The Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander

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Last Updated: 10 months

The Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley headqurtered at 2275 Silk Road,Windsor, CA 95492 is the last remaining Wappo Tribe in existence, The tribe now claims 357 enrolled members, all lineal descendants of 10 families who lived on the reservation in 1935.

The Wappo Indians are asking the government to restore their tribal status, benefits and historic land rights.

The Wappo are a group of three similar-speaking people: the northern Mishewal (Warrior People) of Alexander Valley and southern Lake County; the central Mutistul group of Knights Valley and eastern Sonoma County; and the Mayakmah (Water Going Out Place) of the southern tidal areas of Napa and Sonoma Valleys.Congress passed Public Law 671, known as the Termination Act, in 1958, extinguishing the rights of the Wappo tribe and 41 other rancherias to federal assistance and land bases.

Senator Daniel Inouye, Chairman of Indian Affairs, promoted Senate Bill 2144 to re-recognize “terminated tribes” in 1987. While other tribes have regained their rights through lawsuits or congressional action, the Wappos struggled in vain for federal recognition.

The struggle is playing out in federal court in San Jose, where the Wappos sued U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. They say the federal government acted unlawfully when it disbanded the tribe in 1959. The former Alexander Valley Rancheria, their 54-acre reservation on a bend of the Russian River northeast of Healdsburg, is now in private hands.

Two years ago, Sonoma and Napa intervened in the Wappos’ suit, arguing the tribe shouldn’t be allowed to remove land from their jurisdictions without local approval.

They asked the federal court to dismiss the Wappos’ claim, alleging the group waited too long to file their complaint. The counties also questioned the group’s legitimacy, saying the Wappos don’t qualify as a tribe under federal rules.

it’s taken years for the tribe to reorganize and make its case for recognition.

The Wappos are asking the government to restore their tribal status, benefits and historic land rights.

They won a key victory earlier this month when U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Davila denied Sonoma and Napa’s efforts to dismiss their case.

The tribe now is in settlement talks with the Interior Department, but the counties still could appeal a judgment in the case.

The tribe’s identity has emerged as a central issue in the court case. The counties argue there’s no connection between today’s Wappo leaders and the Indians who once lived on Alexander Valley Rancheria.

Attorneys for the tribe call that argument insulting, and accuse the two counties of “polluting the stream of history.”

Both sides have called on historians to bolster their claims.

The counties hired Stephen Beckham, a history professor from Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, to examine the Wappos’ past. In a 114-page report submitted to the court, he said Alexander Valley Rancheria wasn’t a real Indian reservation and the Wappos never met the federal definition of a tribe.

But Edward Castillo, director of the Native American Studies program at Sonoma State University, said Beckham “cherry-picked” the federal archives and ignored most of the Wappos’ history.

The Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley points to a 1935 election where rancheria residents unanimously voted for self-government under the federal Indian Reorganization Act.

The Wappos are recognized by other tribes and state agencies including Caltrans and the Native American Heritage Commission.

The name Wappo is an Americanization of the Spanish term guapo, which means “brave.” They were known as brave for their stubborn resistance to Mexican domination, particularly their resistance to all military attempts from General Vallejo and his enlisted allies. In 1836 the warring parties signed a peace treaty.

In phonetic English, “Guapo” came to be pronounced “Wap-poe,” but the tribe referred to themselves as the Onasatis – the people who speak plainly or “Outspoken People.”