New tribal village, cultural center in San Juan Capistrano will honor Native American tribe

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (KABC) -- The long wait for a park simulating a Native American tribal village may soon be over.

The San Juan Capistrano City Council recently approved plans to use a portion of public land to build a cultural center honoring the area's Native American tribe, the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation.

San Juan Capistrano resident and tribal activist Jerry Nieblas can trace his Acjachemen ancestry to the ancient village of Putuidem.

He says his five-times great grandmother, Maria Bernarda Chigilia, lived in the village of Putuidem, but in 1776, shortly after Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded, Maria was removed from the land and not allowed to return.

Much of that land is on what's now called "Northwest Open Space," where the tribal village site is planned.

"It's an opportunity to represent not only us as a people, but also give us a site to go to, to be who we are, to practice our ways. But, it's also for future generations. Especially the young, to come in and experience the Juaneño way of life, to learn our history and be able to carry it on in their education, and in the future to their own children," Nieblas said.

"We wanted a place where we could educate future generations, where they could be hands-on and see our cultural center," he explained.

Nieblas hopes the village and exhibits would let people "know that we're still here...and know that we want to share our traditions, culture and spirituality and what's important to us with future generations so that our legacy gets carried on."

If all goes as planned, construction on the village could begin in early 2020.
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