O.C.’s Indigenous Natives Are Still Here!
By Kay Walburger


Surprise!” The Acjachemen People are alive and well and living in Orange County, California!” So reports Adelia (Kathy) Sandoval, Cultural Committee Chairperson. Her quest is to formally reconnect her tribal family roots by completing her research. “I was raised as anyone else in the U.S. going to school, getting educated and working.”

“Nevertheless, I was hungry for my culture which I only knew about from B.B.Q’s we went to in San Juan Capistrano, the hub of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation, of which I am a descendent. My family would travel from Santa Ana to these gatherings of our ancestral remnants as we had a longing to come together and tell each other our stories.”

“In 1992 I moved to San Juan Capistrano, and became more interested in our genealogy and traditions, and have become an active member of this community to help recover what was lost to us as a people. I am very proud of my people because they were welcoming and flexible, which saved them from harsher outcomes that many tribes suffered in other parts of America.

Through our active search of records which the Mission Padres kept fastidiously, I have the names of my earliest ancestors and can speak their names out loud, an honor for me!

We are one of the Indian Nations that was never sent to a “Reservation” but we were absorbed into the American Culture. Still longing for formal recognition from the Federal Government we have a petition before them now!”

JUANENO BAND OF MISSION INDIANS, ACJACHEMEN NATION 84-A Anthony Rivera Jr. Chairman, Summary of Petition for Recognition, By Mike Merrifield. The following is a supportive declaration of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation’s petition for Federal Recognition based on the requirements mandated by 25 CFR 83.7.

Hummingbird Singers
In October of 1992, a great ceremony called the Xayan (hiyan) was held to honor an Ancestor who had been unearthed during some development. This Ancestor was in the spiritual hierarchy of the people, a pipe carrier, and a member of the deer clan. Ka’chi, the Ceremonial Leader and spiritual teacher of the Acjachemen people came forth to instruct them on ceremonial songs and dances to honor this Holy person and to honor other Ancestors who had also been removed from other development sites in Orange County.

The women who learned the songs didn’t want to stop singing so Ka’chi gave them more songs to sing. I became the liaison. I would travel inland from my home in San Juan Capistrano to Ka’chi’s home nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountain area of eastern San Diego. There I would learn the songs from Ka’chi and return to teach songs to the women. The women decided to call themselves the (Hummingbird Singers) Tushmalum Heleqatum.

They were encouraged to sing the songs as often as possible, and because some of the songs were social songs, they could be sung for all people. Other songs were so sacred they were only to be sung at tribal ceremonies.

The Tushmalum singers were invited to sing at various events at college campuses and museums, pow-wows and California Native gatherings. They have performed at the Gene Autry Museum in LA and Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. During the summer of 2000 the women sang for 57 nights in a row at the Festival of the Arts Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach.

Tribal Identity for the Acjachemen people has changed in many ways over the last 400 years. This has been determined by the changing relationship they have had with the land beneath their feet and life surrounding them.

They languaged themselves by the stories they told. Their identity was reflected in their music. The instruments they used, and the songs and dances they did, brought the stories to life.

The Creation Stories literally gave meaning to their existence. Did our Ancestors fall from the heavens? Did we come from the stars? Did we emerge from the red mud of a lake? Were our ancestral spirits embodied in the dolphin?

We know our Ancestors were astronomers. The brightest star in the heavens was called the heart of the wolf or Ishwut Noshuun. Stargazers, whose task it was to follow the movement and pattern of these beings of light, studied the stars and moon, moyla nightly. Dances and ceremonies were held depending on the cycle of the moon, or the constellation that was predominate in the sky.

The Golden Eagle has always been sacred to our people. The Ancestors had great regard for this winged giant. The clan that was given its name was considered to be gifted with vision and insight. The Eagle dance has been done for centuries and as recently as the last Winter Solstice ceremony four years ago.

Ka’chi, the Tribal spiritual teacher, received clarity a few months ago that an Eagle ceremony was to be done in the spring. The Eagle dance will be done to strengthen the Acjachemen people and to give protection to all clans of the people.

“I am exhilarated to be discovering the legacy left to us from our ancestors from bits and pieces whispered into the ears of their children in the dark long ago, and creating a culture mosaic for all to see and revere. I was saying prayers at the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, when I looked at the East wall of the old mission with awe! There my ancestors had embedded the wall with obsidian crystals and seashells, as was their custom. As the sunlight struck the wall at a certain angle it was ablaze with beauty and whimsy! I was proud & thrilled!

We claim our ancient name Acjachemen. Together we have begun to envision who we are as a Nation of people with a powerful history and a deep relationship with our Mother Earth, our Creator, with each other and to our ancient beginnings — our relationship with the Universe.

Adelia Sandoval is the Cultural Liaison for the Juaneno Band Of Mission Indians/Acjachemen Nation; a Ceremonial Leader, Bear Dancer, Re-Burial Rites Ceremonialist and Keeper of Songs. She is the director of the Tribal women’s singing group the Tushmalum Heleqatum.

Rev. Adelia was ordained through Life blessings Ministries in Descanso, California. Her studies centered on the indigenous teachings of her own Tribe, Interfaith and Metaphysical teachings. She continues to study with the Tribal Spiritual Leader and Teacher (16 years).

Interfaith work has led her to the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative (creating cultures of peace through interfaith dialogue) where she is a Trustee for North America. She is currently on the Board of the Interfaith Council for South Orange County.

For more information, contact her at: 31411-A La Matanza St., San Juan Capistrano, CA, 92675, call (949) 488-3484 or visit


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