Fuller helped establish, in 1907, what was then known as the Cherokee Indian Rancheria (a small reservation) near Tuolumne, California, where today's Black Oak Casino is located. He also formed the Tuolumne Band of Me Wuk Indians. Fuller was very interested in the welfare of the Indians in California, and served not only as chief of the Tuolumne Band of Me Wuk Indians, but also as chairman of the California Indian Federation. He testified a number of times before Congressional committees on Indian issues.
In 1937, Chief Fuller issued a proclamation revoking the grant of California to the British Crown that had been made by a previous Me Wuk Chief in 1579 as part of efforts by Sir Francis Drake. It has been reported that President Roosevelt, on seeing the proclamation, smiled for the first time in a long while. There was some concern at that time about the grant when a brass plate claiming California for Britain that had supposedly been placed by Drake had appeared the previous year. (More recent metallurgical tests have suggested that the plate is not authentic.) It is somewhat unclear how real this concern actually was, since the members of E. Clampus Vitus, known as "Clampers", have a rather whimsical frame of mind, and they may have instigated the proclamation. Chief Fuller signed the following proclamation:
Bee it knowne unto all men by their presence: Whereas, in the year of Grace of 1579, the Great Hi-oh, of the Mee-Wuks was seduced by that buccaneer, Francis Drake to deliver this land of Nova Albion to Elizabeth ye Queene, and Her successors forever. Now, therefore I the present Chief Hi-oh, of the Mee-Wuk Nation, do now revoke said grant on grounds of deceit, fraud, and failure to occupy the said domain. William Fuller, G.H. Done in the presence of E Clampus Vitus, May 29,1937.
Chief Fuller provided an alternative interpretation of the meaning of the word "Tuolumne". Mariano Vallejo, in a report to the new California State Legislature, asserted that the word is "a corruption of the Indian word talmalamne which signifies 'cluster of stone wigwams.' " The name has been reported to mean variously "people who dwell in stone houses" (caves), Many Stone Houses, or The Land of Mountain Lions. Fuller's interpretation is that Tuolumne means "Straight Up Steep". Still another interpretation, found in the book 1500 California Place Names, Their Origin and Meaning, by William Bright, is that the name is from the Indian word “taawalimni”, meaning “squirrel place.”
Fuller lived at the Rancheria and served as chief of the Tuolumne Band until his death in 1959.
The plaque memorializing Fuller was first placed at what was then the Mi Wuk Village golf course in the 1960s. When the golf course changed hands and the new owner did not want it on his property, the plaque was stored in Columbia until 2005, when the members of E. Clampus Vitus, a fraternal organization that places historical monuments in the area, placed it at its present location. It was rededicated in June, 2006, with the ceremony attended by about 100 people, including the granddaughter of Chief Fuller, Reba Fuller.
The structures shown in the photos at the left are typical of those used by the Me Wuks. These photos were taken at the Indian Village in Yosemite Valley.
The plaque reads:
In respect to the memory of Chief William Fuller 1873-1958
Who succeeded to the chieftainship of the Mi-Wuk tribe at age 15 in 1888 and until his death continued his great interest in the welfare of California Indians. A rancher, logger, rancheria chairman, weather prophet, oracle and chairman of the California Indian Federation. He was revered by all who knew him. The streets of Mi-Wuk Village today bear the names he placed up on them. Dedicated this 18th of October 1969 by Chief Fuller's brother in Matuca Charter, E. Clampus Vitus.