Celebrating our catholic life
5459 Sycuan Road
El Cajon, CA 92019
Phone: (619) 443-3412
Fax: (619) 443-3018
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.
The land given to Sycuan was remote, harsh and poor for farming. But the Sycuan people, through force of will, survived. In 1891, the U.S. finally recognized the sovereign status of California Indian tribes by passing the "Act For The Relief Of The Mission Indians". Today, the Sycuan Band again stands proud over its land. While not forgetting the past, the Sycuan people now look forward to the future, and to be self-reliant once again.
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish