About our Tribe
For generations, our Tribe has persevered through great change and extreme hardship. Long before the arrival of European settlers, our ancestors lived in harmony with the land across the highlands, passes, valleys, and mountains in and between the southwestern Mojave Desert and Inland Empire region in what is now Southern California. Known as the Yuhaaviatam clan, or “People of the Pines,” of the Maara’yam (Serrano), our people held sacred everything the land provided, and we thrived as an independent, self-sustaining community.
Our way of life was forever changed beginning in the 1780s, as our people in the Antelope Valley and Mojave Desert regions were decimated by European diseases, forced from their villages, and conscripted into the San Gabriel Mission in order to provide unpaid labor to Spain. Many Maara’yam (Serrano) were involuntarily marched to the Asistencia in Redlands, which served as an outpost of the San Gabriel Mission, to build the Mill Creek Zanja, which later permitted the citrus industry and other agricultural pursuits to flourish in this region of Serrano territory.
Agricultural pursuits irreversibly changed the natural world the Maara’yam depended on for their sustenance and ceremony, and pushed Serrano people out of the most fertile lands. Life in the missions was also very destructive to Native families. Life expectancy was very short and cultural traditions, including the use of indigenous languages, were banned. When practiced, our ancestors were punished and beaten.
By the mid-1800s, once the missions were secularized and both the Spanish and Mexican governments were removed from the area now called California, Serrano people were then overrun by American settlers. Due to the growth of mining and logging in Serrano territory at this time, various clans across our ancestral territory were yet again murdered or chased out of their villages. Our clan, the Yuhaaviatam, was attacked by a California state government-sanctioned militia in our homeland of Big Bear Valley during a 32-day campaign in 1866. Most of our people were mercilessly killed in the name of American expansion and resource extraction. Less than 30 members of our clan survived this massacre. After being forced out of the Big Bear Valley, the remaining Yuhaaviatam sought out an existence along Warm Creek in the San Bernardino Valley before the establishment of the San Manuel Reservation in 1891. Though the Reservation had very little usable space and natural resources, our community came together to establish a new way of life on the Reservation that not only led to our survival, but also honored our culture and traditions.
Contact with three different waves of European peoples and their governments led to our Tribe’s forced removal from our vast ancestral territory and our near extermination as a people. This physical and cultural genocide has led to ongoing disconnection and disenfranchisement from our sacred spaces, culturally important plants/animals, the remains of our ancestors, and our traditional clan-based interactions. We remember these harsh realities of those who came before us, but by telling these stories, we also honor the strength, perseverance, and resiliency of our people. Our way of life may have been fundamentally altered over the last few centuries, but our Creator-given sovereignty and our ability to adapt and thrive remains.
Today, the Reservation, once only 640 acres, is now over 1,100 acres in size. Our San Manuel Tribal Government works to provide a better quality of life for our citizens by building infrastructure; maintaining civil services; and promoting social, economic, and cultural development. San Manuel also operates Yaamava' Resort & Casino at San Manuel (formerly known as San Manuel Casino®), as well as other enterprises, and supports neighboring communities as one of the largest employers and philanthropists in the Inland Empire.
We pay homage to our ancestors by fulfilling our obligation to learn, practice, and teach our language, customs, and traditions for all generations.
A gift from our Creator, sovereignty is our inherent right to self-government, to be vigilantly protected, and paves the road for creating a vibrant, self-sustaining Tribal community.
With a common and continuous link to our ancestors, our Tribal family realizes strength in unity and is driven toward a future of success built on collaboration, dedication, and commitment for all.
Knowledge is the doorway for enlightenment and excels all people.
Our Creator has put us here with a purpose: to foster love, respect, and humility, and this purpose shall remain at the core of all we do.