After moving to the Barona Valley in 1932 the Barona Band of Mission Indians decided that having their own place of worship was one of their first priorities.  With the help of architect Irving J. Gill, tribal elders funded and built the church, which was dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15th 1934.  

Seventy seven years later Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish serves a vital role in the spiritual and social life of the tribe.  Under the spiritual guidance of Fr. Herman Manuel, SVD and Edward Nolan, Pastoral Associate, the Barona people continue to enjoy a strong and vibrant journey of faith.

Reservation Info


We are honored that you'd like to learn more about the Barona Band of Mission Indians. We would like to tell you about our heritage, our culture and our land.

After thousands of years of peaceful life in San Diego County, the late 1700's began more than 200 years of hardship for Native Americans, that is when the Spanish soldiers and missionaries arrived and the Spanish Era began in 1769.

In 1875, the federal government established the Capitan Grande Reservation for the native people living in that area at that time. About 40 years later in 1932, the city literally bought the Capitan Grande Reservation to build a reservoir.

​Ranch History

In 1932, without a homeland but with money in their pockets, members of that tribe bought the Barona Ranch which today is the Barona Indian Reservation near Lakeside, about 30 miles northeast of San Diego.

Until the early 1990s, the Barona Tribe lived on their own land but were still struggling economically in the backwoods of San Diego County. In 1994, the tribe, with the consulting guidance of Venture Catalyst, opened the Barona Casino "Big Top."

​The casino has become the means to a restoration of self-sufficiency, prosperity and renewed hope. Unemployment and welfare dependency have dropped from 70 percent to zero on the Barona reservation.






When we speak of "native San Diegans" and deep roots within a community, there is no need to look any further than the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. The Sycuan people and their ancestors have lived in the San Diego area for 12,000 years. Imagine if you will, Native American Indians living and thriving in San Diego before the pyramids were built in Egypt.

The earliest documented inhabitants in what is now San Diego County are known as the San Dieguito Paleo-Indians, dating back to about 10,000 B.C. Different groups later evolved as the environment and culture diversified. It is from one of these groups that the Southern Diegueño emerged at about 3000 B.C. The Southern Diegueño are the direct ancestors of the Sycuan Band currently living in Dehesa Valley. Today, Sycuan is one of thirteen Kumeyaay Bands in San Diego County. There are a total of 18 Indian tribes in San Diego, more than any other county in the United States.

For thousands of years, the Kumeyaay lived peacefully and prospered in San Diego's moderate climate. Their ancestral territory ranged east to El Centro, north to Escondido, and south to Baja California. They were skilled hunters and innovative agriculturists. The Kumeyaay established their rich cultural identity and traditions, many of which are still practiced and honored today.

The Kumeyaay first encountered Europeans with the arrival of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. By the year 1769, when Spanish soldiers and missionaries, led by Father Junipero Serra, founded the Mission and the Presidio of San Diego, the destruction of the Kumeyaay way of life had irreversibly begun.

Although the Kumeyaay were the most resistant of all California Indians to subjugation and while many moved away from the coast towards the mountains, they still saw their ways destroyed and their land stolen. At the same time, the ravages of deadly, newly introduced diseases, primarily smallpox and measles, decimated the Kumeyaay population.

Life for the Kumeyaay worsened following Mexico's overthrow of the Spanish government in 1821. All lands and power were transferred from the Spanish to the Republic of Mexico. The Kumeyaay continued to be strangers in their own home as more land was stolen, commitments ignored, treaties broken, and in some instances, their people enslaved.

From the establishment of the San Diego Mission in 1769 through the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, the Kumeyaay population decreased from nearly 30,000 to approximately 3,000.

​The period between California statehood in 1850 through post-Civil War reconstruction was one of the worst in Kumeyaay history. With virtually no protection, the Kumeyaay were at the mercy of the state and the federal government. With the passing of the "Government and Protection Act" of 1850, California forcibly imposed its authority over Indians with the goal of exterminating Indian tribes.

​In 1875, after over 100 years of unspeakable treatment of Native Americans, President Ulysses S. Grant finally took the first step towards an Indian Peace Policy. He passed an Executive Order that set aside specific lands in San Diego County for the exclusive use of the Kumeyaays. The current 640 acre, one-square mile Sycuan Reservation in Dehesa Valley was included in this order.




Kumeyaay History

Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians

The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, one of the remaining 12 bands of the Kumeyaay Indian Nation, resides on a 1,600-acre reservation in the Viejas Valley, east of the community of Alpine in San Diego County, California. The Viejas Band is recognized as a sovereign government by the United States, with which it maintains a government-to-government relationship.

How Viejas Came To Be

Capitan Grande, about 35 miles east of San Diego, is the name of the canyon through which the San Diego River once ran. With abundant water, Kumeyaay Indians living there sustained themselves through farming. 

In 1875, a presidential executive order withdrew lands from the federal domain, setting aside a number of small reservations, including the Capitan Grande Reservation from which the Viejas Band descended. Capitan Grande, patented in 1891, included portions of ancestral land of the Los Coñejos Band. In 1853, other Indians from Mission San Diego were given permission to locate on Capitan Grande by the federal Indian agent at the time. Over the years, other Indians were placed there, as well. 

As the non-Indian population grew, demand for water increased. The city of San Diego built Lake Cuyamaca, laying its flume through the Capitan Grande Reservation and taking most of the San Diego River water originally used by the Kumeyaay. This left them only a small share from the city's flume, resulting in crop losses on Indian farms. The city later decided to dam the river and take all of the water by creating El Capitan Reservoir. Though the Kumeyaay protested, Congress - at the wishes of land speculators and unknown to the Indians - granted the city permission to purchase the heart of the Capitan Grande Reservation, where many Kumeyaay had built homes. From the proceeds of this forced "sale" of lands, some of the valley's inhabitants, the Coapan Band, or Capitan Grande, bought Barona Valley and are now known as the Barona Band of Mission Indians. 

Another 28 families, including members of the Los Coñejos Band, purchased the Viejas Valley land (once a ranch owned by Baron Long) and incorporated the name Viejas. A few other families bought private individual property with their compensation. After the move, the Viejas and Barona Bands were denied their water rights and each valley became solely dependent on meager supplies of rainfall and groundwater until the issue was resolved by court action. 

​Today, membership in the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians is determined by direct descent from the families forced from Capitan Grande who pooled their shares of dam-site purchase money to buy Viejas Valley. The Viejas band continues to share a joint-trust patent with the Barona Band for the 15,000 remaining acres of the Capitan Grande Reservation.