San Manuel Indians
Joshua Krause & Richard Sahatjian
History of the Serrano Indians of the San
The San Manuel Band of Mission
Indians are of the native American
tribe known as “Serrano,” a name
given to them by the Spaniards,
which means mountaineers.
Long before the Spaniard and
European settlers arrived here, they
roamed a territory that spanned the
San Bernardino mountains and valley
and adjoining desert lands--from Mt.
San Antonio to San Gorgonio Pass
and beyond to the Northern slopes of
the San Jacinto Mountains.
They shared hunting and gathering grounds, by
permission, with their Indian neighbors of the Gabrielano,
Cahuilla, and Luiseno tribes.
Serrano Village Life
Serrano villages were situated near streams, springs, or other water
They lived in circular, domed houses of willow frames and tule
thatching. Here, they slept and stored their belongings.
Women did most of the daily chores together under a “ramada”, a
village shade structure of thatched willow supported by poles.
The village leader, “Kika,” lived in a larger ceremonial house,
called a “kishahturuch,” where their people gathered for prayer,
songs, healing, other spiritual ceremonies, or to discuss community
In addition to the ceremonial house Men, women, and children would
of the “Kika,” most villages had a gather inside cleansing their bodies
sweat house built next to a creek or through sweat, while strengthening
stream. These were circular their spirits through prayer
structures with earthen covered roofs After the sweat, they bathed in the
supported by willow-pole frames and nearby stream.
Heated rocks were placed in a pit in
the center of the sweat house,
generating a smooth heat when
doused with water by the prayer
Serrano people survived by gathering, hunting, and
Honey, mesquite, pinon nuts, acorns, yucca roots, various
seeds, roots and bulbs were gathered according to the
Serrano men hunted deer, mountain sheep, antelope, and
rabbits, along with various birds of which the quail was
For larger game they used short bow and arrows made of
reed or cane. Smaller animals were taken with throwing
sticks, traps, and snares.
Meats were cooked in a variety of The sun was out most of the year for
ways: baked in earthen ovens; boiled the Serrano Indians so they needed
in water-tight baskets into which little clothing.
heated stones were dropped; or by For the cold damp weather, they made
parching the meat with hot coals in garments of deer skins. Also robes of
shallow trays. rabbit and beaver skins also gave
Plant foods were eaten both raw, comfort during the winter. These
cooked, and sometimes sun-dried and were sometimes decorated with beads
stored for later use. of shell, bones, and stone.
In preparing and storing their foods,
they used knives crafted of flint,
scraping tools made of bone or stone,
earthen pots and trays, and many
types of woven baskets.
Yucca fiber, bunch grass, willow
splints, and other reeds and grasses
were used in basketry.
Health & Education
To provide easy access to health care services for their
people and other native Americans, the San Manuel
Reservation has its own medical clinic. Their clinic is run
with assistance form the Indian Health Services, and it
provides general medical, dental and eye care.
They have their own tutoring program and facility,
complete with computers, located on the reservation
For college bound tribal members, the tribe provides
scholarships that cover tuition, housing and other
A Sovereign Nation
The San Manuel reservation like others in the
united States, is a sovereign nation with its own
system of government and operates by laws that
are independent from all other states.
This means that they do not have to pay any sort of
taxes to the federal or state government. All money
earned by their casino is direct profit after they pay
To better provide for the health, welfare, and
education of their people, the tribal council opened
a bingo hall in the 1980’s.
The business expanded in 1994 to include casino
The casino provides employment for over 1200
people of which 95% are non-Indian residents.
Since 1986, San Manuel has been
the premier gaming establishment
in the Inland Empire.
San Manuel Indian Bingo and
Casino has over 2,300 seats.
Prior to 1986, San Manuel Band
of Mission Indians dwelled in
In 1995, the San Manuel Indian
Bingo and Casino made
approximately $303,000.00 in
Our Visit to the Casino
In our visit to the casino we The next few slides are
expected that the Indians on pictures that were taking of the
the reservation would be living reservation.
modestly and that there would
be many signs of tribal culture.
To our surprise we found the
Indians on the reservation were
all living in some of the largest
houses we had ever seen.
In addition we saw no signs of
Indian culture except for a
small cemetery which
contained quite a few graves
with crosses for tombs.
Pictures of Homes
Here is a house that is More Homes!
While driving around the This didn’t seem to make
reservation we also noticed much sense since the casino
that each house had around was supposed to help provide
eight cars. And these were not for the healthcare, welfare and
just any eight cars but the most education of their people.
expensive and luxurious ones
you can find.
It is obvious that the San Manuel tribe is not suffering
economically, but it is also important not to forget about
those tribes that do not have casinos.
It only seems fair that this excess of money be distributed
to those other tribes that are not as fortunate.
Lastly, it again only seems fair that Indians pay taxes to
the federal government. They can definitely afford it and
also they take advantage of government services like
schools, defense, roads, etc.