Andy's father, Ernie, 82, has been trying for much of his life to make the government acknowledge his tribal identity, culture and history. He's had little success and recently told his son he is too tired to fight anymore.
But Andy Salas said he's not going to let his father's dreams of recognition be crushed by a federal government that came on the scene long after the Gabrielenos.
"My dad is depressed, he told me I don't want anything to do with that," Andy Salas said through tears. "He said, 'No, you don't understand, I tried half of my life to get this right and these guys did me dirty.' That's why I do what I do today, because of him."
Five years ago, Salas decided to take action to ensure that his father could see the day his tribe, the Kizh Nation of the Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians, is officially recognized. He has spent years gathering the necessary documents and criteria to apply for acknowledgement from the federal government, and in 2010 he submitted a fresh petition on behalf of the tribe of about 500 people he heads in San Gabriel.
And Salas is far from alone in his quest; the Kizh-Gabrieleno are among 79 tribal groups that have submitted petitions to the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Federal Acknowledgement - and most of them are still waiting.
"We are known as refugees in our own land," Ernie Salas said.
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