Luiseño Village Breaks Ground

◆ By Mike Hiles

In its first major project since opening the Soboba Casino Resort last year, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians broke ground on Feb. 27 for a retail center at the southwest corner of Main Street and the Ramona Expressway in San Jacinto.

Luiseño Village will consist of about 10 businesses, anchored by a 7-11 convenience store and a multi-pump gas station. The center is located less than three miles south of the resort’s entrance. Construction of what is expected to be a leading retail destination is scheduled to be completed this summer.

Hundreds of tribal and community members gathered at the future site for a ceremony that signaled the tribe’s next step in providing positive economic development in the San Jacinto Valley. Soboba Tribal Administrator Michael Castello welcomed guests, including many tribal elders and youths.

Joseph Ontiveros, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for Soboba’s Cultural Resource Department, led the Intertribal Bird Singers in two Cahuilla language social bird songs after Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians Vice Chairman Steven Estrada gave a blessing in Cahuilla and English.

Soboba Tribal Preschool students had a field trip to the location near the Soboba Indian Health Clinic on Donna Way to witness the historic event. Kindergartners served as reporters by documenting what they saw and heard in their notepads titled “Ground-breaking News.”

Teacher Cindy Lee said they were asked to draw something they saw or heard during the event on the pages. There were drawings of the canopy where seats were placed underneath for guests, bird singers with their rattles and members of Tribal Council who used shiny silver shovels to ceremoniously turn the first mound of dirt.

Vice Chairman Isaiah Vivanco spoke on behalf of the council that includes Chairman Scott Cozart, Secretary Monica Herrera, Treasurer Kelli Hurtado and Sergeant at Arms Rose Salgado.

“We have many different vendors interested in opening their businesses here,” he said. “We are happy to be able to announce that 7-11 is going to be one of our anchor stores.”

He said this latest development has been a long time in the making but not nearly as long as it took to get the Soboba Casino Resort opened last year.

“This latest project will take us into the future and help the tribe prosper,” Vivanco said.

Also on hand from the San Jacinto City Council were Mayor Andrew Kotyuk, Mayor Pro Tem Crystal Ruiz, and council members Alonso Ledezma, Russ Utz and Joel Lopez. It was the perfect opportunity for the council to welcome a project that helps fulfill its mission “to build upon and enjoy our special heritage, to create an attractive, well-planned and balanced community that supports our citizens and businesses, to provide a safe and healthy community that offers education, employment, recreation, and cultural opportunities and to promote pride in San Jacinto.”

“San Jacinto Valley is on the go and this is a big part of that,” Kotyuk said. “This (project) affects all of us and our quality of life. To have this project within our boundaries to provide revenue and more jobs allows us to be a prosperous part of Riverside County.”

City manager Rob Johnson was very instrumental in the project as was Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington who were there to give the tribe well-deserved applause for its dedication and hard work in developing the project.

“What an achievement!” Washington said. “I feel blessed that I’ve been able to be part of this larger family since 2015 and have been able to witness firsthand the honest and sincere efforts by the tribe to contribute to the well being of families in this valley.”

Soboba tribal member Denise Silvas-Thomas was excited to attend the ceremony.

“I feel so blessed and thankful to see this day come,” she said. “My mom is from Morongo and they have stores I never dreamed we could have here. It’s amazing to see this finally come to fruition and be known as more than the tribe that built the casino.”

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All photos courtesy of Carlos Puma/Puma Images

Soboba Tribal Council members turn the first shovels full of dirt at the Luiseño Village groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 27. From left, Sergeant at Arms Rose Salgado, Vice Chairman Isaiah Vivanco, Treasurer Kelli Hurtado and Secretary Monica Herrera

Soboba Tribal Council members turn the first shovels full of dirt at the Luiseño Village groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 27. From left, Sergeant at Arms Rose Salgado, Vice Chairman Isaiah Vivanco, Treasurer Kelli Hurtado and Secretary Monica Herrera

Members of the Intertribal Bird Singers sang a couple of social songs at the start of the Feb. 27 groundbreaking ceremony for the new Luiseño Village in San Jacinto

Members of the Intertribal Bird Singers sang a couple of social songs at the start of the Feb. 27 groundbreaking ceremony for the new Luiseño Village in San Jacinto

Kindergarten students from the Soboba Tribal Preschool were tasked with “reporting” on the historic groundbreaking event through drawings in their notepads

Kindergarten students from the Soboba Tribal Preschool were tasked with “reporting” on the historic groundbreaking event through drawings in their notepads

Members of Soboba Tribal Council and Soboba Youth Council helped celebrate the groundbreaking of the tribe’s Luiseño Village in San Jacinto during a ceremony on Feb. 27

Members of Soboba Tribal Council and Soboba Youth Council helped celebrate the groundbreaking of the tribe’s Luiseño Village in San Jacinto during a ceremony on Feb. 27