A century-old fight for tribal recognition simmers over the eastern Sierra Nevada’s Mono Lake

LA Times

Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

In a fevered bid for wealth, white ranchers and gold miners began pouring into the remote Mono Lake Basin east of Yosemite in the 1850s, taking over the ancestral lands of Native Americans who had existed there from time immemorial.

To members of the Mono Lake Kutzadika Paiute tribe, it was an assault on their traditions, their culture and on their very survival.

They had thrived for thousands of years amid the bounty and hardship of the the Sierra Nevada range, surrounded by its wildlife, its water resources and its sacred places, such as a spring that women used for purification rituals and that was festooned with rock carvings.

Now, 150 years after the Mono Lake Paiute culture was vanquished, the tribe has dwindled from 4,000 members to just 83. Tribal leaders are also facing the long and expensive process of gaining federal recognition of their Native American status — a step needed to establish a land base, a measure of sovereignty, and to qualify for assistance to help with healthcare, education and protection of sacred sites.

Publish : 2021-02-21 01:18:00

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