San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
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Cultural History

Since time immemorial, before the arrival of European settlers, the indigenous people of California lived in accordance with the environment, holding sacred everything the land provided. In the highlands, passes, valleys, and mountains of the San Bernardino region, Spanish explorers found the Yuhaviatam or People of the Pines among other clans of the Serrano. The Yuhaviatam lived as an independent and self sustaining community before undergoing many years of change and adaptation.

The origin of the name, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, is the result of Yuhaviatam engagement with colonizing European and American powers. The first Spanish explorers to the area identified the Yuhaviatam as a clan of the Serrano people, the Spanish term for highlander. The Spanish settlers used the name Serrano to identify the indigenous people of the San Bernardino highlands, passes, valleys, and mountains who shared a common language and heritage. The term Mission Indians originated from the 21 missions established by Spanish settlers along California's coast from 1769 to 1823, from San Diego, Calif. to San Francisco, Calif. After first contact, Spanish soldiers soon invaded some Serrano villages, removing the people from their ancient homelands and placing them into the mission system. There many died from new diseases and the changes in their diet.

By the mid-1800s sweeping change was brought to California and the United States with the passage of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and the California Gold Rush of 1849. New settlers came to California, radically changing the Serrano lands with their ranching, farming, and logging. In 1866, unrest came to the area as militia forces from San Bernardino killed Serrano men, women, and children in a 32-day campaign. Yuhaviatam tribal leader Santos Manuel safely led the remaining Yuhaviatam from their ancient homelands in the mountains to valley floor.

In 1891 with passage of the Act for Relief for Mission Indians the San Manuel reservation was established and recognized as a sovereign nation with the right of self-government. The San Manuel reservation was named in honor of its courageous leader, Santos Manuel, and henceforth the tribe was recognized as the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

From the 1700s to present time, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians underwent many years of change and hardship, to live as a sovereign and self-sufficient nation. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indian's reservation originally consisted of 657 acres of steep foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, to near the top of Mount McKinley. The reservation is just over 800 acres and is located in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains in California, just north of the city of Highland.


The homelands of the Serrano began at Cajon Pass, ran easterly past Cottonwood Spring to the border of the Chemehuevi, southerly to the border with the Cahuilla, and northerly to the border with the Kitanemuk.

   © 2014. An economic development of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.