Muwekma Ohlone Tribe Endorses Kennedy-Shanahan Ticket

OAKLAND, CA—MARCH 29, 2024—The ancestral occupants of the Bay Area, the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, have endorsed Independent Presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe spoke at the campaign’s event announcing its vice presidential candidate, Nicole Shanahan, on Tuesday in Oakland, California.

“Our people are suffering,” said tribal chairwoman Charlene Nijmeh. “We need leaders with the ethical and moral courage that Mr. Kennedy has in order to stand up for what is just and what is right. That’s why the Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Council has passed a unanimous resolution to endorse Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for President of the United States.” 

“Mr. Kennedy has protected the rights of indigenous people for 40 years and we believe in him to build on that legacy. We believe he will help bring prosperity to Indian Country and restore trust between the First Americans and the United States government,” continued Nijmeh.We know this is a pivotal moment in history and for this country, and that RFK Jr. is the person to lead us into a brighter future.”

As part of her presentation, Nijmeh explained the Bay Area includes the unceded and unsurrendered lands of the ancestors of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, who are the successors of the historic, sovereign, federally recognized, and never terminated Verona Band of Alameda County. 

Yet despite their ancestral ties to the Bay Area region, the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe does not have the status of a bureaucratically recognized tribe. Even though they are descended from the original indigenous people of the area and members of recognized related tribes, the Muwekma Ohlone have been administratively denied their full identity in a form of political and cultural erasure. 

This lack of federal recognition afflicts Native Americans across the country. There are 80,000 members of unrecognized tribes in California and hundreds of thousands more across the U.S., who, as Nijmeh stated, “all continue to suffer the oppression of a corrupt system that favors special interest money over social, racial, and historical justice.”

Kennedy shared that he was honored to accept the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe’s endorsement and appreciated the trust she and other tribal leaders placed in him.

“They know the struggle for indigenous rights has consumed a lot of my personal and professional life — and this work will continue when we are in the White House,” Kennedy said.

“I believe elevating Native American wisdom and culture is a path to healing for all Americans. We will all benefit from their traditional knowledge and especially their environmental stewardship.”

RFK Jr. believes the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe and other tribes unfairly deprived of federal recognition deserve to have their status legitimized.

Kennedy and Shanahan are committed to redressing the injustices that have characterized federal Indian policy for three centuries. Native Americans will have friends and allies in the White House under the Kennedy/Shanahan administration. 

Kennedy has pledged to tribal leaders that his door will always be open to them and he has outlined his broad policy positions as well as some specific actions he will take, such as releasing Indian activist and political prisoner Leonard Peltier.

“Tribal leaders should know that a Kennedy/Shanahan administration will be a new day for Indian Country,” said Gretchen Biggs, Native American policy advisor. “Mr. Kennedy has spent much of his career protecting indigenous rights and promoting indigenous sovereignty.” 

Nijmeh was joined on the stage by six members of the tribal council. The Muwekma Ohlone Tribal Faith Keeper, Joseph Torres, sang a traditional protection song. 

“Mr. Kennedy, my people are praying for you. We’re praying that you will continue to have the courage to speak the truths that bring justice to all peoples,” said Nijmeh. “In this moment of pronounced political polarization, we pray for your safety and protection.”

Nijmeh concluded by asking her indigenous brothers and sisters not to sit this election year out. “Fight for your freedom. Fight for your justice and fight for Bobby Kennedy the way that he has always fought for us.”

Learn more at Visit our press page here.

# # #