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East County News Service

April 14, 2018 (Pala) - Leaders of Native American tribal governments convened at the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association last Friday at the Pala Casino, Spa and Resort, where they were joined by representatives from the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG.

San Diego has 17 federally recognized tribes and 18 reservations, accounting for four percent of all the land in San Diego County.

The Summit provided a forum for the region’s tribes to help shape the 2019 Regional Plan.  At the event, tribal nations and leaders of local governments countywide looked for opportunities for collaboration including energy, environmental protection, emergency preparedness, and economic growth. Times of San Diego reports.

For example, tribal nations have formed independent energy plans and begun renewable energy projects, while some local jurisdictions are also looking at new options for energy production.Tribes also want regional plans for habitat conservation and environmental preservation to include impacts on tribal nations.

Tribes contribute significantly to the regional economy, and as their economies mature there are more opportunities for collaboration.

Coordinated emergency preparedness has shown the importance of working together across jurisdictions, especially during major wildfires. As an example, later this month the Pala reservation will host a regional firefighting drill to provide training for crews from fire departments countywide.

Most of the region’s 18 tribal reservations are in East County, with many in remote inland locations.   Local tribal nations include four cultural/ethnic groups: the Kumeyaay/ Diegueño, the Luiseño, the Cupeño, and the Cahuilla.

SANDAG Chair Terry Sinnott said SANDAG and tribal governments are working hand in hand to address regional planning issues, adding, “The SANDAG Board recognizes that the region’s transportation system must also support the needs of our tribal nations whose reservations are not always located near urban roads and highways.”

Robert Smith, Chairman of the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, stated, “Our partnership with SANDAG is setting a standard across the nation.”  He added, “Our region is home to the most federally recognized tribal nations in the United States. The work we do here gives others a roadmap on how to plan and grow.”

The Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association is a non-profit established in 1972 for a consortium of 19 federally-recognized Indian tribes in Southern California. The primary mission of SCTCA is to serve the health, welfare, safety, education, cultural, economic and employment needs of its tribal members and descendants in the San Diego County urban areas. 

The San Diego Regional Association of Governments is a public entity for regional decision making on transit and other regional quality of life issues, with representatives from all of our county’s 18 cities and the County of San Diego.