Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Public Policy Analysis

Second Department


Reader 1

David Menefee-Libey

Reader 2

Erich Steinman

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2013 Alice Mirlesse


In this paper, the author looks at the impact of the policy of federal recognition on a Los Angeles basin Native community: the Gabrielino Tongva. The first section, the literature review focuses on the difficulties of defining “indigenousness” in the academic and political realms, as well as looking at Native scholars’ conceptualization of this unique and multifaceted identity. After a consideration of the theoretical framework of the study, the crossroads between anthropology and public policy analysis, the author presents the tools she used in her study, namely: participant observation, key-informant interviews, and the analysis of published documents and personal files. The section ends with a review of ethical concerns pertaining to doing research with indigenous people.

The historical section comprises an analysis of archives and published works about the Tongva and the federal recognition process. Starting by a brief report of major policies that have impacted Native American rights in the U.S. and the evolution of government relations with indigenous communities, the author looks at the legacy of the Tongva people in L.A. today, paying special attention to past efforts at obtaining federal recognition and political divides within the tribe. The analysis is structured according to the different levels of recognition that the author perceived through her research. “Capital R”, or federal recognition is explored through its impact on the individual and the group, and followed by an account of current efforts towards community recognition – “lower-case r.” The paper ends on recommendations for future policies and a personal reflection about the research and its results.