Historic preservationist worries that ‘California Pioneers’ are using indigenous groups to rewrite Bay Area history

Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh is upset by reports that the California Pioneers are funding the Tamien Nation's effort to rewrite history. She believes that the curriculum they are developing should be subject to public input and reviewed by other Tribes for accuracy.

The Society of California Pioneers — a group dedicated to romanticizing the contributions of Anglo-American settlers who arrived in the Bay Area between 1847 and 1850 — has contributed $40,000 to the self-described ‘Tamien Nation’ to fund new elementary school curriculum that is not being shared with the public.

Those funds were then paid to History San Jose, a non-profit organization that boasts serving more than 20,000 elementary-age students in Santa Clara Valley, Fremont, Santa Cruz, and the Peninsula with theme-based school programs highlighting local history.

The Tamien Nation is an organization that became publicly visible in local media outlets a few years ago, but has provided no evidence to substantiate its previous existence and function as a Tribe.

There are many Tribes in California — more than one hundred of them are federally recognized, but many legitimate Tribes are not, and they operate and function without federal recognition.  Others groups present themselves as ‘tribes’ but are actually non-tribal organizations of activists (many of whom have indigenous heritage from outside the Bay Area, but are not related as distinct social and political communities that pre-date the United States).

Now, this organization — calling itself Tamien Nation — is rewriting elementary school curriculum that is not being shared with the public — with the help of the California Pioneers, which critics call a ‘white supremacist group’ that propagates a narrative of history intended to prolong the marginalization of the Bay Area’s indigenous people and to undermine the function of the Bay Area’s only legitimate Tribal government: the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe.

History San Jose is currently run by William Schroh, who is new to the Bay Area and knows very little about the history of California’s genocide against indigenous people.  He has declined to share the curriculum on indigenous history that is being funded by the California Pioneers group and has not planned any public engagement or comment period to shape its development.

William ‘Bill’ Stroh replaced outgoing History San Jose CEO Aida Bray nearly four years ago.  He previously managed a similar historical society in Northern New Jersey. 

The group intends to expose that curriculum to more than 20,000 elementary school-aged children who are enrolled in Grades 3 through Grade 5.

It has been alleged that the new ‘curriculum’ makes no mention of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe — which has been recognized by a federal district court judge in the Northern District of California as having retained its sovereign immunity, despite not being on a list of federally recognized Tribes that was first drafted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1978.

The Muwekma Ohlone Tribe is the only previously federally recognized historic Tribe in the Bay Area that is recognized as legitimate by anthropologists, archeologists, ethnohistorians, geneticists, and area universities.

The predicament highlights a longstanding practice of elite interests associated with the State’s history of genocide funding the development of educational curriculum that obfuscates the brutality that enabled modern California to exist.

“My contention is that you deny a person’s humanity when you deny a people their History,” explains Paul Soto, a San Jose historian who is leading the city’s rapidly growing historic preservation movement.

Just as Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Chairwoman began actively prodding the Congress earlier this year, low-level attacks on social media and from many groups began.

Historic preservationist Paul Soto has been successful in securing landmark status for several buildings that have played key roles in San Jose’s various civil rights movements.

“We are at a critical juncture in our evolution as a species, where lies, chicanery, and duplicity hide their ugly faces beneath a veneer of social acceptability. The consequences of their tactics are shocking.  It permits politicians to have a personal moral or ethical objection to a policy decision that is the opposite of moral or ethical,” he explains.

“No longer can we allow this Government to erase our existence in public documents,” adds Soto, who is a leading activist who is revitalizing San Jose’s Chicano movement — and is a fierce advocate for the Muwekma Ohlone people.

Today the Society of California Pioneers is still under the leadership of direct descendants of California pioneers. The Society’s museum — Pioneer Hall — is a venue for California art, history, and culture.  That museum is located on the Presidio, which is unceded and unsurrendered Muwekma Ohlone land that was first stolen when the Spanish arrived in the Bay Area and constructed the military installation.



The Society of California Pioneers was founded in 1850, shortly after gold was discovered. It’s founding members were instrumental in orchestrating the State’s genocidal policies towards Indians, including state-sponsored bounties and vast land theft.



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