(January 18, 2023) — Four weeks ago, a junior reporter currently working in Washington, DC for The San Francisco Chronicle began harassing dozens of officials and colleagues of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe — which has been in a decades-long struggle to reaffirm its federal status.
The harassment came just days after the Tribe’s leadership announced a two-week tour of Congress to advance legislation this session — and it came at the behest of Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the caucus chair of the California delegation, who has publicly (and deceptively) presented herself as an ally of the Tribe while undermining it behind the scenes.
Despite several offers to meet with the Chairwoman and the subjects of her hit piece, Shira Stein, refused to do so for several weeks — despite making wide-ranging defamatory accusations in dozens of phone calls with anthropologists and others who have worked with the Tribe for decades.
But Stein continues to refuse to cover the actual story — of Tribal Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh‘s congressional tour this month in which she has been meeting with House members on both sides of the aisle to advance federal legislation this session that would correct the mistake that the Bureau of Indian Affairs made in 1978 when it first drafted a list of federally recognized tribes, and wrongly excluded the Muwekma.
Instead, she has an agenda — relentless in her hostile tone and childish accusations.
In conversations with the Tribe’s spokesperson, Stein confirmed that she has spoken with Lofgren “off-the-record on background” and knows her private position opposing Muwekma sovereignty, but has refused to make that position publicly known.
Instead of exposing Lofgren’s colonial attitudes towards the Tribe, which include demands that any recognition bill includes crushing economic sanctions against the Tribe, preventing it from pursuing economic development and nation-building projects, essentially dooming it to a future of federal dependence and subsistence.
But Stein doesn’t want to discuss that. She wants to smear the Tribe and those who work with the Tribe.
“Advancing the cause of justice for indigenous people in North America is a non-partisan issue and that’s the way the American constitution is supposed to function. Its political principals of decentralized decision-making and consensus building were inspired by the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace, which established the Iroquois Confederacy in 1142, based on which Benjamin Franklin modeled the Articles of Confederation,” explains Matt Ricchiazzi, a Haudneosaunee activist and consultant who volunteers in support of indigenous liberation movements in the United States and Canada.
The Chairwoman of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe is a successful entrepreneur who has wide-ranging business interests in the recycling and waste management industries, in addition to her leadership of the Tribe and other philanthropic pursuits. Ricchiazzi does consulting work for the Chairwoman and has volunteered a great deal of time promoting the restoration of the Tribe’s federal status — which is an indigenous justice issue.
Ricchiazzi has been helping the Chairwoman set up meetings with policymakers, members of congress, and thought leaders in Washington, DC.
For that, he has earned the grudge-induced bile of the Bay Area delegation. On Tuesday, January 10 at 1:30 in Rep. Anna Eshoo‘s office, no fewer than five members of Congress lambasted the Chairwoman for working with Ricchiazzi.
“It’s beyond egregious for members of Congress to be pressuring a sovereign nation to do anything — let alone to terminate a consultancy agreement in exchange for political favors,” Ricchiazzi explains.
Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Jimmy Panetta, and Rep. Eric Swalwell joined Eshoo and Lofgren in their effort to bully the Chairwoman in a closed-door office where they attempted to berate her into political submission — even extortionately demanding that she ceed a vast portion of the Tribe’s sovereignty.
In a stunningly racist and offensive comment, Rep. Khanna insisted that the Tribe doesn’t understand colonialism as well as he does. Khanna has not yet apologized for the outrageous assertion.
To her credit, the Chairwoman explained that her government values freedom of speech and the press and that Ricchiazzi’s publications are beyond the editorial control of the Tribe.
“You would expect that behavior in Soviet Russia — not in the halls of Congress, and it’s emblematic of these five Bay Area Representatives’ willingness to use their political influence in deeply corrupt ways,” Ricchiazzi explains. “It’s not surprising that these same egos would inappropriately weaponize the federal government against its own citizens.”
“Their weaponization of the press by elected members of Congress is abhorrent to our democracy,” Ricchiazzi adds. “That they weaponize it against their own constituents and against marginalized populations is doubly outrageous.”
If Stein is planning to make the inaccurate accusation that the Tribe is directing the placement of content on platforms like The San Francisco Inquirer, it’s apparent to observers that she would be projecting her own relationship with Zoe Lofgren without any self-awareness of her own actions.
Stein’s colonialist attitudes, which manifest her elitist, condescending, and privileged tone toward tribal leaders, does more to expose her own biases than it does to deliver a political hit piece for Lofgren, whose circa-1970s Stanford education has shaped her similarly privileged and self-centered world view.
“Lofgren is unconscious of her racism, and how profoundly out of touch she has become with younger generations of Americans — on both sides of the political aisle,” Ricchiazzi adds.
Stein graduated from American University in 2018 and previously worked for The Durango Herald. She began working at The Chronicle in October of 2022 and has repeatedly refused to read and engage with any of the background information that has been provided to her by the Tribe and its anthropologists.
“I am a reporter telling stories about how Californians are affected by big policy decisions in Washington… My passion is making complicated subjects accessible and relatable for every person, and in doing so, creating real impact in the world,” Stein claims on her Linkedin profile.
Other journalists with vastly more experience, self-awareness, and critical thinking skills, say that Stein is sophomoric and politically biased — including The Washington Post’s renowned Bob Woodward.
“You don’t understand the circumstances…” Woodward told Stein at the first-ever virtual Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference, in front of a room full of journalists. “It’s just not fair, it’s not good journalism, to leap out of the box and say I was wrong.”
Apparently, Stein prefers to make impacts for the Lofgrens of the Bay rather than the Muwekmas of the Bay.