Status bid has failed, Indians say

Times Staff Writer

Several factions of the Juaneno band of Mission Indians said Monday that they had failed, at least for now, in their bid to gain federal recognition, something the Orange County-based tribe has sought for 25 years.

The Juanenos, splintered into factions for more than a decade, failed to meet four of seven criteria required to gain recognition, said an official with one of the factions.

A Bureau of Indian Affairs report detailing the federal government’s findings is expected to be released this week.

Joyce Perry, an official with one of at least four Juaneno factions, expressed disappointment.

Recognition is a “golden opportunity, a dream,” she said, but the tribe now has a “truly difficult” effort ahead.


Perry said a BIA official told her by telephone that, among other things, the tribe had so far failed to document its historical roots and prove that each member is descended from the same tribe that existed before the Spanish arrived.

The Juanenos, estimated to have about 4,000 members throughout the United States, have bickered over leadership elections, casino proposals and plans to build high school athletic fields on their land in San Juan Capistrano.

With recognition, the Juanenos could form their own government and qualify for many of the benefits enjoyed by the more than 560 federally recognized Native American nations.

Benefits include federal money for education and healthcare, land for a reservation and perhaps the right to build a casino.

The tribal gambling industry in California reaps an estimated $7 billion a year.

Bud Sepulveda, chairman of another Juaneno faction, said the BIA’s final ruling was not expected for a year.

He said the tribe would prepare a response to the government’s preliminary report.


Times staff writer David Reyes contributed to this report.