The month of November is federally recognized as Native American Heritage Month. First People across the nation are provided a platform to share their culture and traditions in their communities.
Growing up on the San Manuel Indian Reservation in the early 1970’s was a challenging experience due to its state of great poverty and lack of basic infrastructure. Nonetheless, my people – the Serrano and Cahuilla – lived with great pride in cultural values, regardless of the situation around us. For centuries, the way of life of our people was limitless – spanning from the valley floor to the mountaintop and beyond. Around 1866, great battles against our people disrupted our way of life and drastically changed it. These battles became known as a 32-day campaign to rid the mountains of the indigenous population, as referred in the San Bernardino Museum Association Quarterly dated spring 1958, titled “The San Bernardino Indian Massacre 1866-1867.”
During these battles, my great great-grandfather, Santos Manuel led the remaining clan of the Yuhaviatam People, a Serrano clan known as the People of the Pines, down to the San Bernardino Valley floor. They never returned to the traditional way of life. These genocide battles claimed the lives of many of our people. Similar atrocities were taking place throughout the State of California during this time.
If it was not for the strength of my ancestors who held onto our traditions over the years, I would not have been able to learn and teach our cultural ways. Our elders show us that we must continue to protect our cultural resources. Our future looks bright as we sore toward new horizons, carrying with us the traditions of our ancestors and never forgetting who we are as a people.
I hope the month of November can be an educational opportunity for the entire community to learn more about the history of our First People.
Happy Native American Heritage Month.
Third District Supervisor
County of San Bernardino