San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

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San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is a federally recognized tribe located near the city of Highland, California. San Manuel is one of several clans of Serrano Indians, who are the indigenous people of the San Bernardino valley and highlands.  

Official Tribal Name: San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

Address: 26569 Community Center Drive, Highland, CA 92346
Phone:  (909) 864-8933
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Official Website:  www.sanmanuel-nsn.gov 

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning

Those Serrano who lived at Yuhaviat, an area of pine trees near present day Big Bear Lake where the creator died, were called the Yuhaviatam or the People of the Pines. Members of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians are the Yuhaviatam clan. 

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:

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. 

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Previously listed as the San Manual Band of Serrano Mission Indians of the San Manual Reservation

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Region: California

State(s) Today: California

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The people at the San Manuel reservation are the indigenous people of the San Bernardino highlands, passes, valleys, and mountains.

Confederacy:  Serrano

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San Manuel Band of  Mission Indians believes that the Serrano language plays a central role in maintaining their culture. By introducing the language early, tribal children develop a deeper understanding of their living heritage. Today, the Serrano language is being preserved in part by the Serrano Language Revitalization Program who work with native speakers to pronounce the words in Serrano creating lesson plans developed to teach carefully chosen words including the names for plants, animals, and numbers. 

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Singing has always played an integral role in the lives of the Serrano people. Unlike other American Indian musicians, traditional Serrano musicians do not use drums for rhythm but instead they fashion gourd rattles with palm tree seeds inside to make percussive sounds. In the past, songs of the Serrano people were used to prepare for hunting the bighorn sheep roaming their ancestral land. These songs reminded hunters that if the natural systems were in order, the sheep would be there and they would not come home empty-handed. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has been successful in preserving many of these songs. To this day, songs are sung to describe social customs, creation stories and history of the region’s indigenous people.

In recent times, elders from the neighboring Cahuilla tribe have taught bird songs to tribal members at the San Manuel reservation. Bird songs are sung throughout the Southern California area as well as the Mohave Desert and along the Colorado River. Bird songs are not directly about birds; rather the songs derive their name from the migration of birds that parallel the movement of people through their territory, telling the story of the creation, animals seen along the way, and sacred places.

Activities such as the Yaamava’ spring celebration, yucca harvest, and California Indian Cultural Awareness Conference, regularly bring together the families of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, members from local tribes, and noted American Indian scholars to educate people on and off the reservation about factual California Indian culture.

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The people of the San Manuel reservation are renowned basket weavers and take great pride in the imaginative and creative patterns of their basket weaving. These baskets continue to be made in the traditional way using juncus plant, deergrass, and yucca fiber. Baskets can be woven so tight they can carry water and are durable enough to hold hot stones to cook food.

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The Serrano clans constructed their homes with the resources they gathered from the immediate environment. They used willow, branches, and yucca fiber (or willow thongs) to build their dome-shaped homes, called a Kiich, that measured approximately 12 feet to 14 feet across and were located in small villages near lakes, streams, springs and other water sources. 

Subsistance:

The region is home to pine trees that provide an abundance of edible pinõn nuts; the black oak tree from which the people made their traditional food called Wiic; and the yucca plant whose blooms and stocks are harvested annually. These foods are still gathered today. 

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Their creation story tells of the first people who tended to their creator Kruktat as he laid ill and dying high in the mountains. When the creator died, the people began to mourn and in their grief turned into pine trees. The nuts and acorns these trees scattered became food for the Serrano clans who would follow these first people.

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