On November 15th, I was proud to participate in Pechanga Pu'éska Mountain Day, celebrated by the Pechanga Tribe and the City of Temecula since 2012.
During an 8-year battle to save their birth place and sacred mountain from an open-pit gravel operation, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and the City joined in common cause to oppose environmental and cultural devastation from what would have been one of the largest aggregate quarry operations in the country.
The negative regional impacts included 1,600 daily gravel truck trips, boulder blasts, noise and dust which would have permanently damaged sensitive biological, cultural and hydrological resources, including a wildlife corridor, sensitive species habitat, Southern California’s last free-flowing river, and of course, Pu'éska Mountain, sacred to the Pechanga Tribe.
On November 15, 2012, Pechanga purchased their sacred mountain, preserving it forever, and marking that day as one of the most important in history for Temecula and Pechanga.
November is also Native American Heritage Month, recognizing tribal sovereignty, a commemoration that has special significance for me. The 75th Assembly District, which I proudly represent in Sacramento, contains 7 Indian reservations, and San Diego County, with 18, has more than any other county in the nation.
History has not been easy on Native Americans, yet their contributions are irreplaceable. These include their service to our country through the military, including Code Talkers of both World Wars, and thousands who serve today. On a per-capita basis, Native Americans have served in the military in greater numbers than any other ethnic group.
Locally, tribal economies generate thousands of jobs, along with basic infrastructure including roads, bridges, law enforcement, fire protection and environmental stewardship for tribal lands.
Going forward, the common cause demonstrated during the struggle to save Pu'éska Mountain is a wonderful example of cooperation between native peoples and surrounding communities. It’s also another example of why we celebrate Native American Heritage Month.