CILS Receives $55,000 Donation from San Manuel Band’s 21st Annual Golf Tournament

Pictured: San Manuel Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena, San Manuel Business Committee Member Audrey Martinez, CILS Chairman of the Board Mark Romero, CILS Executive Director Dorothy Alther, and San Manuel Business Committee Member Jamie Barron

On July 16th and July 17th, over 600 golfers teed off at the Pelican Hill Resort Club in Newport Beach for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians’ 21st Annual Golf Tournament. Each year the San Manuel Tribe sponsors the golf tournament to raise money for charitable organizations. This year the tournament raised over $275,000.00 and was distributed to five nonprofits serving and advancing Native American causes. California Indian Legal Services was selected for a charitable award, along with the: Chief Seattle Club from Washington, Haskell Foundation from Kansas, California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, and Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Each nonprofit received $55,000.

San Manuel Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena said: “These five organizations are dedicated to improving the lives of so many Native American communities across the nation, and we are so proud to be in a position where we can help. The tournament is just one of the many ways San Manuel embodies a culture of giving back.”

CILS’ Executive Director Dorothy Alther, Chairman of the Board Mark Romero, and Director of Marketing and Development Nicole Scott, attended the tournament, reception, and awards ceremony.

“CILS is extremely grateful and appreciative to have been selected as one of the nonprofits to receive a generous contribution from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians at their 2019 Charity Golf Tournament,” said Dorothy Alther, Executive Director of CILS. “The donated funds will be used to provide direct legal services to low-income Native Americans and tribes. Our services cover a broad range of Indian law issues. CILS will focus the funds on expungement of criminal records enabling clients to access the job market or find housing, protecting tribal families and tribal member children under the ICWA, and assisting tribes with building the infrastructure needed to meet their members’ needs.”

Why California’s Native Americans Deserve More Than an Apology

Printed in the San Diego Union-Tribune June 27, 2019

Dancers of all ages make their way around the procession during the grand entry at Cuyamaca College’s third annual powwow in 2017. (San Diego Union-Tribune file photo)

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order apologizing to California’s Native American population for nearly two centuries of “violence, exploitation, dispossession and the attempted destruction of tribal communities” is a welcome first step toward healing the wounds inflicted by that history. But it is only a first step.

California is hardly alone in mistreating its indigenous people, but this state took that pattern to extremes seen in few other places. Moreover, the vestiges of that shameful history continue to this day.

Looking back, it seems incomprehensible that the earliest official acts of the newly established state of California included a call for extermination of the indigenous population, the funding of militias to carry out that edict, and a law allowing Indian children to be separated from their families and their parents to be sold into indentured servitude — virtual slavery. Such actions decimated the Native American population, reducing them by 80% in just over 30 years. It is no exaggeration to call this attempted genocide. And this came after tens of thousands already had perished as the result of being removed from their ancestral lands, exposed to European diseases and forced into servitude by the Spanish mission system.

Today, Native American communities have rebounded, representing nearly 2% of the state population, with more than 700,000 members in 110 federally recognized tribes. Many tribes have prospered in recent years, since the introduction of on-reservation gaming and other forms of economic development. For those tribes, new revenues have translated into improved facilities and services, including education and health care.

But the majority of reservations are in remote locations where gaming development is not realistic and other economic activity yields marginal results. They continue to suffer from poverty, unemployment, inadequate services, substandard housing, substance abuse and overall lower quality of life — all legacies of having had their populations wracked by violence and disease, and having been excluded from the social and economic mainstream long afterward.

Most of this comes as a surprise to the non-Indian population. Schools skimp on teaching this history, even today describing the mission era in glowing terms and scarcely mentioning the horrific treatment of Indians at the hands of the state of California.

The disrespect and indignities suffered by the Native American community don’t stop there. Outsiders commonly trespass on reservation land, off-roading, illegally hunting and operating criminal enterprises. Public officials routinely challenge the powers of tribal authorities, denying their status as sovereign nations and seeking to subject them to regulations from which they are exempt under federal law. Local governments and private landowners who literally stole Indian water resources wage lengthy legal battles to avoid restoring those rights. Law enforcement agencies dispute the authority of tribal police forces.

Native American children attending public schools all too often are denied the opportunity to express their ethnic and cultural identities, in a throwback to the decades when children were removed from Native American families, sent to boarding schools and forbidden to even speak their tribal languages. And, particularly in rural areas, individual Indians continue to suffer from discrimination in housing, employment and services when living or working off the reservation.

Consequently, California has far to go in correcting past injustices to Native Americans and ensuring fair treatment going forward.

The governor’s executive order mandates establishment of a Truth and Healing Council, to properly document the treatment of Native Americans in California through collaboration with the state’s tribes. Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in Canada to address similar issues in treatment of its First Nations population, and a similar body created in South Africa to heal the wounds left by generations of apartheid, this can be a useful and beneficial tool for clarifying the historical record, educating the public and building trust between the Indian and non-Indian populations. The council’s annual reports, and its final report in 2025, are intended to set a new path for that relationship.

Just as any journey begins with an initial step, the governor’s executive order and the apology it contains represent that first step.

For the first time, the state will hear from the Native American population about its experience, past and present, and use what is learned to craft the foundation for a new, better relationship. For California’s Native American population, that can’t come too soon.