Big Sandy Rancheria History

In 1909, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) purchased 280 acres of land to be held in trust for the benefit of the San Joaquin or Big Sandy Band of Western Mono Indians. This land became known as the Big Sandy Rancheria of Auberry, and was purchased to provide the Band with a “secure land base on which to build homes, grow crops for food and sale, graze cattle, cut wood for fuel and sale and to be free from depredations by non-Indians.”

In 1958, congress enacted the California act authorizing the termination of the trust status of the lands and the Indian status of the people of the 41 California Rancherias, including Big Sandy. As a result of this act in 1966 Big Sandy Rancheria organized the BSR Association to receive common property and to approve the distribution plan prepared by the BIA for termination of the Rancheria.

According to the plan, a portion of the Rancheria was conveyed to the American Baptist Home Missionary Society as part of a land exchange agreement between the society and the BIA on behalf of Big Sandy. The distribution plan made no prevision for improvements to Rancheria housing, water, sanitation, or irrigation although all such facilities were needed.

The tribe approved the BIA’s distribution plan without having been informed of their rights and obligation, the advantages and disadvantages of accepting termination, or of the options available to them. Upon approval of the distribution plan by the Big Sandy members, the BIA revoked the recognized status of the governing body of the Band and ceased to regard the Band as having a government-to-government relationship with the federal government. Other than preparing the distribution plan itself, the BIA never fulfilled the agreements with the Rancheria pursuant to the Rancheria Act. Despite this negligence by the BIA, the Rancheria had been regarded as terminated and its members regarded ineligible for federal services provided by the BIA for Indians. The termination of the Rancheria has been the single most damaging factor restricting the social and economic development of the tribe, for termination occurred at a particularly unfortunate time when tremendous expansions of federal programs designed to assist the Indian Tribes began to occur. Substandard housing conditions, low income, high unemployment, incidence of alcohol and drug abuse, and low educational attainment levels worsened during this time, this has persisted to the present.

As a result of a 1983 United States District Court Action, the BSR was officially restored as Indian Country and the people of the tribe restored as federally recognized Indians. The final judgment stipulated that members holding land in accordance with the BIA distribution plan may return to their land to trust status at their pleasure and the Association joint properties be turned to trust status, the first step toward the development of a self-sufficient community.