July 11, 2012

Pala Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Pala Reservation


Many of the Pala Band of Luiseno Mission Indians trace their heritage back to the Cupa. Today, more than 90 years after having been expelled from their native homeland, the Cupenos call Pala, California home and live as one among the Luiseno tribe.

Official Tribal Name:Pala Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Pala Reservation

Address:  12196 Pala Mission Road, Pala CA 92059
Phone:   760-591-0926
Fax:   760-742-1411 or 760-742-1293

Official Website: 

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

The Cupenos called themselves Kuupangaxwichem, or “people who slept here.” 

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:

Cupeno – The word Cupeno is of Spanish derivation, adopting the native place-name Kupa and appending Spanish – ‘eno’ to mean a person who lives in or hails from Kupa.

Alternate names / Alternate spellings / Misspellings:

Name in other languages:

Region: California

State(s) Today: California

Traditional Territory:

They once occupied a territory 10 square miles in diameter in a mountainous region at the headwaters of the San Luis Rey River in the valley of San Jose de Valle. 

Confederacy:  Luiseno


Reservation: Pala Reservation

The Pala Reservation is located in southern California. It was established by the Executive Order of December 27, 1875. Executive Orders of May 3, 1877, and July 24, 1882, restored portions of it to public domain. A Congressional Act of May 27, 1902, appropriated $100,000 for the purchase of land for California Mission Indians. An Act of March 31, 1903, permitted the use of part of this money for removing the Indians to the purchased land. The Executive Order of December 20, 1973, returned the Mission Reserve, formerly controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, to the Pala Band of Mission Indians. 

The Pala Reservation represents one of the communities of Indians who were forced together by Spanish Franciscan missionaries during the 1800s. Although descendants of the Cupeño people form the majority, there has been a large degree of cultural integration between the groups.

Land Area:  The rancheria encompasses over 12,000 acres, including 4,000 acres of forests, 6 acres of wetlands, 8 acres of lake, and over 38 miles of streams. The San Luis Rey River courses through the center of the reservation.
Tribal Headquarters:  
Time Zone:  Pacific

Population at Contact:

The Cupans were one of the smallest native American tribes in Southern California. It is unlikely that they ever numbered more than 1000 in size.

Registered Population Today:

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


The general council, composed of all adult members 18 years and older, governs the Pala Reservation. The council meets monthly, or the executive committee may call a special meeting, if needed.

Charter:  The tribe is organized under Articles of Association approved in July 1961. These articles were amended in 1973 and 1980.
Name of Governing Body:  Tribal Council
Number of Council members:  
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 
Number of Executive Officers:  Executive committee members include a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, a secretary, and a treasurer.


Members of the executive committee serve two-year terms. Tribal members must be at least 21 years old to run for office.

Language Classification: Uto-Aztecan => Northern Uto-Aztecan => Takic  => Cupan => Luiseño

Language Dialects:

Number of fluent Speakers:



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Today there are six federally recognized bands of Luiseño Indians based in southern California, and another that is not yet recognized by the US Government. They are:

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

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Economy Today:

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Wedding Customs


Famous Luiseno Indians

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Tribe History:

In the News:

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US Tribes N to P
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