Pala Band of Mission Indians at Pala
Flag of the Pala Band of Cupeño Indians
Pala Reservation. Reinforcement of first joint of caisson - NARA
Total population
1,573 reservation population (2000 US Census)
Regions with significant populations
United States (California)
English, Luiseño, Cupeño
Related ethnic groups
other Cupeño people, Luiseño people[1]

The Pala Indian Reservation is located in the middle of San Luis Rey River Valley in northern San Diego County, California, east of the community of Fallbrook, and has been assigned feature ID 272502.[clarification needed]

Historic variant names used to describe the area include Mission Indian Reservation and Mission Indian Reserve.

Its members, the federally recognized tribe of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, are descended from both Cupeño and Luiseño peoples, who have shared territory since 1903. A total of five other federally recognized tribes of Luiseño are located in southern California and is the most populated reservation in San Diego County.

The reservation has a land area of 52.163 km² (20.140 sq mi) and reported an official resident population of 1,573 persons in the 2000 census, about 44 percent of whom were of solely Native American heritage. Robert H. Smith is the Tribal Chairman.


The Pala Band of Mission Indians is governed by a six-member Executive Committee. Committee members elected by the General Counsel, who is composed of voters of 18 and up. Every two years in November an election is held. The tribal committee is made up of a tribal chairman, vice chairman, secretary, treasurer, and two council members. The tribe follows a constitution created in 1994, which was approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2000 retroactive to 1997.[2]

The seat of government of the reservation is in Pala, California.


Location of Pala Indian Reservation

The reservation occupies parts of four 7.5 minute topographic maps: Boucher Hill, Pala, Pechanga, and Vail Lake, California. The area consists of an area in and around Pala, California. The enrolled tribal members descend from two Indian groups: a band of the Luiseño tribe, and the Cupeño Indians, who were historically one of the smallest tribes in California. Their name for themselves was Kuupangaxwichem. The reservation also hosts a radio station, Pala Rez Radio KPRI 91.3 FM.

History and culture

During the mission period of Spanish colonial times, Pala was the site of San Antonio de Pala Asistencia, an asistencia – an arm of the Catholic Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, downstream toward the coast. The grounds of the former asistencia include a historic cemetery.

The tribe is federally recognized. The Cupeño people were evicted in 1901 from their ancestral homeland, called Kupa, on what is now called Warner's Ranch east of Pala. This event is referred to by the tribe as the "Cupeño Trail of Tears." The Cupeño were removed to a tract of land in the Pala Valley adjacent to the Pala Luiseño reservation that already existed there in May 1903. That tract of land was purchased pursuant to the express direction of Congress for "such Mission Indians heretofore residing or belonging to the Rancho San Jose del Valle, or Warners Ranch, in San Diego County, California, and such other Mission Indians as may not be provided with suitable lands elsewhere, as the Secretary of the Interior may see fit to locate thereon."[3] The tract of land had no form of infrastructure, so the Cupeño had to sleep in the open fields. In addition, their Chinigchinich religious ties to their previous land holdings were denied to them, which hindered their spirituality. They have not been able to regain their previous homeland, Kupa.[4]

Gaming and economic development

Traditionally a modest and sometimes poor tribe, since the late 20th century, the Pala Band has developed a large, successful casino and resort hotel: Pala Casino Resort and Spa. The tribe uses proceeds from the gaming and hospitality enterprises to fund social services and education for members, and infrastructure improvements to the reservation. The Pala branch also cultivates a 90-acre avocado grove on the southern part of the reservation. The grove provides jobs to over 40 individuals.[5]

Outcomes of the Gaming Profits

Environmental department

The department monitors the pollution and cleanliness of the air, water, and land specific to the Pala reservation. The U.S. provided the reservation with a grant in 1999 that enabled the tribe to observe the pollution levels of the environment. The grant contributes to technology for the department, personnel training, and other necessities needed to manage the department. Some of the tasks that the department fulfills are computing the air quality index for the region, which describes the pollutants in the air, along with solutions and methods to combat the issue. Another is to ensure that the water meets the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards, in addition to the conservation of water in the reservation. In addition to environment conservation, they also work to preserve and maintain historical and cultural sites.[8]

Other Luiseño bands

Another major federally recognized tribe of related people, the Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians resides to the southeast in the area traversed by State Route 76. A total of five other federally recognized tribes of Luiseño are located in southern California.

See also


  1. ^ Pritzker 131
  2. ^ "Tribal Council — Pala Band of Mission Indians". Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  3. ^ 32 Stat. 257 (1902)
  4. ^ "History and Culture — Pala Band of Mission Indians". Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  5. ^ "Economy — Pala Band of Mission Indians". Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  6. ^ Alvarado, Kitty (2023-07-21). "Pala Band of Mission Indians makes historic agreement with California". KPBS Public Media. Retrieved 2023-07-23.
  7. ^ "Tribal Council — Pala Band of Mission Indians". Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  8. ^ "Culture – Pala Environmental Department". Retrieved 2017-03-16.

33°21′34″N 117°02′49″W / 33.35944°N 117.04694°W / 33.35944; -117.04694