Park will let San Juan Capistrano tribe reclaim ancestral land

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A new park and cultural village in San Juan Capistrano will help the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians honor some of the land their ancestors once called home. (KABC)

Before missionaries came to San Juan Capistrano, the area was home to ancestors of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians.

Now their descendants are getting some of the land back.

A 1.3-acre open plot of land in San Juan Capistrano is being turned into a city-owned public park and Juaneno cultural village.

"The most sacred ground that we can be standing on in San Juan Capistrano, at least to me," said tribal member Jerry Nieblas. "This is the sacred village, the ancient village of Putuidem."

His ancestors in the tribe, also called the Acjachemen Nation, were born near this site thousands of years ago. Now after fighting for 30 years, the tribe can call the spot home again.

The roughly $3 million project approved by the city council will give tribal members a place to gather and preserve the history of the tribe's roots.

"They're a huge part of why San Juan is who San Juan is and they definitely need to be recognized," said San Juan Capistrano Mayor Pam Patterson.

Members of the tribe's committee who fought to make this happen say they had grown frustrated with developers taking over the land that their ancestors settled. The new center gives them a chance to educate the public about their culture.

The city and tribe estimate it will take about four years to build the park and village.

Now Nieblas has a message for his ancestors: "We got your land back. You were displaced. I stand here again and there's no one making me leave.'
Related Topics:
native americancultureSan Juan CapistranoOrange County
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