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Pechanga History: Fact or Myth?

There are many misconceptions about the history of Indian Country and, more specifically, the history of the Pechanga people. This is due in large part to the inaccurate and somewhat biased historical documentation from which many of us learn our historical references.

Below we share some of the facts about our tribal history and how these facts compare to the myths that many have been led to believe. To learn more, we recommend reading any of the following pieces of literature, some of which have been used as sources for this section of our site:

  • Indian Tribes as Sovereign Governments: A Sourcebook on Federal-Tribal History, Law and Policy (1999) by the American Indian Lawyer Training Program
  • Handbook of the Indians of California (1976) by A.L. Kroeber
  • Tribes, Treaties, & Constitutional Tribulations by Vine Deloria, Jr. and David E. Wilkins
  • American Indian Sovereignty and the U.S. Supreme Court: The Masking of Justice by David E. Wilkins
  • Gold, Greed & Genocide by Pratap Chatterjee for Project Underground, permissions for quotes or citations used on this site granted by the author
  • United States Census, 1900
  • An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians, April 22, 1850 (Chapter 133, Statutes of California, April 22, 1850) transcribed by Russell Imrie
  • Ammendments to An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians (approved 1860) transcribed by Russell Imrie
  • SCAG: Southern California Association of Governments, Cultural Resources DRAFT 2004 Regional T Transportation Plan (RTP) Progam Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), December 2003
  • 18 Unratified Treaties with California Tribes information cited with permission
  • Columbia University Press
  • Native Languages of the Americas:Preserving and promoting American Indian languages
  • Burke Museum of Natural History and Cultural
  • Native Circle
  • The United States Mint
  • Ship of Gold
  • Report 2, from Edward F. Beal, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California to the Honorable L. Lea, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Washington DC on May 11, 1852
FACT
We, the Pechanga people, have called this land home for more than 10,000 years. Since time immemorial, through periods of plenty, scarcity and adversity, we have governed and cared for ourselves and our lands, ever evolving to meet changing times and conditions.
MYTH

The Tribes original to Temecula Valley no longer exist


FACT
In 1798 Spanish Missionaries founded the Mission of San Luis Rey de Francia, dramatically altering our tribal life, pressing Pechanga people into servitude, slavery and imprisonment. The Roman Catholic Church established ranchos that encompassed the native villages and pressed our people into serving the mission.
MYTH

Interactions between the Spanish Missionaries and Payômkawichum "Western People" were intended as beneficial.


FACT
Since before California's statehood, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians had been recognized by outsiders as "most thrifty and industrious." We maintained our homelands and economic self-sufficiency and this was noted by initial visitors to our lands since their first encounters with us, for instance, a newspaper article dated 1875 noted our work ethic going all the way back to the 1830's. California received statehood on September 9, 1850. By the 1870's a handful of California citizens took legal action under the California Land Claims Act against the Pechanga Band that resulted in the eviction of tribal members from their ancestral homelands and agricultural economic bases.
MYTH

California statehood brought new and more just economic opportunities for Pechanga tribal members.


FACT
During the 1800's, Payômkawichum Tribal leaders were literate and skilled not only in their own language and culture, but were also multi-lingual in English, Spanish and possessed the ability to read and write the English language during a time when the majority of American citizens struggled with basic reading and writing literacy. Despite being literate enough to represent themselves well, Pechanga Tribal leaders faced federal and state legislative barriers resulting in a historical lack of access to legal processes for defining and securing Tribal assets.
MYTH

Pechanga tribal members lack the education and skills to create meaningful and appropriate economic opportunities until recently with gaming.


FACT
Native-developed educational processes tend to work better for Native American people than non-native curricula. Often eager and capable of high scholastic achievements, many Native American people have experienced difficulties at the hands of the nonnative educational process. In Payômkawichum "Western People" history examples of educational barriers were noted by non-native observers as far back as the 1800's.
MYTH

Non-native educational processes have always been beneficial for American Indian people.


FACT
Non-native friends have helped us advocate for the sovereignty and well-being of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians at times throughout our history.

In 1883 noted non-native author, Helen Hunt Jackson, advocated successfully on the part of Pechanga with the federal government. More recently in the 1990's nonnative friends helped us regain our Great Oak and surrounding lands culminating in their restoration in 2003.

MYTH


The Pechanga Band has had to struggle alone without the help of non-native allies.


FACT
One of the treaties with the United States to legally recognize our tribal sovereignty was the Treaty of January 3, 1863, which defined Temecula Valley as part of the lands of the Luiseño and Dieguiño Indian people. Another, the Treaty at the Village of Temecula was one of eighteen treaties made with tribes throughout California in the early 1850's by the United States. Though agreed to by Native and United States representatives, the Treaty was never ratified by the United States Senate.
MYTH

Temecula Valley was never recognized as the Pechanga homelands by any Treaty with the United States.


FACT
State and federal laws or policies are often contradictory when it comes to the well-being of American Indian people. An example is the 1873 decree of ejectment issued by courts of the state of California against the Payômkawichum "Western People" forcing them to leave their homelands, and the subsequent reinstatement of a small portion of the original Pechanga homelands by Presidential Executive Order. Policies toward Pechanga and many other Tribal Nations may be driven by non-native individual, corporate or state special interests, rather than the will of the general public as a whole. Special interests with access to court, legislative or political influence have often created conflict with adherence by the United States federal government to legally binding treaty or other agreements.
MYTH

Federal and state policies toward the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians have always occurred in a logical, fair and cohesive fashion.


FACT
Balanced self-reliance and self-determination and the ability to overcome hardships with creativity and hard work have always been a part of the Pechanga way of life.
MYTH

American Indian people have a dependency on the federal or state government for their well-being because they don't know how to effectively manage their own resources.


FACT
Since the beginning of time our leaders have led our people based on the powers attributed to them from Payômkawichum "Western People". For well over a century our tribal sovereignty has been affirmed by the United States federal government. In 1882, the Executive Order of the President of the United States affirmed the pre-existing sovereignty of the Pechanga Band. Our Tribal sovereignty and the inherent right to self-government existed before the creation of the United States or the state of California and cannot be legislated away.
MYTH

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians' current form of tribal government is a recent phenomenon.

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