U.S. Congressman Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) introduced House Resolution # 3649, the Mono Lake Kutadika’a Paiute Tribal Recognition Act, on June 8. The bill will grant federal recognition to the Mono Lake Kutzadika’a tribe as a distinct Native American Tribe.
The legislation, originally introduced by former Rep. Paul Cook in the 116th Congress, addresses the tribe’s decades-long struggle for indigenous sovereignty and would afford them the services, benefits, and rights provided to federally recognized tribes.
“The Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe has a long history of advocating on their behalf with the federal government, helping to preserve and conserve Mono Lake as the center of their culture and history and protecting their traditional hunting and gathering lands by working alongside the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service, both of whom already recognize the Kutzadika’a Tribe as a political entity,” said Rep. Obernolte. “It is past time that the federal government formally recognize this tribe’s sovereignty and provide the rights, services and benefits extended to federally recognized tribes.”
The Mono Lake Kutadika’a tribe, the southernmost band of the Numu, are the indigenous people of the Mono Basin in east central California and adjacent Nevada. They have functioned as a tribal community since long before trappers, miners, and other white settlers came to California beginning in the early to mid-1800s, and have overcome significant challenges to remain a distinct community, both politically and culturally.
The tribe maintains its unique traditions, including harvesting the alkali fly pupae from Mono Lake as a traditional food source from which the tribe derives its name: Kutzadika’a, roughly translated, means “fly eaters.”
As a federally recognized tribe, the Mono Lake Kutadika’a would be granted an official government-to-government relationship with the United States and possess the inherent rights of self-government and tribal sovereignty. The tribe would also be entitled to receive certain federal benefits, services, and protections because of their special relationship with the United States, including grants of hunting and fishing rights on all federal lands within its aboriginal land area, access to the Indian Health Services, and the ability to request certain land in Mono County, California be taken into trust for the benefit of the tribe.
The Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe has strong local support and is recognized as a political entity by both local government and local divisions of the Forest Service and National Park Service in California’s 8th Congressional District.
Neighboring tribes also support the recognition of the Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe, including the Benton Paiute Tribe, Bridgeport Indian Colony, Bishop-Paiute Tribe, Big Pine Paiute Tribe of Owens Valley, Timbi-sha Shoshone Tribe, Forth Independence Indian Tribe, Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, Tuolumne Me-Wuk Tribe, North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California, Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, and Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation. Other supporters of the tribe’s federal recognition include the Mono County Board of Supervisors, Mono Lake Committee, Sierra Club, Town of Bishop, Friends of Inyo, Department of the Interior at Yosemite National Park, California State University, Chico – Department of Anthropology, and California Indian Manpower Consortium.
(Photos courtesy of Yosemite National Park and Mono Lake Committee)