Organization by Miwok of Buena Vista Rancheria

Indigenous Faith

Dear Governor Brown and Congress,

Posted by Ya-Nah on May 5, 2014 at 6:55 PM

Greetings and salutations, thank you for our time. Buena Vista Rancheria is a small parcel of land that has always been preserved by the Miwok nation. It is now considered to be within the county of Amador, near the city of Ione. It is a very important location since it serves as a ceremonial gathering place, and burial ground for our people. My great grandmother was the last member of my family to be born there in 1909, and she was buried there in 1956.

A few years ago my grandmother became concerned with making arrangements for her own burial. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Amador county assessors office have listed “Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians” as the land owner of the rancheria. When I contacted the “Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians,” Arnold Samuel asked for me to get a power of attorney from my Grandmother to make arrangements. Instead, I had my grandmother call to talk with him. We left a message for him, and now it is several years later and he has not yet returned her call, and she passed away in February this year.

My great auntie is also thinking about when she will meet her demise, and when that happens she would like to be buried near her mother. I am concerned that the wishes of my great auntie will also be ignored by the “Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians,” and my great auntie refuses to acknowledge it as landowner of the rancheria at all. We feel very strongly that the burial tradition of our people should not be suppressed by the ”Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians.”

It would be wonderful if there could be a neutral cemetery association for our Miwok cemetery, and great auntie could be buried near her ancestors and relatives when her time comes. I fear that this will not happen under present circumstances, and though the United States may not have intended for this situation to occur, it is a result of U.S. Indian policy. Since my great aunt is not enrolled with “Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians,” and she is a resident and citizen of California, we seek your assistance in this matter.

In the last five years, my grandma and great aunt were seeking reorganization of their tribe in order to prevent the construction of a casino at Buena Vista Rancheria by “Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians.” One of the judges in the case suggested an act of congress as a more appropriate solution. Although the very listing of “Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians” with the Bureau of Indian Affairs confirms that federal recognition can come from a federal court decision, and multiple attorneys argued this point, the 9th circuit court of appeals ruled to prevent the lawful reorganization of the people of Buena Vista Rancheria in January this year in Friends of Amador et. al. Versus Secretary of the Department of the Interior et. al..

As we consider casino construction to be a threat to the burial tradition, the burial tradition could be considered a threat to casino construction. That is because of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, so that if the casino is planned to be built in compliance with that act, it could become in violation if our burial tradition thrives and more Miwok people choose to be buried with our ancestors and relatives. Given the conflicting interests that “Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians” claims to represent, I am asking for help in mediating and advocating for the continuance of our burial tradition.



Ya-nah Geary Mandujano

[email protected]

(916) 215-9123

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