, representing a district with a 40-point advantage for Democrats.  She is a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (2009–2011) and the chair emeritus and former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (2005–2009).  She is the vice chair and a founding member of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, and has also co-chaired the House Democratic Steering Committee since 2019.

Lee’s support could be pivotal.

Muwekma supporters not that, in 1968, Lee began volunteering at the Black Panther Party’s Community Learning Center in Oakland and also worked on Bobby Seale’s 1973 campaign for mayor of Oakland — suggesting that she understands the nature of social justice movements.

Organizers are also asking supporters to call the office of Lofgren, whose support for the Tribe has been a decades-long affair, to express their thanks.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren was an early supporter of the Muwekma Ohlone people, and has known the Tribe since the 1980’s during her days as a Santa Clara County Supervisor.

She even courageously demanded Muwekma recognition more than 20 years ago, in a 2002 speech on the floor of the House of Representatives:

“I proudly support the long struggle of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe as they continue to seek justice and to finally, and without further delay, achieve their goal of their reaffirmation of their tribal status by the federal government. This process has dragged on long enough. I hope that the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Interior will do the right thing and act positively to grant the Muwekma Ohlone tribe their rights as a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe. … To do anything else is to deny this tribe justice. They have waited patiently and should not have to wait any longer.”

“We know that Zoe supports us, and we don’t want her to get cold feet,” a member of the Tribe explains.  “We want to make sure that we have her back, because there are powerful special interests spending heavily to stop the Muwekma from ever being federally recognized again.”

“We need Zoe to be strong,” he adds.  “She has a chance to go down in history — not just a pioneering congresswoman — but as a miracle worker who saved an entire tribe of people from complete decimation.”

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