San Manuel Chair: Honoring a respected ancestor
"In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, The Sun graciously invited the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians to present a four-part series of columns exploring the Southern California Native American experience and, more specifically, the impact and influence of Native Americans on the Inland Empire and beyond.

Our first in this series examines the single most important figure in the history of today's San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians.

For the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians, a cultural and spiritual leader of the 19th century stands easily among these world leaders, his name is Santos Manuel, Pakuma. When our ancestors, the Yuhaviatam clan of the Serrano Indians, literally faced extinction, it was he who saved them and, in turn, saved our clan.

Santos Manuel was a Kika', a respected Serrano spiritual leader. In 1866, battles flared for more than a month between tribes and white settlers homesteading on tribal lands. Throughout California many tribes were forced to leave their ancestral lands. In the San Bernardino area, armed militias launched a brutal campaign to rid the mountains of all Indian people, which led to the killing of Serrano men, women, and children.

Against all odds, Santos Manuel led his fellow tribal members from the San Bernardino Mountains to the San Bernardino Valley. Continued expansion of settlers forced the Yuhaviatam into the foothills where they eventually settled.

In 1891, with the aid of what became known as the Smiley Commission, a group of local concerned citizens from Redlands and San Bernardino helped set up the Mission Indian Commission to demonstrate community support for intervention on the part of the Tribe, the area was established as the San Manuel Indian Reservation by presidential executive order.

Today, Santos Manuel is still revered as our spiritual leader - a visionary man who arose in our darkest hour through extraordinary leadership, ensuring the survival of our ancestors and our tribe."

Get the Story:
San Manuel Chairman James Ramos: Difficult times breed great leaders, new hope (The San Bernardino Sun 11/6)