Recognizing Indians: Place, identity, history, and the federal acknowledgment of the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation

Philip Blair Laverty
Dept. of Anthropology, University of New Mexico
July, 2010
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Long considered "extinct," in 1992 the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation (OCEN) began its bid to achieve federal acknowledgment as an American Indian tribe. This dissertation is a study of the history of the Native peoples of the Monterey Bay region and the current recognition efforts of OCEN. Using ethnographic and ethnohistorical methodologies and the fieldnotes of John Peabody Harrington as a key archive, it focuses on social and cultural aspects of identity change and community persistence, particularly in relation to land and place. It explores contemporary understandings of precontact political organization as they presently affect the Esselen Nation in the context of Cultural Resource Management archaeology. Histories of land tenure and labor under Spanish, Mexican, and American colonization are reviewed to better understand the Esselen Nation's current federally unacknowledged status. This dissertation looks closely at Native place-names and place-worlds and the ways in which they change. Theoretical concerns regarding anthropology, Indian identity, and federal acknowledgment are explored. Further described are residential communities and cultural practices along with difficulties the Esselen Nation experienced while organizing for recognition and negotiating the petition process.