Graton Chairman Sarris' Cousin: "We're Not Indians"


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"Some of the reasons people make false claims (of Native American blood) may be to gain access to resources, obtain a job or to have a voice. False claims are harmful because they allow the stealing of voice."     Zuni Cruz, professor of law at the University of New Mexico and member of the Isleta Pueblo.


Greg Sarris

NEW!  214 years, 6 generations, and over 200 documents:  Research into Greg Sarris' ancestry by a professional genealogist proves beyond a doubt that the woman he claims was the daughter of two North Coast Native Americans was in fact of African-American/African-Canadian descent and whose parents were from the East Coast.  See the report HERE.   

"Greg Sarris isn't telling the real story....I simply want people to know the truth."

(To see the geneological research into Greg Sarris' non-Indian ancestry, including copies of historical documents, click here.)


A relative of Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federated Indian of Graton Rancheria (FIGR) and Native American author who holds the Native American Studies Chair at Sonoma State University, has confirmed that the family line Sarris claims to have Indian blood has none at all.

For almost three decades, Sarris has declared that "Reinette Smith", the woman he claims to be his great grandmother, was the daughter of famous Pomo Indian medicine man Tom Smith of Sonoma County and a Native American woman named Emily Stewart of Marin County who had both Pomo and Coast Miwok blood. Sarris even submitted a genealogical chart to the federal government with this information as proof that he was a Native American of Coast Miwok and Pomo blood. The FIGR are an amalgam of both groups of Indians.


But this claim has now been proven to be UNTRUE by both a family member and the findings of a professional genealogist.  

Reinette Smith or Reinette Stewart?  Here's Reinette's Marriage Certificate, where she calls herself by her proper name, Reinette Stewart.  It's witnessed by her brother-in-law, J. W. Strange, who was married to Reinette's sister, Amanda. Why do we know this, but  Mr. Sarris doesn't?  


Now 68 year old Velia Navarro, Sarris' second cousin and herself the great granddaughter of Reinette, has exposed Sarris' claims to Native American ancestry as false. Ms. Navarro states categorically that Reinette, who was born Reinette Stewart and died Reinette Morton, was "... Irish, Scottish and German...(whose) parents were from Maine and Pennsylvania."


"I am choosing to speak out at this time because Greg Sarris isn't telling the real story of our great-grandmother Reinette Stewart Sarragossa Morton.  I loved my great-grandmother, and I simply want people to know the truth," Ms. Navarro says in a sworn Declaration.


"We're not Indians," she states firmly.


Unlike Sarris, Ms. Navarro knew Reinette, who died in 1962 when Ms. Navarro was 18 years old.  


Sarris has claimed that "Reinette Smith" was an Indian woman born in Marin County who didn't speak a word of English. Ms. Navarro, who routinely spoke with her "Grandma Reinette", states that English was the only language her great grandmother wrote and spoke.

In her four page Declaration (below), Ms. Navarro firmly dispels the myths Sarris has created, seemingly out of whole cloth, about Reinette, her first husband Arthur Sarragossa and their three children. In fact, Ms. Navarro is the granddaughter of the eldest of those three children, Juanita Sarragossa.


Sarris found the family he believes his in about 1982. Ms. Navarro, who was born in 1944, grew up knowing the family intimately, including the man Sarris believes to be his birth father, her first cousin Emilio Hilario, Jr., the son of Evelyn, the youngest of the three Sarragossa children.


It appears that Sarris knew the truth about the family, but ignored it. In the early 1990's, Sarris introduced Ms. Navarro to Indians from the Sonoma and Marin area. She relates, "He told me that these people are probably your cousins; I responded to him that they're not my cousins and we're not Indians. This made everyone in the room very uncomfortable."   


Ms. Navarro also contradicts the majority of the statements made about her family in a 2005 YouTube video of a Sarris lecture ironically entitled "Tracing His Family History: An Evening with Greg Sarris".


Ms. Navarro's oral tradition of her family history supports the 2010 research done by Stop the Casino 101 Coalition in every respect. That research is available on our web site.




STEWART FAMILY                            )          


___________________________   )


I, Velia Navarro, declare as follows:

               1. I am 68 years of age. I was born in Los Angeles in 1944, and I have lived in the Los Angeles area my entire life. My mother was Marguerite Martinez, who was the daughter of Juanita Sarragossa Martinez, who was herself the daughter of Reinette Sarragossa. 


               2. As a child and a teenager, I recall fondly my great-grandmother Reinette. When I knew her she was married to her second husband, Roy Morton. She died in 1962, when I was 18 years old, and was buried at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange. I knew Reinette well when I was growing up. I would frequently visit her at her small house on Canyon Acres Drive in Laguna Beach, next door to the home of her daughter Evelyn (my great-aunt) and her husband Emilio Hilario. I remember having long conversations with "grandma Reinette."  We always spoke in English, which as far as I am aware is the only language she spoke.


               3. My great-grandmother Reinette had three children with her first husband, Arthur Sarragossa. Arthur died long before I was born, I believe around 1926, so I never knew him. The three children were, in order from oldest to youngest, Juanita, Albert and Evelyn. I knew all three of them growing up, because the extended family would get together frequently for holidays. I grew up in Los Angeles with my mother Marguerite.. Marguerite was Juanita's daughter. Albert and his wife Dora also lived Los Angeles, and Evelyn and her family lived in Laguna Beach, next door to my great-grandmother Reinette.


               4. When I knew her, my great-grandmother Reinette was a short, heavy-set woman, standing about five feet tall. She liked to spend much time cooking. I remember that she was always well-dressed, and that she always wore a nice hat when she went outdoors. Although I never met him, I know that my great-grandfather Arthur Sarragossa had very fair skin and blue eyes. I know this both from family photos and because my grandmother Juanita, who was Arthur's daughter, told me. I also understand, from my grandmother Juanita, that Arthur was a cigar maker and originally from Tampa, Florida, and that his father was from Spain and his mother was French, although whether she herself was born in France I don't know.


               5. As I mentioned, Reinette's three children with her husband Arther were Juanita, Albert and Evelyn. I recall clearly that my grandmother Juanita had red hair and blue eyes. Albert, had dark skin, brown eyes and black hair. Evelyn had almond colored skin, medium brown hair and brown eyes, and I recall her as being slender.


               6. Notwithstanding their vastly different appearances, I never heard any hint in the family that Juanita, Albert and Evelyn were anything other than full siblings and the children of both Reinette and Arthur. The three had similar facial features even though their skin color was different.


              7. I do not recall ever discussing my great-grandmother Reinette's parents or ancestry with her. I do recall my grandmother Juanita telling me that Reinette's ancestry was Irish, Scottish and German, and that Reinette's parents were from Maine and Pennsylvania. I do remember once, as a young person, wondering whether the family had some black ancestry, based on my great-uncle Albert's appearing to be mulatto.. That got me in trouble, so I never asked about it again. I do know that, prior to Greg Sarris' arrival on the scene, nobody in the family ever suggested that we had any Indian ancestry whatsoever.


               8. I know that Reinette lived in the Los Angeles area when she was married to Arthur Sarragossa. I also know that she lived in San Francisco for a period in the 1920s and 1930s, which I believe was after Arthur died, and later moved back to Southern California. One story my mother Marguerite and my grandmother Juanita liked to tell was from the San Francisco period. They were living in a particularly hilly neighborhood of San Francisco, and Reinette's mother Emily Stewart was living with the family. My mother and grandmother told me that Emily was even shorter than Reinette, who as I mentioned only stood about five feet tall. Reinette would have Marguerite, who was a young girl at the time, about three or four years old, accompany her great-grandmother on walks, and Reinette would warn Marguerite not to take Emily running down the hills.


               9. I recall that Greg Sarris found the family at some point after Emilio Jr. had died young of coronary problems, but while Emilio Sr. was still alive. Emilio Sr. accepted Sarris into the family on the belief that he was Emilio Jr.'s son, so I have regarded Sarris as my third cousin since then. I do know that Sarris has long been focused on Indians. I recall one incident when Sarris was teaching at UCLA and living in the Hollywood Hills. This would have been in the 1990s. Sarris asked me to come over and cook dinner because he was having company. He introduced me to his guests, who were Indians from the Sonoma and Marin area. Sarris told me that these people are your cousins; I responded to him that they're not my cousins and we're not Indians. This made everyone in the room very uncomfortable.


               10. I have watched the Youtube video of Greg Sarris explaining his purported ancestry, and also read a partial transcript of that video, attached. To say that Sarris is taking great liberties with our family story is an understatement.


a. Sarris' claims about Reinette's supposed parents and grandparents are not anything that I have ever heard before. These claims were certainly not part of the family oral tradition when I was growing up.    


b. I never heard my grandmother Juanita, my great-uncle Albert or my great-aunt Evelyn, or anyone else, talk about attending the "Sherman Indian School" or running away and riding the rails to East L.A. If such colorful things had actually happened, I'm sure they would have talked about them.


c. My understanding is that Juanita, Albert and Evelyn were all born in the Los Angeles area, contrary to Sarris' inference that they were from the North Bay.


d. "Uncle Millie," as Emilio Hilario, Sr. was known to me, was a very masculine man and I simply cannot imagine him carrying around a woman's pink wallet, nor did I ever see him do so, after his wife Evelyn died.


e. This is a minor point, but I do have to comment on Sarris' assertion Evelyn "was all over" Emilio Sr. Actually, the story I heard from my mother about Emilio Hilario's courtship of Evelyn is that he would come over to the house to give her a ride in his car, and Marguerite, then a girl of about eight years old, would be sent to go riding with them as a chaperone.


f. I never heard anyone address Emilio Jr. as "chief," nor did I ever hear of anyone doing so. Emilio Jr. didn't look anything like an Indian, so there would be no reason for anyone to do so. Also, I recall hearing from my great-aunt Evelyn and my grandmother Juanita that many white girls in Laguna Beach were chasing after Emilio Jr., and that worried them because they were concerned that a young man of color could get into trouble dating white girls. I knew Emilio Jr. well. When I was a young girl, he would give me rides on his shoulders. I thought he was very handsome.


g. Arthur Sarragossa was not "Mexican and Indian." As I stated above, in the family tradition he was born in Florida, his father was Spanish and his mother was French.


               11. I understand that Linda Trujillo was quoted in an article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat published February 18, 2010. Trujillo is identified as working as a receptionist in the Graton Rancheria tribal offices in Rohnert Park. In the article Trujillo identifies herself as a granddaughter of Juanita Sarragossa. That is true, because Linda Trujillo is my younger half-sister. The article goes on to quote Trujillo as saying she "met" Juanita's mother, "'Nettie Smith,' an Indian who 'didn't speak one word of English.'" That last statement is incorrect in five different particulars. First, Reinette Sarragossa died in March 1962, several months before Linda was born in July 1962, so the two never met. Second, as I described above, English is the only language I ever heard Reinette speak. Third, I never heard anyone call her "Nettie." Fourth, her last name was not Smith. Her maiden name was Stewart, and her married names were Sarragossa and Morton. Fifth, she wasn't an Indian.


               12. I am choosing to speak out at this time because Greg Sarris isn't telling the real story of our great-grandmother Reinette Stewart Sarragossa Morton.  I loved my great-grandmother, and I simply want people to know the truth.



               I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.


Dated: September 15, 2012         ______________________________

                                                                    Velia Navarro


(This is the text-only version of Ms. Navarro's Declaration for use in this web page only. Please see the PDF version of the original document.)



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