Last updated: 9/01
There are many (about 40) tribes in California that are
still not federally recognized. The Tsnungwe is one of
these tribes. The main reason for this was the decision
to not ratify the Treaties of 1851 and 1852. There were
18 of these treaties signed with various tribes
and bands throughout the state.
The Senate was lobbied hard by California business men
to not ratify these treaties for fear that too much
valuable land would be retained by the Indians and be
unavailable for settlers to exploit for gold and other
reasons. Not only did the Senate reject these treaties,
they decided to lock them up and keep them secret.
The treaties were not discovered until 50 years later.
At this time much of the California Indian population
had either died off or was living in horrendous conditions.
Some good hearted white people started to organize to try
and help these Indians, many living on the public domain
or without land. Many Indians returned to their original
tribal villages to find that settlers had already made that
site their new home. Many Indians tried to live the best they
could at homes near their old village sites. C.E. Kelsey,
secretary of the Northern California Indians Association,
started to work on documenting these landless bands and tribes who
essentially had been robbed of their lands.
Work by people such as C.E. Kelsey eventually led to
Congress passing legislation to acquire lands for these
landless bands and tribes in the 1900s-1920s. This was
when many of the "rancherias" were created and these
rancherias were later determined to be "federally
recognized tribes". Some of the tribes that received
rancherias at this time were: Big Lagoon, Trinidad,
Blue Lake, and Table Bluff.
Many of the landless bands and tribes did not receive
rancherias for various reasons such as Congress not
appropriating enough money, tribes located remotely
making travel for the BIA Indian Agents too difficult,
or the bands/tribes not seeming to need the land.
Later, landless bands and tribes that had been
documented by BIA officials who did not receive
rancheria land bases were re-classified to be
"non-federally recognized tribes". The Tsnungwe
are such a tribe. In the 1900s and 1910s we were
documented as the Trinity Tribe. Please see the
map which is attached to this document as a JPG file.
When the BIA was trying to get landbases/rancherias
for all the landless tribes, they hired C.E. Kelsey
as a Special Indian Agent for California to help them
since he had already documented many of these tribes.
This is part of the map that he created in this capacity.
This map came from the National
Archives in Washington DC from "Record Group 75, Records
of the BIA. Central Consolidated Files 1907-1938.
CALIFORNIA SPECIAL FILES. 12061-1913-087. Final report
of C.E. Kelsey, purchasing agent for LAND AND
WATER RIGHTS of CALIFORNIA INDIANS. Oct 16, 1913."
The map is hard to read, but the Trinity Tribe located in
Humboldt County, just west of the Trinity County line is
noticeable. The Trinity Tribe is the Tsnungwe, and is one
instance of previous federal recognition of the Tsnungwe
Further support of this can be found in the 1900 Census, when
many Tsnungwe families were enumerated as Trinity Tribe Indians.
These families include: Doctor Tom family, Friday family,
Pete family (South Fork Pete), Johnny family(South Fork Johnny)
including Willis (Willis Norton).
Robert Heizer of UC Berkeley wrote "Federal Concern about
Conditions of California Indians, 1853-1913: Eight Documents"
This included a document about landless off-reservation
tribes, Senate Document #131, 58th Congress, 2d session,
1904, pp.1-16. This shows that the US Govt was trying to
deal with the "Indian problem" that was created by refusing
to ratify the 18 treaties of 1851-1852. This document
includes the "Trinity" tribe. It was referred to Committee
on Indian Affairs, Jan 21, 1904.
Other related correspondence in Heizer's book includes:
Letter from Northern California Indians Association to Pres.
Roosevelt; Letter from Commissioner of Indian Affairs,
Dept. of Interior, to Pres. of United States regarding Kelsey
letter on landless tribes, July 22, 1903; Letter from C.E.
Kelsey, Northern California Indians Association, to President
of United States, Aug 10, 1903; Report of Special Agent for
California Indians by C.E. Kelsey (from Carlisle
Indian School Print, 1906) to Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
There was much political activity going on to address the
issue of the problems created by refusing to ratify the
18 treaties and subsequently hiding them.
C.E. Kelsey produced a Census of Non-Reservation California
Indians in 1905-1906. In this census, the Trinity Tribe is
again listed in Humboldt County. The "Trinity" Tribe is
Saxie and wife (Saxey Kidd)
Pole and wife (South Fork Pole)
South Fork Johnnie
wife and child
Indian Pete and wife (South Fork Pete)
2 old men
1 old women
Friday and wife (Indian Friday)
Again, this Census documents the Tsnungwe Tribe as
the Trinity Tribe, the same tribe shown on the attached
JPG map. The map was titled 1912 California Special
"Indian Map of California" and as stated earlier came
from BIA records in the National Archives, Washington, DC.
The black dots on the legend are noted as "Indian Rancherias".
The "Trinity" tribe/band is marked as an "Indian Rancheria"
just south of the Hoopa Reservation, and in Humboldt County
near the Trinity County line.
It is interesting to note that in 1912 the Trinity/Tsnungwe
were considered to be an Indian Rancheria. This was prior
to Congress allocating funds to buy landbases (now known as
Rancherias) for landless bands and tribes in California.
Ironically, only those tribes who were fortunate enough
back then to receive landbases are now known as Rancherias
and thus recognized by the federal government as tribes.
The simplest way to correct this error would be for the
Secretary of Interior or Assistant Secretary of Indian
Affairs to step in and admit there has been an administrative
error made and the Tsnungwe Tribe who has been parties to
treaties with the Federal Government and is documented
in the BIA's own special maps as an Indian Rancheria should
rightfully be restored full tribal status as a federally
Text of 1851 Treaty of Lower Klamath
Text of 1864 Treaty of Peace and Friendship