This article analyzes the decision of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, an unrecognized tribe from San Diego County, to petition for federal recognition through an investigation of the tribe's historical interactions with the non-Native world in colonial California. The San Luis Rey Band's pursuit of federal recognition through the Federal Acknowledgment Process is connected to a larger movement of unrecognized tribes across California to clarify their legal status, and in so doing to widen the possibilities for self-government and economic development and to secure their claims to traditional territories. Shifting the focus to coastal Southern California adds depth to our understanding of how colonization in California impacts contemporary struggles for federal recognition and draws attention to a tribal community's history and experience that is often overshadowed by those of other federally recognized tribes in the region.

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