Throughout the 1800’s, the United States was on a mission to eradicate Indigenous nations. In the era of California’s State and Federally funded Genocide and campaign to exterminate California Native American people, Fernandeños lacked U.S. citizenship and yet, fought to defend their lands in local state courts for several decades to no avail. In the first years of its statehood, California also passed the 1851 Land Claims Act, which would pass lands into public domain that was not filed within a two-year period.
Land in northern Los Angeles County, particularly areas with natural water sources such as the Native-owned land grants, became extraordinarily valuable. The Fernandeño ancestors, who could not read or write English, lost their lands within this two-year period to encroaching settlers. Several Fernandeños had cases heard in the Los Angeles Superior Court [for example, see Porter et al v. Cota et al.] but the local state courts were against the Fernandeños’ claims to the land, which made it impossible for the San Fernando Mission Indian defendants to affirm rights to land that would have formed the foundation for a reservation.