Pala Indian Reservation

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

Pala Band of Mission Indians at Pala
Total population
(1,573 reservation population (2000 US Census))
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( California)
English, Luiseño
Related ethnic groups
other Luiseño people[1]

The Pala Indian Reservation is located in the middle 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 Luiseño Mission Indians, are descended from both Luiseño and Cupeño peoples, who have shared territory since 1901. A total of five other federally recognized tribes of Luiseño are located in southern California.

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 reservation occupies parts of four 7.5 minute topographic maps: Boucher Hill, Pala, Pechanga, and Vail Lake, California. The area consists of 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.


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 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. 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."[2]

Gaming and economic development[edit]

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.

Other Luiseño bands[edit]

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[edit]


  1. ^ Pritzker 131
  2. ^ 32 Stat. 257 (1902)
  • Pala Reservation, California United States Census Bureau
  • Bean, Lowell J. and Shipek, Florence C. (1978) "Luiseño," in 'California,' vol. 8, ed. Robert Heizer, Handbook of North American Indians (Wash., D. C.: Smithsonian Institution): 550–563.
  • Bean, L. J. and Smith, Charles R., "Cupeño," Ibid, pp. 588–591.
  • Hyer, Jose R., 2001. 'We Are Not Savages': Native Americans in Southern California and the Pala Reservation, 1840–1920 (E. Lansing: Michigan State University Press).
  • Karr, Steven M., 2000. "Water We Believed Could Never Belong to Anyone: the San Luis Rey River and the Pala Indians of Southern California," American Indian Quarerly, 24(3): 381

External links[edit]