The California Valley Miwok Tribe (located at 10601 N. Escondido PL, Stockton, CA, as listed in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ BIA/DOI Spring 2011 Tribal Leaders Directory), a federally recognized tribe eligible to receive and distribute services from the federal government – on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011, California Valley Miwok Tribal Chairperson Silvia Burley attended the September meeting of the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum as the invited guest speaker. After regular agenda items and updates were concluded, Chairperson Burley was formally introduced, whereupon she commenced the night’s oratory by going into infinite detail of the history of not only the California Valley Miwok Tribe, but of all of the indigenous Miwoks that had previously inhabited the San Joaquin valley for the last five thousand years.
She spoke of the dark period in California Native American history, where cultures were decimated, whole tribes were eradicated and of how even early into the last century, bounties were still paid for the killing of California’s Native Americans. She educated attendees as to the customs and traditions of local Miwok peoples, of the termination era and of the effects of that policy that is still felt today. Chairperson Burley spoke of the nomadic tribes whom would travel to different places within their aboriginal territory due to season change, of the California rolls and of the pennies-per-acre paid to Native Americans in restitution for lands wrongfully taken.
Chairperson Burley talked of her bloodline of descendance from recognized tribal leaders and of the personal hardships she endured in achieving her college degree and numerous certifications that have empowered her resolve in overseeing her tribe’s affairs; going into detail of the 200 mile round trip from her home to DQ University (the last American Indian college in California) and how upon graduation, she was honored with the “American Indian Higher Education Consortium Student Congress” (AIHEC) award for the state of California, of her vehicle breaking down on the way to Washington state from California and of living in a homeless shelter, just to be able to attend Evergreen State University, located in Olympia, WA. She also spoke of the changing her major from Psychology to Tribal Administration, when the responsibility of tribal leadership was bestowed upon her by her tribe’s voting members, to being given the option by her professor to either study sovereignty in class or completing her studies by returning to California to further her knowledge in the implementation of it in the leadership role of her tribal people, whom depended upon her and entrusted her with their tribe’s chairmanship.
She made comparisons of the newly homeless to what her people had experienced in previous centuries and of the concern the Tribe has for these individuals. She spoke of the current plight that some would force upon the Tribe, if not for Under-Secretary Larry EchoHawk’s recent decision, that goes a long way in correcting previous missteps that were taken by officials within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in the Tribe’s affairs. Also talked about were the similarities that Miwoks share with other indigenous peoples. Chairperson Burley spoke of the Tribe’s government-to-government relationship with the United States, of meeting with elected officials and governmental departments encompassing federal, state, county and city. She produced a book on Indian history in which her family is instrumental in the subject matter, explained CFR 25, exhibited the regulatory book and referred the audience to specific books available at your local library or online, that best teach about the original indigenous peoples of California.
She talked about the Tribe’s involvement in cultural events, of the Tribe’s services and of the fact that although the California rolls recognized some individuals as Native American, it did not authorize them to have membership or affiliation to a specific tribe; that is a sovereign right unto the tribes themselves. She then produced a traditional truth pipe to be held by the person whom is speaking and displayed indigenous flutes – and being an accomplished flutist herself, demonstrated the Miwok culture in song. She spoke of her poetry (much that is published) and how she was encouraged to write during childhood. She then read aloud poems dedicated to her grandfather, grandmother and her tribespeople, bringing copies to hand out to those attending. She spoke in her native tongue and then translated for the audience.
Chairperson Burley also discussed the local issues the Tribe is involved in and specifically talked of working with the San Joaquin Native American Veterans Lodge and of their assistance and donations to the Tribe’s food distribution program, among other endeavors that they partner with the Tribe on. Chairperson Burley fielded questions regarding Native American history, beliefs, customs, culture, personal experiences, and also the Miwok language and where to get more information to better understand the indigenous peoples that for thousands of years, called the San Joaquin valley their home. At the end of the meeting, Chairperson Burley thanked the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum for their invitation and for allowing her to speak on behalf of the local native peoples and the only federally recognized tribe in the valley.
Note: As a result of this introduction, the Tribe will now be involved in future activities with the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum and individuals from this organization whom are entrusted with knowledge of the history of the area we in the valley all call our home.