Our History

I n the early 1850’s, the United States Army established the Fort Independence military camp on what is known today as the Fort Independence Indian Reservation. The Army diverted water, grew crops and started wood lots to provide for the soldiers. This drew many native people to the surrounding area around the camp because of the food and supplies that were there. By this time, many farmers and ranchers had been diverting water for crops thereby reducing the amount of water the native plants and grasses so intimately depended on. Living off the land was becoming increasingly harder and forced the native people to work for the settlers in order to provide for their families.

When the military left the valley, the native people of the area held various allotments adjacent to the Fort and eventually assumed control of the land. The Fort Independence Reservation was officially established through executive orders Number 2264 and 2375 in 1915 and 1916, respectively. This provided the Tribal members with 360 acres of land adjacent to Oak Creek in Independence California. In 2000, the Tribe received an additional 200 acres through the California Indian Land Transfer Act for a total of 560 acres.

Although the Reservation was established in 1915, the formal Tribal government was established in 1965. A group of allotees and descendants of original allotees came together and developed the Articles of Association which is still in use today with no major amendments. The Articles are similar to the Constitution of the United States and lays the framework for additional laws and regulations. The allotees also developed enrollment and assignment ordinances to govern the membership and assignment of tribal land for individual and commercial use. The membership consists of 136 tribal members of which approximately half live on the Reservation and the rest reside elsewhere in the Unites States from coast to coast.

Cultural Landscape

T he Owens Valley is sacred to the Paiute of Fort Independence, it is like our mother, who gave us life. It is spiritual, it is hallowed. It is not easy to put it on paper, but we will try for the sake of moving forward.

The sagebrush, willows, grasses, and all plants that grow in the Owens Valley are sacred to us, they feed and heal our people for thousands of years. We use these plants for food, for medicine. We use these plants for shelter and for tools that we need to live.

All of the animals, rabbit, lizard, deer, coyote and the insects, they provided for us. They are sacred to us. Without the plants, the animals and the land, we would not be. The Paya (Water), this is sacred.

Paya is potentially an unrenewable resource, it must be protected.

The rocks, creeks, lakes, lands, these are sacred to us. We lived in the entire Owens Valley, and beyond. This is our home. All of these are inter-connected and without one, none could exist.

Our people are buried here, their spirits speak to us, and they guide us.

In order to keep our culture intact, we must protect her, and all her fauna and flora.