WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) introduced legislation to extend federal recognition to the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe.
The Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe is based in the Mono Basin of east-central California, adjacent to Nevada. Like all California tribes, the Kutzadikaa were not the beneficiary of the treaty process, and they remained landless and without federal protection in the wake of the California Gold Rush and other encroachments into their ancestral lands.
Despite these challenges, the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa people have remained politically and culturally distinct, living continuously near Mono Lake since time immemorial. The Tribe has maintained and revitalized their cultural practices and advocated for the preservation of Mono Lake, which is central to its culture and history.
Numerous state and federal efforts have been made to preserve Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe, and the Tribe has worked toward federal recognition since the 1970s. Federal recognition would guarantee the Tribe’s right to self-government and preserve its sovereignty, as well as allow the Tribe to access further federal protections, services, and benefits.
All seven federally recognized tribes in Mono and Inyo counties support federal recognition for the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe. They have also received support from the seven affiliated tribes of Yosemite National Park, which include the federally recognized North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California, Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, and Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, as well as the non-federally-recognized Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation. The Mono County Board of Supervisors also supports federal recognition for the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe.
Rep. Cook said, “Federal recognition of the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe is long overdue, and it’s time we honor their tireless efforts in preserving their culture and history. I commend the hard work and dedication of Chairperson Lange and the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa people for their unwavering commitment to their tribe and to Mono Lake.”
Charlotte Lange, Chairperson of the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe, said, “The Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe has been enduring the process of recognition for decades. It saddens my heart to hear our elders say, ‘I won’t see it in my lifetime.’ My grandfather fought for the tribe and his strength keeps my dedication to follow in his path. This congressional process started with a visit from Congressman Cook and his staff in October 2019. Dorothy Alther, California Legal Service has also committed her hard work for years. The Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe would like to express our appreciation and gratitude to both of them for their efforts to present this bill for Federal Recognition.”
Supervisor Gardner said, “At a time when we are reflecting on what it means to be inclusive, Congress should enact legislation providing Federal recognition for the Kutzadikaa Tribe. This is an important step in acknowledging and establishing the rightful status of these native people in Mono County. The Kutzadikaa Tribe has been here for thousands of years carrying on many rich traditions and customs. They deserved Federal recognition years ago but did not receive it. Congress should do this now.”
A member of the House Natural Resources and Armed Services Committees, Cook is the Republican Leader on the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. He served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
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