Chronology of the Indigenous Peoples of San Diego County

This chronology documents the major events in the history of San Diego's first inhabitants--the Native Americans who were in residence before Spain sent explorers to the West Coast of the Americas, before missionaries came north from Mexico, before the Mayflower set sail for the New World, before Mexico awarded land grants to its California colonists, and before California became a part of the United States of America.

Compiled by Nancy Carol Carter, University of San Diego School of Law. For permission to use the materials contained on this page, contact her at

Top | Prehistory | 1542 - 1799 | 1800 - 1899 | 1900 - 1999 | 2000 - present


Archeological evidence shows at least 10,000 years of habitation in San Diego County.

7,500 - 3,000 years ago La Jollan people assimilate the original San Dieguito people (or evolve from them). Today's La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is neighbor to a major archeological site from this period.
2,000 - 1,000 years ago Yuman-speaking peoples intrude and assimilate La Jollan cultural group. Differentiation later develops between the San Lois Rey civilization (northwest San Diego County) and the Cuyamaca cultural groups (East County).
1,000 years ago Shoshonean-speakers migrate to San Diego area.



The Spaniard Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo lands a ship at present-day Point Loma in San Diego and claims the territory. The people already in residence shoot arrows at the intruders, according to some accounts.

Native population of San Diego area is estimated at 20,000.

Five distinguishable American Indian groups are present in San Diego County at the time of Spanish contact: Luiseno, Cahuilla, Cupeno, Kumeyaay, and Northern Diegueño.

Native peoples live in semi-permanent villages, traveling to forage for food and depending heavily on acorns, small animals, and fishing. The native people of San Diego have no beasts of burden and do not use the wheel.

1602 Sebastian Vizcaino, a wealthy merchant, undertakes an expedition at the behest of Spain's King Phillip III, sailing from Acapulco to San Diego and landing to explore. He bestows the name "San Diego."
Nov. 12, 1602 The feast day of San Diego de Alcala is celebrated on shore, becoming the first Christian religious service of record in California. After the service and a meeting, Indians appear with bows and arrows, but the encounter ends peacefully when the Spanish offer gifts.
1769 To spread Christianity and discourage potential incursions by England or Russia, the King of Spain orders the settlement of Alta California, an area claimed by Spain two centuries earlier. The San Diego area is selected for the first settlement. Land and sea parties are sent north from Mexico.
April 1769 Two ships reach San Diego bay.
May 1769 A land party of military men and Franciscan brothers arrive. Camp is established near the present site of Old Town. There is a large Indian village nearby in present-day Mission Valley.
July 1, 1769 Father Junipero Serra arrives with another land party. The Indians, he observes in a letter, treat the new arrivals with "good will."
July 16, 1769 A mission consisting of a few huts built on the site of an Indian village on Presidio Hill is dedicated. Father Serra has founded the first of the Alta California missions, San Diego de Alcala. (For a map and information on all the California missions, click here). A large Native American settlement in present-day Mission Valley and on the San Diego River can be seen from Presidio Hill.
Aug. 15, 1769 Spanish soldiers fire on a group of Indians attempting to raid the mission for cloth --a favored item.
1770 Father Serra contemplates abandoning the mission after one year of futile effort--not one Indian in San Diego has been converted to the faith. The arrival of a supply ship renews the spirits of the missionaries.
1773 76 Indians are enrolled as converts at the mission. A new mission location is sought to separate its activities from the military installation at Presidio Hill and to expand farming and livestock operations.
Oct. 1775 A new mission is completed at the site of the present-day restored structure in Mission Valley.
Nov. 1775 One month after completion, an Indian revolt totally destroys the new mission. There is no historical record of the events surrounding this missionary setback, but the Franciscan missionary effort throughout California is affected. (The revolt is described by Richard L. Carrico in this article).
July 4, 1776 The American colonies on the East Coast of North America declare independence from Great Britain.
1777 The San Diego mission is re-established and dedicated, but it is not completed until 1784.
1778 Mexican military commandant incarcerates four Pauma tribal leaders to avert further Indian organizing efforts. Famous 19th century historian H.H. Bancroft later reports their illegal execution, but current scholars contend that one leader died in custody while the other three Indians were eventually released.
1793 The English navigator, George Vancouver, deems Santa Barbara the best of the California missions and San Diego the worst after his surveying voyage along the Pacific coast of North America.
1794 With 1,405 Indians in residence, San Diego is the most populous of the California Missions.
1798 First U.S. citizens reach San Diego by walking from Baja California where they had been put off a ship (presumably for some unacceptable behavior). Father Lasuen founds the "King of the Missions," Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.

Top | Prehistory | 1542 - 1799 | 1800 - 1899 | 1900 - 1999 | 2000 - present

1800 - 1899

1800 San Diego is visited by its first U.S. ship, the Betsy.
1810 Mexicans begin their war for independence against Spain.
1812 Mexican government makes grants of "unoccupied" lands in California under the Colonization Law of 1812.
1816 Under the direction of missionaries, Kumeyaay Indian workers complete construction of a dam and flume begun in 1807 to capture San Diego River water for the use of the Mission.
1821 Mexico gains its independence from Spain and takes possession of California. Large land grants in the San Diego area are given to Mexican supporters of the revolution.
1826 Skirmish between Indians and Mexican troops in San Diego kills 28 Indians.
1827-1828 Smallpox epidemic sweeps through California Indian population.There are no statistics on Indian deaths.
1829 One observer describes San Diego as a "collection of thirty small houses" mostly occupied by retired soldiers and their families.
1832 Mexico's Act of Secularization empowers the government to sizably reduce Catholic Church land holdings. Most mission land is confiscated, in theory, for return to the Indians residing in and near the missions. In practice, large landowners gain control of most of the land, often through vast land grants. Many members of the Franciscan Order leave California.
1832-1840 Condition of mission Indians declines after secularization of the missions. A few Indians leave the missions with marketable skills, but most have no land or means of livelihood. Displaced and discontented Indians regularly raid and plunder ranchos in San Diego County.
1837-1839 Smallpox epidemic kills many Indians (no statistics of deaths compiled).
1832-1833 Malaria epidemic kills many Indians (no statistics of deaths compiled).
1835 The Mexican military abandons the Presidio at San Diego and a civil government is established in the area.
c. 1837 Indian raid kills members of the Ybarra family of San Ysidro rancho and forces Mrs. Ybarro to seek shelter at the San Diego Mission.
Late 1830s Liquor sales to San Diego Indians begins, initiating a destructive trade that flourishes throughout the Nineteenth Century.
1846 U.S. - Mexico relations deteriorate into war. In San Diego, eleven captured Mexican Rangers are killed by Indians on the advice of William Marshall (see 1851-52) that the U.S. and Mexico were at war.
1847 Mexicans surrender control of Southern California to the United States. The Kumeyaay Indian nation is split between two countries.

U.S. - Mexico hostilities end with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The United States pledges in the treaty to respect Indian land rights and not to place Indians "under the necessity of seeking new homes." California becomes a U.S. Territory.

Shortly before the Treaty is signed, the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill sparks the California gold rush. An unprecedented population boom soon overwhelms the remaining California Indians and much of their land.

Apr. 22, 1850 An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians is passed by the new California legislature. Among other provisions, Indians already settled on land are to be allowed "peaceable to reside…" and white defendants are protected from conviction of a crime based on the testimony of an Indian. Five years later the Act was amended to legally make Indians "competent witnesses" in court proceedings.
Sept. 1850

Congress authorizes three California Indian Commissioners to make treaties for the protections of the Indians and to secure their rights to land (the ineptitude of these appointees is often cited as the reason for Congressional refusal to ratify any of the treaties).

A San Diego ordinance bans the sale or distribution of liquor to Indians.


Some local Indians find employment as ship hands when San Diego becomes a port of call for schooners engaged in the flourishing whale trade.

More commonly, work is difficult to find and Indian laborers are paid one-third or less than the usual wage. Gradually, some Indian women gravitate to domestic service.

Nov. 1851 Indians under the leadership of Antonio Garra revolt at Warner's Ranch and burn the ranch house and stage station. Other area disturbances result in the killing of nine white men by Indians. Indians are resisting white intrusions on Indian lands and the efforts of San Diego's first sheriff to collect taxes from the Indians.

The "Garra Revolt" continues briefly until the arrest of its leaders.

Antonio Garra, chief of the Cupenas, is executed before a firing squad after being found guilty of treason, murder, and theft in the aftermath of his efforts to organize Warner's Ranch area Indians.

William Marshall, former renegade sailor from Providence, R.I. and a son-in-law of Chief Antonio Garra since 1844, is hanged in Old Town after being found guilty of treason and murder in connection with the Indian uprising at Warner's Ranch.

San Diego Grand Jury recommends removal of Indian rancherias near white settlements since they are "an eyesore" and inhabited by "idle and pilfering Indians", " the remnants of a degenerate age." Over the next few years, Indians are pushed into canyons and other uninhabited areas.

Treaty of Temecula is concluded between Indians and the U.S. government, but the treaty was never ratified.

A federal agent proposes the first Indian reservation for San Diego County.

1852-1853 San Diego Herald reports and editorializes on a series of brutal rapes of Indian women.

San Diego County organized under the State of California.

Indians suspected of a murder are seized by vigilanties and two are hanged in Old Town without a trial.

1860 Census lists 2,692 Indians in San Diego County (the total Indian population was probably closer to 4,000). Temecula had the largest concentration of Indians counted in the census.
1861-1863 San Diego experiences a smallpox epidemic, raising future fears that Indians in the area will spread the disease.
July 7, 1862 The San Diego City Council orders the sheriff to remove "the Indian rancheria" one-half mile from any town residence. Newspapers carry stories of Indian alcoholism, petty crimes, and unemployment.
1865 First large-scale contribution to the welfare of San Diego Indians made by the federal government in the form of farming tools and melon, pumpkin, corn, and bean seeds.
1867 Alonzo E. Horton buys what is now downtown San Diego and lays out "Horton's Addition." Four years later, the county records are moved from Old Town to "New Town" San Diego.
1868 The federal Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California bemoans the inaction of Congress in failing to establish an Indian reservation in San Diego.
1869 The San Francisco Alta newspaper reports that 22,000 California Indians have died in less than 20 years from disease and deprivation.
1870 President Ulysses S. Grant signs an Executive Order creating San Diego's first Indian reservations, the San Pasqual and Pala reserves. A San Diego Union editorial encourages a fight against the reservation, branding it a swindle and as needlessly generous to the Indians.
1874 Special Commissioner on Mission Indians meets with San Diego community leaders, winning increased support for plans to "solve the Indian problem" by establishing Indian land claims and building churches and schools to "civilize" and "uplift" the Indians.
June 1875 A field report written to the Indian Affairs Commissioner by a Special Agent states that of all the places he visited, the Indians were most rapidly being dispossessed of their lands in Southern California.
Dec. 27, 1875 Pala reservation established by Executive Order.
1875 President Grant signs an Executive Order setting aside land in San Diego County and later allowing the establishment of reservations for the Santa Ysabel, Pala, Sequan (also spelled Sycuan), La Jolla, Rincon, Viejas, and Capitan Grande bands.
1877 Severe San Diego drought results in attacks on Indians holding water resources.
May 3, 1877 Part of the land set aside for San Diego County Indians by President Grant in 1875 is withdrawn from Indian use and restored to general settlement. Reservations consist of approximately 60,000 acres.
July 31, 1877

San Diego Indians lose an effective leader and advocate with the death of Olegario Sali, who enjoyed the support of tribal groups throughout the area after emerging from a long power struggle with Manuel Cota, perceived as an Indian leader too ready to capitulate when pressed for land sessions.

Olegario's death ends the San Diego pan-Indian movement. His successor, Jose Chanate, is not a strong leader and tribal groups isolate at the local clan level.

1881 Mrs. Crothers establishes the first Indian school in San Diego. The San Diego Union lauds this effort to "instruct these young heathen."
1882 A charitable group, the Indian Aid Society, is organized in San Diego to educate Indian children. A local Catholic priest, Father Antonio Ubach, appeals to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet who send four nuns to open Our Lady of Peace school in downtown San Diego.
1883 Crusading journalist Helen Hunt Jackson visits San Diego Indian tribes, having been dispatched by President Chester A. Authur to report on the plight of Mission Indians after publishing her attack on federal Indian policy, A Century of Dishonor. Jackson reports destitute conditions in Indian villages, often due to illegal land grabs by new settlers. Shocked by the finding of "justifiable homicide" in the murder of an Indian by a whte man, she writes that it is "easy to see that killing of Indians is not a very dangerous thing to do in San Diego County."
1883 Helen Hunt Jackson publishes the novel Ramona, a tale of cross-cultural romance set near San Diego. While intended to further a reformist agenda, the book reinforces stereotypes and stirs more tourist and real estate interest in Southern California than consciousness about the plight of its native inhabitants.
June 19, 1883 Mesa Grande Reservation of 120 acres established by Executive Order.
1885 California Southern Railroad gives San Diego its first rail connection with the East, and the population booms to 40,000 within two years.
1886 Father Antonio Ubach continues to work for the education of Indians in San Diego, opening St. Anthony's Industrial School for Indians in Old Town under a contract with the federal government. Another large Indian school is operating in Banning.
1888 California Supreme Court decides the case of Byrne v. Alas, and sets out the confusing history of Southern California lands continuously used and occupied by Indians, but subject to Spanish land grants, Mexican grants, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and United States land laws. Byrne, a San Diego resident, attempted to eject from land Antonio Alas and about 20 other Mission Indians. The Supreme Court finds in favor of Indian's claim of an occupancy right to the land. (See 1899.)

Congress enacts the Relief for the Mission Indians Act to create reservations for all the California Indians who had been forced off their lands.

Congressional act authorized the creation of San Diego Indian Reservations.

Aug. 18, 1892 Pauma/Yuima Indian Reservation established under authorizing congressional legislation of 1891. A very small percentage of the mountainous reservation is usable land.
Sept. 13, 1892 La Jolla Reservation established under authorizing congressional legislation of 1891.
1892 Father Antonio Ubach, a Catholic pastor in San Diego since 1866, organizes a downtown Discovery Day Celebration, commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Cabrillo Landing. Local Indians are recruited to participate and to smoke a peace pipe with the actor playing Cabrillo.
1893 Several San Diego County reservations are established under authorizing Congressional legislation of 1891: Campo, Cuyapaipe, La Posta, Manzanita, Rincon, Pauma and Yuima.

Escondido builds a diversion dam on the San Luis Rey River on La Jolla Indian Reservation land, in addition to a canal, to supply Escondido with water.

(See 1924, 1951, 1969, 1996, Jan. 18, 2001.)

1899 In a land case similar to Byrne v. Alas (decided in 1888) the California Supreme Court finds material differences and rejects an Indian claim to San Diego land based on the right of occupancy (Harvey v. Barker).

Top | Prehistory | 1542 - 1799 | 1800 - 1899 | 1900 - 1999 | 2000 - present


1900 Total Indian population in California drops to about 16,500 (11,800 of this number are considered "landless").
1901 U.S. Supreme Court ruling backs eviction of the Cupa people from their ancestral homeland at Warner Springs, leading to a forced removal two years later.
May 27, 1902 Congress appropriates $100,000 to purchase land in Southern California for Mission Indians and to relocate them to the new land holdings.
1903 The Cupenos are forcibly transported to the Pala reservation by Indian agents in a three-day "Trail of Tears" and settled among the distinctly different Luiseño people with whom they eventually become integrated.
1905 Information about all the federal treaties negotiated with California tribes in the 19th Century, but never ratified, become more widely known, prompting sympathy with the plight of California tribes in some circles.
July 1, 1910 San Pasqual Reservation established under authority of an 1891 congressional act.
1912 A small reservation is created for San Diego's Jamul Band of Mission Indians when the San Diego Diocesan Office of Apostolic Ministry deeds 2.34 acres to create the Jamul Indian Village. Four acres are later added by donation from the Daley Corporation.
1915 - 1916 San Diego hosts the Panama-California Exposition and creates many of the buildings in present-day Balboa Park. An "Indian Village" at the Exposition bypasses San Diego and California native cultures to focus on Indians of the Southwest. Pueblo, Hopi, Apache and other tribes are represented. Click here for Richard Amero's description of the exhibit.
June 1919 Congress allocates funds for irrigation systems on the La Jolla Reservation ($6,000) and the Pala Reservation ($4,500). 41 U.S. Statutes at Large 3 (1919).
1924 The agricultural economy of the Luiseño Indians on the La Jolla and Rincon reservations is destroyed when the city of Escondido builds a new dam on the San Luis Rey River, diverting all the water from reservation lands (See 1895, 1951, 1969, 1996).

The agricultural economy of Kumeyaay Indians living on ancestral lands on the Capitan Grande Reservation--already diminished by a city diversion of the San Diego River to Lake Cuyamaca--never recovers after residents are forced off their lands to make way for the city of San Diego's El Capitan Dam and its reservoir.

Kumeyaay Indians from the Capitan Grande Reservation are split into two groups when moved off their reservation and retain a joint trust-patent for 15,000 acres of reservation land. One band moves to the Barona Valley; the other to the Viejas Valley. The new areas prove too dry for a renewal of traditional farming livelihoods.

Now famous San Diego architect Irving Gill wins a federal contract to design low-cost homes and a church for the relocated Barona Indians (moved to accommodate the El Capitan dam and reservoir). Although modified in design, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church remains.

1934 Presidential Executive Order establishes a new reservation for the Viejas Band when San Diego displaces the tribe by building a reservoir on tribal land.
June 18, 1934 Jamul Indian Village is recognized as a community under the federal Indian Reorganization Act.
Feb. 1936

Congress extends federal trust period over lands of the Pala Band of Mission Indians for an additional ten years, with the option for further trust extenions.

49 U.S. Statutes at Large 1106-07 (1936).

April 1937 Congress adds two small lots of public land to the Barona Ranch land tract purchased for the relocated Capitan Grande Band of Mission Indians who were moved from their original lands to accommodate a new dam and reservoir. 50 U.S. Statutes at Large 72 (1937).
Aug. 1941 Congress adds some public land to the Rincon Indian Reservation. 55 U.S. Statutes at Large 622 (1941).
1951 Luiseño Indians of San Diego file a claim for stolen reservation water, gaining a hearing in 1973 before the Federal Power Commission and eventually settling out of court in 1985.
Feb. 1958 Interstate Highway 8 opens in San Diego County, following ancient Indian trails through Mission Valley.
May 1961 Without compensation, Congress removes two-thirds of an acre of land from the Pala Reservation, conveying ownership to the Diocese of San Diego Education and Welfare Corporation to be used for educational purposes. 75 U.S. Statutes at Large 79 (1961).
1965 Archeological dig begins at the Presidio Hill near the USD campus and above Old Town, eventually revealing foundations and artifacts from the earliest Spanish inhabitation of the 1700s.
1969 The La Jolla Band sues the cities of Escondido and Vista to recover water diverted from Reservation lands in 1895 and 1924.
Oct. 14, 1971 Indian Reorganization Act Constitution and Bylaws approved by the San Pasqual Band.

A Presidential Executive Order transfers 3,000 acres of San Diego County mountain wilderness from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to be held in trust for the Pala Band of Mission Indians. In the same year, 5,627 additional acres of San Diego wilderness are transferred from the Bureau into trust for the Pauma Band of Mission Indians.

Ewiiaapaayp (Cuyapaipe) Band adopts a tribal constitution.

La Posta Band approves a tribal constitution.

1974 A fire department is established on the Sycuan Reservation.

A satellite campus of D-Q university, a non-profit, accredited institution offering a two-year higher educational program, opens on the Sycuan Reservation.

Viejas Band establishes Ma Tar-Awa Recreational Vehicle Park and Camp, its first economic development project.

July 13, 1975 The Campo Tribe adopts the Campo Constitution by community vote.
1976 The Health Clinic and Community Center is opened on the Sycuan Reservation, in cooperation with six other reservations. California Indian Legal Services opens an office in Escondido to serve Native Americans in seven Southern California counties who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.
Jan. 9, 1976 Indian Reorganization Act Constitution and Bylaws approved by the Manzanita Band.
1979 The San Diego American Indian Heath Center is established as a non-profit American Indian-governed corporation to provide culturally appropriate services to American Indians living in metropolitan San Diego. Click here to visit the Center's website.
1981 Jamul Indian Village obtains reservation status and officially adopts a constitution.

Anthony Pico is elected tribal chairman of the San Diego the Viejas Band and subsequently becomes a national voice in Native American affairs, particularly on the matter of Indian gaming.

Southern Indian Health Council incorporates as a non-profit, public benefit organization, eventually serving a seven-member tribal consortium including Barona, Campo, Ewiiaapaayp (Cuyapaipe Band), Jamul, La Posta, Manzanita, and Viejas.

1983 Barona Band establishes the first tribal bingo hall in California, expanding to a "Big Top" in 1994.
Nov. 1983 Sycuan Band opens a Bingo Hall, expanded in 2000 and 2001.
1984 The Rincon Band of Indians opens a bingo parlor under a canvas tent but ultimately fail to make their gaming operation a success (see 1997).
1985 Pauma/Yuima Reservation plants a five-acre commercial avocado grove and later expands agricultural business with orange and lemon production.
1988 Congress enacts the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to bring tribal gaming under a regulatory structure and to give state governments added control over the types of casino-style games allowed on reservations. The Act affirms that gaming revenues belong to the tribes, but provides a means for states to negotiate for a share of the revenue. States subsequently secure revenue shares ranging from 7% to 25% of gross Indian gaming revenues.
Jan 25, 1988 Bureau of Land Management transfers 238.15 acres of land to the Mesa Grande Band that remains unusable because the tribe lacks a legal right of access to the land.
Nov. 17, 1988 In an act to settle water rights, Congress states its findings that "the La Jolla, Rincon, San Pasqual, Pauma, and Pala Bands of Mission Indians on or near the San Luis Rey River in San Diego… need a reliable source of water. Diversions of water from the San Luis Rey River… commenced in the early 1890s…"

The U.S. Census measures California's Native American population as 242,000, second only to the state of Oklahoma. Many in this count are not native to California, but migrants from other states. For a map showing the Native American population density of Metropolitan San Diego, click here.

El Ch'Qua-Nun Community Library established on the Santa Ysabel Reservation.

1991 Viejas Casino opens on the Viejas Reservation, creating 80 jobs initially; expanded casino employs 2,400 workers.

San Diego native groups successfully protest a plan by the Catholic Diocese of San Diego to add a hall to the Mission San Diego de Alcala that would have covered an ancient Indian village dating back to 700 A.D. and containing 85,000 artifacts and bones.

Native Cultures Institute begins organizing cross-border travel to reunite members of tribes split by international boundaries, including the Kumeyaay of San Diego and Baja, Mexico.

American Indian Culture Center Museum is proposed for Balboa Park in San Diego, but is years away from opening.

Local advocates convince the Catholic Diocese to abandon construction of a hall at Mission San Diego de Alcala that would have covered an ancient Indian village dating back to 700 A.D. and containing thousands of artifacts and bones.

1993 California Journal reports Native American household income is $15,000 lower than average white household.

Barona Band completes an expansion of its tribal gaming facilities.

The Native American Environmental Protection Coalition (NAEPC) is founded in Southern California to share common concerns and bring a team effort to the protection, preservation, and restoration of the environment. NAEPC is headquartered in Valley Center (760) 751-8686.

Rincon Reservation establishes a Head Start preschool to serve children of the Rincon, San Pasqual, Pala, and Pauma reservations. Five years later the program receives recognition as a top Head Start program by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Nov. 1994 Unable to secure a permit to build a landfill and recyling center in Gregory Canyon, private investors place Proposition C on the ballot and win voter approval for a zoning variance in a $500,000 campaign. Landfill opposition was unsuccessfully mounted by a coalition of environmentalists, government officials, and Indian tribes, who argued that the landfill would be too near the San Luis Rey River and the Pala Reservation and would pollute the groundwater and threaten sites some Indians considered sacred, along with the local eagle population (see Sept. 2000, Nov. 2004).
Sept. 7, 1995 The La Jolla Band adopts a tribal constitution.

A special California State Senate committee report concludes that Indians in California receive less consideration in state policy making than Indians in other states.

A complicated settlement of the 1969 La Jolla Band's law suit for water rights in the San Luis Rey river is proposed. Under the agreement, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Los Angeles would get use of federal dams on the Colorado River in return for providing water to the Indians. The MWD and San Diego County cities would pay the tribes millions of dollars for all the years that water was diverted from the Reservation (since 1895).

The Jamul Indian tribe makes news with a tribal feud over whether to start a gaming operation on their tiny reservation.

Viejas tribe buys a controlling interest in the Borrego Springs Bank and also purchases the 32-acre Alpine Recreational Vehicle Park.

Sept. 1996 A nation-wide alert is issued for three priceless Indian artifacts stolenfrom the Santa Ysabel Indian Mission museum. A Kumeyaay Indian ceremonial staff, a Bible brought from Spain in the 1700s, and a silver-threaded priest's stole were taken.

Viejas Indians begin major investment diversification, using tribal gaming funds to build an entertainment and shopping complex.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, gaming tribes in San Diego make charitable donations of nearly $5 million annually, provide 4,000 jobs in the county, and pay $5.5 million in payroll taxes.

Federal indictments charge a Rincon Band tribal official with bribery in acase involving one of the few instances nationally of organized crimepenetrating an Indian gaming operation.

The Kumeyaay Cultural Repatriation Committee is formed, with representatives from 12 Kumeyaay bands in the San Diego area, to work with museums and universities in the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Committee contact is through the Barona tribal offices at (619) 443-6612.

The La Posta Band establishes the La Posta Environmental Protection Agency.

Barona, Sycuan, and Viejas tribes underwrite a series of articles on San Diego's Native Americans published in San Diego Magazine.


A Kumeyaay Border Task Force works with federal immigration officials to secure the rights of Baja, Mexico, Indians to freely visit and interact with Kumeyaay in the U.S. The tribe was divided by political boundaries at the end of the Mexican War. (See 1847 and 1848.)

After years of fruitless negotiation with Governor Pete Wilson, several California tribes go directly to the public for approval of a gaming compact allowing casino-style games on Indian reservations. Proposition 5 is enacted by 63% of the vote, but the campaign sets records for spending, exceeding $100 million. Law suits are immediately filed to invalidate the effect of Proposition 5. Click here for more information on Proposition 5, including pro and con arguments.

San Diego Archaeological Center opens to display 10,000 years of spear points, pottery, carved bones and other historical relics salvaged from excavations.

June 23, 1998 Anthony Reed, a Rincon Reservation resident, is shot and killed on the Reservation by a San Diego County Sheriff's Deputy. The district attorney rules the shooting "justifiable and not unlawful," but the incident raises questions about policing on local reservations.
1999 Viejas Education Center opens on Viejas Reservation to provide a variety of educational services to tribal members.
Mar. 1999 Viejas tribal chairman Anthony Pico delivers the first "state of the tribe" public address, announcing that "tribes are governments and that [the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians] are not an extinct people or a stagnant culture."
Apr. 1999 The Mesa Grande tribe organizes a fire department.
May 1999 Representatives of local tribes learn more about the use of technology to help revive and preserve natural and cultural resources at a Tribal History and New Technology conference at the University of California San Diego.
July 1999 President Bill Clinton becomes the first American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to visit an Indian Reservation. Several months later, Governor Gray Davis and several aides make a rare gubernatorial appearance at an Indian pow-pow on a California reservation.
Aug. 1999 The Southern Indian Health Council opens the first residential treatment center for drug and alcohol addicted Indian teens on the La Posta Indian Reservation.
Aug 8, 1999 The California Supreme Court prohibits the governor from implementing Proposition 5 through its decision in the case of Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union v. Gray Davis. The Court found the popularly approved proposition to be in conflict with a California State Constitutional provision prohibiting casinos of the type operating in Nevada and New Jersey.
Sept. 10, 1999

California Governor Gray Davis signs a "model" tribal gaming compact allowing Indian gaming to expand within certain limits. The number of automated gaming devices per tribe is controlled, labor agreements are required, and payments to the State of California ranging from 7% to 13% of gaming revenue (after paying winners) is required. Provision is made for amending the State Constitution to remove the prohibition on casino style gambling.

Nine San Diego tribes without gaming operations sign the compact or a letter of intent to sign, including the Campo, Cuyapaipe (now called Eqiiaapaayp), Jamul, La Jolla, Manzanita, Mesa Grande, Pala, Rincon, and the San Pasqual tribes.

Dec. 1999 Claiming the right to develop a portion of the former Naval Training Center in San Diego, a coalition of San Diego Kumeyaay Indian tribes files suit against the U.S. Departments of Defense and Interior and the City of San Diego. A Kumeyaay redevelopment proposal identifying the site as an ancestral homeland was earlier rejected by a city panel named to select a developer for the training site which closed as a military installation in 1997.

Top | Prehistory | 1542 - 1799 | 1800 - 1899 | 1900 - 1999 | 2000 - present

2000 - Present


Internal conflicts within the Rincon tribe boil to the surface as one group questions the validity of tribal membership (requiring a one-eighth blood quantum) for some newly elected members of the tribal council.

SDSU and UCSD scientists cooperate to create a solar-powered, high-speed wireless network to link remote research sites and provide fast interent service for isolated tribal reservations in eastern San Diego County.

Jan. 2000

Barona Tribe opens the first museum on a San Diego Indian reservation, Barona Cultural Center & Museum. The exhibits showcase the artistry, science, and skill of Southern California Indians, with emphasis on the Native people of San Diego. Click here for the opening day program, which descibes the musuem's holdings.

Hoping to overcome past unsuccessful and scandal-ridden gaming ventures, the Rincon Tribe announces a partnership with Harrah's Entertainment to build and operate a $100 million casion on its reservation near Escondido.

Mar. 2000

California voters end years of debate and legal battles over casino-style Indian gaming by enacting Proposition 1A, a constitutional amendment removing the legal impediment resulting in the overturn of Proposition 5 (a gaming initative enacted in 1998 but overturned by the California Supreme Court).

Members of the Pala, Pauma, La Jolla, and Perchanga Bands protest a proposed landfill in North San Diego County at Gregory Canyon, near sacred sites of the Luiseño culture. Proposals are made by the developers to mitigate the incursion.

May 2000

A federal judge rejects the ancestral land claim of a coalition of San Diego Kumeyaay Indian tribes (see Dec. 1999) removing one barrier to the development of former Naval Training Center land in the city of San Diego.

Bureau of Indian Affairs signs off on 60 California tribal-state gaming compacts, including several from San Diego County. The Sycuan Tribe is named as a contender in the multi-million dollar bidding war for naming rights to the planned San Diego Padre downtown ballpark. No other Indian tribe has purchased the right to name a sports facility, but the Sycuan Tribe paid to attach its name to the Padre's year 2000 season. An independent environmental assessment, funded by the tribe, finds that a planned $90 million casino on the Pala Reservation in North San Diego County will not overburden the roads or the surrounding community.

The San Luis Rey Band leases the acre-and-a-half surrounding Indian Rock, a traditional ceremonial spot sacred to the Luiseño people, and later cooperates with California State University, San Marcos in a native garden restoration project at the site.

Sept. 2000 Reluctant to overturn voter approval, Gov. Gray Davis vetoes a bill that would have nullified Proposition C (a 1994 ballot proposition that approved a commercial landfill at Gregory Mountain, considered sacred land by the Pala Tribe) (see Nov. 1994, Nov. 2004).
Sept. 25, 2000 The Sycuan Band signs a "Cooperative Agreement" with the County of San Diego to fund mitigation of the traffic impact of its casino; later, the Band also contributes $247,700 to widen a road near Dehesa Elementary School.
Oct. 2000

With no tribal consultation, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors issues a Report on the Potential Impacts of Tribal Gaming on Northern and Eastern San Diego County, predicting that reservation casinos will provide economic gains while creating a variety of traffic and environmental problems (see April 2003).

Viejas celebrates the grand opening of a $17 million expansion of its shopping center.

Nov. 2000 The Sycuan Band replaces its original bingo hall structure with a casino.
Dec. 2000 Congress enacts the California Indian Land Transfer Act, which adds 5.03 acres of former public land to the Barona Reservation for non-gaming purposes; 428 acres to the Cuyapaipe Reservation (all new lands being steep slopes and ridges of the Laguna Mountains); 1,000.78 acres to the Manzanita Reservation; and 59.20 acres to the Pala Reservation for non-gaming purposes.
Jan. 2001

The Barona Tribal Casino is named one of the "Best Companies to Work for in San Diego County", by the San Diego Business Journal and the Ken Blanchard Companies.

The Barona Creek Golf Course opens.

An interim casino opens on the Rincon reservation (see August 2002).

Jan. 18, 2001 The Secretary of the Interior signs an agreement that restores water rights to the La Jolla, Pala, Pauma, Rincon, and San Pasqual Bands after years of litigation over the diversion of the San Luis Rey River by the City of Escondido, the Escondido Mutual Water Company, and the Vista Irrigation District. Water and compensation are not expected to flow for several more years, but the tribes form the San Luis Rey Indian Water Authority (SLRIWA) to handle both streams.
Mar. 2001

The Barona Reservation joins efforts to regenerate stands of the rare Englemann Oak and the Coast Live Oak by planting trees from the Cara's Oaks Foundation.

The Rincon Band and the County of San Diego sign a "Memorandum of Agreement" to mitigate the traffic impact of the new casino, with Rincon agreeing to fund $7 million in improvements.

Apr. 13, 2001 The Pala Casino and Entertainment Center opens on the Pala Reservation, offering 1,500 new jobs.
April 18, 2001 The San Pasqual Valley View Casino opens on the San Pasqual Reservation, creating 430 new jobs.
May 2001 The Sycuan Band signs an agreement to purchase the Singing Hills Resort and Country Club.
May 15, 2001 The Pauma Casino opens on the Pauma & Yuima Reservation.
June 2001

La Jolla tribal elder, former tribal chairman, and Luiseño language speaker Henry Rodriguez is awarded an honorary degree by California State University, San Marcos.

Representatives of tribal libraries in Southern California convene at California State University, San Marcos, to organize as the Tierra Del Sol Tribal Libraries Group.

June 19, 2001 The San Pasqual Band signs a cooperative agreement with the San Diego County to mitigate the traffic impacts of its casino with over $6 million in improvements.
July 11, 2001 The Pauma/Yuima band signs an agreement with San Diego County to pay almost $1.5 million to mitigate the traffic impact of its casino.
August 15, 2001 The Golden Acorn Casino is opened by the Campo Tribe.
Sept. 2001 The Kumeyaay Cultural Website is created to offer information on tribal groups in San Diego County and Baja.
Oct 12, 2001 The Campo Tribe opens the Campo Truck and Travel Center.
Nov. 2001

The Sycuan Band opens its $65 million casino expansion.

The Sycuan Reservation is enlarged by 89.15 acres when the Secretary of the Interior places the Big Oak and Bradley Ranch properties in federal trust.

Dec.17, 2001 The U.S. Government accepts 882.80 acres of land in trust for the Mesa Grande Band.
May 20, 2002 The La Jolla Band opens a small slot machine arcade in the La Jolla Indian Trading post, near the tribe's water park, campground, racetracks, and gas station.
Aug. 8, 2002 Harrah's Rincon Casino & Resort opens on the Rincon Reservation, creating 1,300 new jobs.
Sept. 2002

Frances Shaw, Manzanita Reservation Chairwoman from 1980-1998 and nationally known Indian health advocate, dies. She is credited with bringing electricity, telephone service, new housing, and improved roads to her reservation.

The Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center (a six acre hill site once occupied by Indians) is dedicated after preservation efforts by the City of Poway.

Oct. 2002 The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), for the first time in its existence, invites Indian tribal government leaders to a meeting.
Dec. 2002

The Barona Valley Resort & Casino, a $260 million project, is completed on the Barona Reservation, creating up to 3,000 jobs.

Barona began exploring the possibility of creating a pipeline that would transport water from the neighboring San Vicente Reservoir. Residents neighboring the Barona Indian Reservation claim that they are suffering water shortages because of the Barona Valley Ranch Resort. Barona officials maintain that the water shortages are not due to the tribe's activities since they are on a separate aquifer from their neighbors.

Jan. 2003

A leading U.S. expert on the San Diego tribes, anthropologist and tribal rights advocate Florence Connolly Shipek, dies at age 84.

Newly appointed San Diego Chief of Police William Lansdowne addresses the Council of American Indian Organizations of San Diego County.

A new building for the Head Start Program is dedicated on the Rincon Reservation.

The Viejas Reservation completes the last connection to a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility.

Mar. 6, 2003 The Viejas Tribe partners with the Four Fires Corporation and Marriott to break ground on a hotel in Washington, D.C., near the future National Museum of the American Indian.
April 2003 San Diego County issues its Update on Impact of Tribal Economic Development Projects in San Diego, which contains extensive facts about each tribe and discusses the evolving relationship between county and tribal governnments (see Oct. 2000)
June 2003

Reservation neighbors blame water usage on the Barona Reservation for a drop in nearby ground water levels.

The Barona Tribe and the City of San Diego continue negotations on the construction of a 1.5 mile pipeline on tribal and city right-of-ways that would carry water from the San Vicente Rservoir to the reservation. Barona also looks for water from tribes owning Colorado River water rights.

The Barona Reservatiton hosts an Indigenous California Language Survival Workshop.

Aug. 2003 The Pala Tribe opens a 500-room hotel at the Pala Casino.
Sept. 2003 Destructive wildfires ravage San Diego County, with 25,000 acres on 14 of the 18 Indian reservations burned and 700 reservation residents left homeless. Particularly hard hit were San Pasqual (entire acreage burned), Rincon (75% burned), and Barona (47 homes lost).
Dec. 2003 The Sycuan Band purchases the U.S. Grant Hotel for $45 million.
2004 The impoverished Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueño Indians completes plans for a small casino.
Mar 2004

The Tribal Digital Village, a wireless network for remote San Diego reservations, is completed; 25 computer learning labs begin operation.

The San Diego County Indian gaming Local Community Benefit Committee (IGLCBC) holds its first meeting. The Committee will award grants from the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund to mitigate the impact of tribal gaming. Money is to be contributed by the Barona, Sycuan, and Viejas tribes under original compacts and in fiscal year 2004-05, amounted to $4.15 million.

June 9, 2004 The Rincon Band files suit against Gov. Schwarzenegger, claiming the gaming compact negotiations he initiated are unconstitutional and unfair; the tribe's request for an immediate restraining order is denied.
June 22, 2004

Gov. Schwarzenegger and five California tribes, including the Pala, Pauma, and Viejas tribes of San Diego County, sign new gaming compacts. These new compacts lift slot machine limits and guarantee a tribal monopoly on casino gambling while providing the state of California a larger share of revenue. Tribes also offer concessions on sovereign immunity and the organization of casino labor.

Sycuan is among the California tribes willing to offer the state a bigger share of gaming profits, but holds out against concessions that--in their view--compromise tribal sovereignty.

July 2004

The La Jolla Reservation cooperates with U.C., San Diego to host "Young Native Scholars" being introduced to scientific environmental work; Young Native Scholars is an academic outreach and support program aimed at attracting more reservation students to higher education.

The Morongo and San Manuel Bands of Mission Indians donate $2 million to Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild homes on the San Pasqual Reservation that were burned in a September 2003 wildfire.

Aug 19, 2004 Five more California tribes, including the Ewiiaapaayp (Cuyapaipe Band) of San Diego County, sign new gaming compacts with the state. These compacts win the state concessions on environmental and labor issues, in addition to up to 25% of gaming profits
Sept. 2004 The Santa Ysabel Tribe receives a HUD grant to bring electricity to parts of the reservation for the first time.
Oct. 2004 San Diego County creates the new position of Tribal Liaison to enhance "communication, cooperation, and coordination between the County and the Indian Nations in San Diego County".
Nov. 2004

The San Diego ballot includes Proposition B, which would have overturned a 1994 vote that approved a private landfill in Gregory Canyon. The nearby Pala Band bankrolled the new proposition, with support from the Sierra Club, River Watch, the cities of Oceanside and Encinitas, and other landfill opponents (see Sept. 2000, Nov. 1994).

The California ballot also included 2 gaming initiatives that failed to pass:

  • Proposition 70 was a tribally-sponsored measure that would have expanded the number of allowable slot machines and offered the state a payment equivalent to the corporate tax rate. 76% of voters opposed this proposition.
  • Proposition 68 was sponsored by a coalition of card clubs and racetracks, and it would have required that every California gaming tribe make a state contribution of 25% as a condition of retaining the exclusive right to run casinos; absent unanimous tribal agreement to this level of contribution, card clubs and racetracks could have installed slot machines. This Proposition failed to pass with 83% of voters opposing it.
2005 Viejas tribal government begins organizational steps to create a judicial branch and the first tribal court in San Diego County.
April 2005 A dispute erupts among the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians when 212 persons are added to the tribal membership roll. Physical confrontations, protests, efforts to recall tribal leaders, and a law suit (see entry for Dec. 2005 below) flow from the controversy.
June 2005

The Yurok and Quechan tribes, two of the state's largest tribes, sign gaming compacts with the state. A 13-member tribal alliance that includes some San Diego tribes oppose the compacts, fearing that they contain ill-advised labor concessions and excessive revenue sharing amounts.

The Barona Tribal Council gives neighboring property owners permission to use a reservation road, which providesthe only access to their land. Residents used the road for decades, but a recent survey deemed the road to be on tribal land.

July 2005

Sycuan tribe donates $5.47 million to establish the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation Institute on Tribal Gaming at San Diego State University.

The Native American Off Shore Cultural Protection Project, a pilot program to protect submerged Native American artifacts located along the Southern California coastline, is created. Operated in partnership between the Western Alliance for Nature and the Kumeyaay/Diegueno Nation in San Diego, the program aims to educate the public about the cultural significance of these sites and to prohibit looting.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs approves a plan for the La Jolla Indian band to build a water bottling plant on Palomar Mountain . A "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI) on the project was issued by the BIA on July 7. Click here for more information.

July-Aug. 2005 Sewage treatment failures on the Campo Indian Reservation garners unwelcome publicity and prompts the tribe to institute immediate corrective action and to promise implementation of highest industry standards and oversight by the Campo EPA.
Dec. 2005 San Diego U.S. District Court dismisses a case involving membership in the San Pasqual Indian band, thereby refusing to intervene in a bitter enrollment dispute.
Dec. 10 2005 Jamul Indian Reservation holds ceremonial groundbreaking for a tribal casino.
Dec. 22 2005 State of California notifies Jamul tribe that it is in "material breach" of its gaming compact.
Jan. 2006 Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino opens marketing office in San Gabriel to attract high-end customers in the Los Angeles area.
Jan. 11 2006 La Posta Reservation holds groundbreaking for a tribal casino.
June 2006 Sycuan tribal police receives official recognition as a federal law enforcement authority by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Aug. 25 2006 The Jamul Indian Reservation issues a draft Tribal Environmental Impact Statement for its planned 12-story casino and hotel. The report analyzes 16 environmental issues, concluding that effects can be satisfactorily mitigated. Opponents fear increased traffic and adverse affect on the rural nature of the community. Click here to view the Environmental Impact Statement.
Sept. 2006 The Jamul Indian Village votes to disenroll over a fifth of the band's members. Many of those disenrolled claimed that act stemmed from a desire to reduce the pool of members who would get dividends from the planned casino. Jamul officers say that they were merely complying with the requirements of the tribal constitution. Click here for more information.

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