The Mesa Grande Band has created a new website, “Restore Mesa Grande,” to educate the public about the bureaucratic mistake that cost the tribe more than 5,000 acres of its ancestral lands over a century ago. The website offers supporters an opportunity to sign a petition asking the Department of Interior to rectify the mistake and restore the disputed land, where many Mesa Grande families have lived continuously for generations.

The dispute arises from a mistake that occurred in the late 19th century, when government officials mistakenly concluded that the Mesa Grande and Santa Ysabel communities were actually one tribe, instead of entirely separate tribes, each with its own land, people, customs and leaders. The error led to the official assignment of two large tracts of land to the Santa Ysabel Band, even though the tracts were occupied by citizens of Mesa Grande and had been acknowledged as Mesa Grande land for hundreds of years.

A 1978 administrative law judge ruling recommended that the lands be jointly managed by a “new tribal structure” that incorporated the members of both Bands, but that recommendation has never been implemented because there is no legal or factual basis to combine the two tribes.

In recent years, tensions have escalated as the Santa Ysabel Band has attempted to assert its control over the disputed areas where Mesa Grande families still live. Santa Ysabel tribal authorities have threatened reprisals if Mesa Grande residents attempt to build or renovate their homes, utilize the area’s water resources, build access roads, bury their dead, or otherwise initiate development on the disputed land.



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