Department of Ethnic Studies - College of Letters and Science - University of California, Berkeley

People / Graduate Students


Olivia Chilcote

Federal Indian Law and Policy, Federal Recognition, Native American Identity, Native California


Bio & Research Interests

Olivia Chilcote (Luiseño, San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians) received her MA and PhD from the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. She is currently an Assistant Professor at San Diego State University in the Department of American Indian Studies.

Her first book project analyzes the connection between the Federal Acknowledgment Process--a standardized system used to recognize tribes as sovereign nations--and community identity for one unrecognized tribe in Southern California. Her study investigates the politics and history of federal recognition in California and uses a case study of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians to analyze the intricacies of identities structured by legal definitions, the ways in which unrecognized tribes assert tribal sovereignty despite legal classifications, and how tribal engagement with the Federal Acknowledgment Process is part of a longer history of U.S.-tribal relationships. Dr. Chilcote has received support and funding for her research from: the Ford Foundation, the Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues, the Institute of Governmental Studies, the UC Humanities Institute, the UC Berkeley Native American Studies Program, Pukúu Cultural Community Services, and the UC Berkeley Graduate Division. 


Thomas Biolsi, Beth Piatote, Kent Lightfoot (Anthropology)
Shari Huhndorf

Courses Taught or Assisted

2014   Instructor, "Contemporary Native American Identity," Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley, Spring.

2013   Graduate Student Instructor, "Ethnic American Writers," Department of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley, Fall.

Select publications

Peer-Reviewed Chapters

“An Unrecognizable State: Federal Acknowledgment Policy and the Case of Native California” in New Voices in California Indian Studies, ed. by Beth Rose Middleton Manning and Cutcha Risling Baldy, 1-33. (Accepted; Under Revision)

Jacknis, Ira, Caroyln Smith, and Olivia Chilcote, "California" in Handbook of the North American Indians, Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1-56. (In Press)

Journal Articles

2015   “Pow Wows at the Mission: Identity and Federal Recognition for the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseño Mission Indians.” Boletín: Journal of the California Mission Studies Association, Vol. 31, No. 1: 79-87.

Book Reviews

2013   Book Review of Recognition, Sovereignty Struggles, and Indigenous Rights in the U.S.: A Sourcebook, ed. by Amy E. Den Ouden and Jean M. O'Brien, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Vol. 38, No. 4: 184-187.

Web-Based and Other Publications

2015   “It’s Complicated: One Native Californian’s Thoughts on Junipero Serra’s Canonization.” The Berkeley Blog.

2014   “Education as Self-Determination.” News From Native California, 27(2), Spring 2014: 22-24.

2013   “Born on Thanksgiving: Searching for a Native Identity in California.” News From Native California, 27(1), Fall 2013: 6-9.