Archive » April 7, 2011
CHUMASH RESERVATION - WHAT RESERVATION?
By James P. Lynch, Guest Columnist
In an earlier essay published in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, it was established on the basis of historical documentation that current Chumash Chairman Vincent Armenta – as well as a substantial number of the so-called Santa Ynez Chumash – lacked genealogical or historical ties to any of the numerous independent Chumash villages which once dotted this region, as well as being descended from the original Santa Ynez Mission Indian community.
It must be understood, that historically, there was never a Chumash tribe, only scattered, independent, politically autonomous village bands. For Chairman Armenta to assert that his present-day group represents, or lays claim as a successor in interest to all the lands these historical bands or villages once occupied, is an abject fallacy. The Chumash never organized themselves into a politically united tribal entity.
Whilst we are discussing lands, what of the lands the present-day Santa Ynez Chumash call their reservation? This is especially important in light of Chairman Armenta’s current quest to establish a second 1,400 acre reservation/casino on the former 1,400 Fess Parker tract. A critical examination of the many historical documents available raises substantial questions concerning the legitimacy of their current reservation lands as a federal trust patent reservation.
In a Letter written by Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Carl Artman, dated May 16, 2007, Artman presented the current Bureau of Indian Affairs official position regarding the Santa Ynez Chumash reservation:
The reservation for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians was established December 27, 1901 pursuant to the Act of 1891 (26 Stat. 71-714, c.65) and the band has had a bilateral political relationship with the federal government since at least the Act of 1891.
On the basis of the historical record here presented, Assistant Secretary Artman’s comments, concerning the Bureau’s of position regarding the Santa Ynez Chumash by the Bureau of Indian Affairs are found to be unsupportable and therefore incorrect.
As a result of certain legal proceedings brought by POLO/POSY and documents provided by this writer in regard to the Santa Ynez reservation lands, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, apparently no longer so sure of its facts, has asked the Court for additional time to “research” this question. Why might the BIA be making this request? Why has the bureau been unable to respond to POLO/POSY and the court six months after the fact?
To begin, the Santa Ynez were not one of the landless Indian villages named to be subject to the Act of 1891, the so-called “Mission Indian Relief Act” that Assistant Secretary Artman cited. 1890 Congressional records list the names of these landless villages or bands that were to come under the aegis of this act; the Santa Ynez were not so-named. In December 1891 federally appointed Mission Indian Commissioners reported the Santa Ynez condition to the Secretary of Indian Affairs, noting that they were being allowed to reside on Catholic Church-owned and private lands, which could be obtained, but the commissioners noted that they lacked the power to do so. Most importantly, the Secretary of the Interior, in accepting their report noted that the title to such lands had to be accepted by the federal government and a federal patent issued by the President to establish such a reservation.
In 1897, the Roman Catholic Church bought a suit against the five families who the Church declared to be the rightful descendants of the Santa Ynez Mission Indians still residing at Santa Ynez. Chairman Armenta’s ancestors were not among them. The Church did so to validate their land rights. The court ruled in 1906 that the Church had absolute fee simple rights to the lands in question. During this time, the Church entered into an agreement with the local Indian Agent that would allow the five ex-mission Indian families to remain on the Church’s lands. The Church agreed to conditionally transfer title to the land in question to the federal government, which would hold the title in trust as long as the members of the five named Indian families or their direct lineal descendants remained on the land.
If the Indians so-named by the Church or their lineal descendants either left or abandoned the land, the title would revert back to the Church (the last such descendant died in 1940 leaving no heirs). A second similar indenture was made with the Santa Ynez Land and Improvement Company in 1901. Conveyances of title were drawn up by both parties transferring title to the United States. All that remained was for the Secretary of the Interior to accept the title in trust for the Santa Ynez, and for the President to issue a patent officially establishing an Indian reservation at Santa Ynez.
The 1902 Annual Reports of the Department of the Interior to Congress noted that the lands had yet to be surveyed or accepted as the indenture from the Santa Ynez Land and Improvement Company had yet to be finalized (a document was drawn up in 1903). In 1905, Interior’s annual report to Congress noted that legal technicalities still remained unresolved before the land could be accepted by the federal government. Already, at this point in time, we see that Assistant Secretary Artman and BIA were in serious error in their 2007 Santa Ynez reservation-related assertions.
In 1906 the Roman Catholic Church wrote a second “indenture” to the federal government for the same 75 acres of land in an attempt to resolve “legal technicalities.” In 1919, the Santa Ynez Land and Improvement Company also wrote a second indenture in another attempt by the federal government to take title the Santa Ynez lands and place the lands in trust.
In 1930, the Department of the Interior published a document titled, “General Data concerning Indian Reservations.” Within the official Department of the Interior document was a listing of all existing Indian reservations. Santa Ynez was not among them.
Congress was to pass two acts that are of importance to this issue. The first was the 1931 Indian Donation Act, which permitted donations of lands to the federal government by private owners for the benefit of Indians. In 1935, Congress also enacted the Federal Register Act (Public Law 74-220). This act required that the federal government daily publish all proposed rules, administrative and presidential actions before such actions (such as taking land into trust or of federally recognizing an Indian tribe) could become legally effective. These, as we shall see, are of significant importance.
Incredibly, in 1935, the Catholic Church wrote a third indenture to the federal government in another attempt to pass title to the Secretary of the Interior and have the Santa Ynez lands taken into trust as a permanent Indian reservation. A second indenture was also written in 1935, this one was from the Petroleum Securities Company to the Secretary of the Interior, who had previously acquired title to a portion of the land in question from the Catholic Church.
In a 1940 letter from the Superintendent of the Mission Indian Agency to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the superintendent, relative to the Santa Ynez lands, stated, “We are extremely anxious to obtain the approval of the Department for the acquisition of this land as promptly as possible.”
In other words, in 1940, the federal government had yet to accept title to the Santa Ynez lands that Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Artman claimed was accepted in trust by the federal government in 1902. At this point in time, no patent was ever issued by the President establishing a reservation for the Santa Ynez Chumash. Simply, in 1940, there was no Santa Ynez reservation.
This is not the end of the story.
Also in 1940, the Interior Departments Solicitor noted that there were still five outstanding issues to be resolved before the United States could assume title to the Santa Ynez lands and place the lands into trust for the Santa Ynez. Evidently realizing that the Santa Ynez did not come under the 1891 Mission Indian Relief Act, the Interior Department was now trying to accept the title to the Santa Ynez lands under the 1931 Indian Donation Act. In November of 1941, the superintendent of the Mission Agency was still trying to rectify some of the still outstanding issues.
From 1935 through 1975, there was no listing in the Federal Register of lands being taken into federal trust or the establishment of a federal Indian reservation for the Santa Ynez Chumash. Such a listing was required by law for such an act to become legally effective.
Indeed, in a 1957 Federal Register posting listed all the Indian groups by state, who had reservation land being held in trust by the federal government. Santa Ynez was not among them. In 1964, the Santa Ynez organized as a tribe under the “Santa Ynez Band” as they then called themselves. They did not begin to refer to themselves as being Chumash descendants until 1971. The Santa Ynez Band submitted “Articles of Organization” to the secretary of the Interior organizing themselves as a band under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.
It was not until Jan. 31, 1971, that the Federal Register first cited the “Santa Ynez Band of Chumash as an Indian tribal entity having a government to government relationship with the United States. Yet, to this day the Federal Register has never cited the federal government as having taken title to the lands of the so-called Santa Ynez reservation and placing them in federal trust for the band, thereby creating an Indian reservation.
Recently we had the US. Supreme Court in its Carcieri v. Salazar decision declare that only Indian tribes under federal jurisdiction prior to 1934 could have land taken into trust by the federal government. The Santa Ynez Chumash did not organize themselves into a tribal entity until 1964.
Is it no wonder that the Santa Ynez Chumash were so adamant in opposing the court’s allowing BIA the extra time to research the Santa Ynez reservation. Think they may find something?
Mr. James P. Lynch is owner of Connecticut-based Historical Consulting and Research Services, LLC. He has been a practicing ethno-historian for more than 25 years. Mr. Lynch is also the author of four books, the latest being, Children of Red Atlantis, the development of American Indian Policy 1735 through the Indian Reorganization Act.