Juaneño Tribe Elects First All-Woman Council

By Brian Park

Teresa Romero, the new chairman of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians. Courtesy photo

Teresa Romero, the new chairman of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Tribal Council. Courtesy photo

For the first time in its history, the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians will be led by an all-woman council following the tribe’s election Saturday.

Teresa Romero was elected chair, defeating longtime tribal leader and incumbent Anthony Rivera. Jacque Nuñez will serve as vice chair, defeating Anthony Vaughn and the late Francine Yorba, who passed away in December but whose name was left on the ballot out of respect.

“The women of our tribe have been leaders for a long time now. It’s very exciting,” Romero said.

Kim Leone and Kristina Yorba, who both ran uncontested, are the new secretary and treasurer, respectively. Ruthie Stoffel and Heidi Perez were elected as the council’s two newest members-at-large, over a field of four others including Todd Ambo, Joseph Lopez, Cecelia Martinez and Shannon De La Torre.

“On this day our people were idle no more. Exercising our sovereignty, we came out by the hundreds to choose our new leadership for the next part of our journey,” Romero said in a statement. “We welcome the love and support of our sister tribes, as we continue our efforts for our inherent rights as the indigenous people of Orange County.”

Nuñez and Leone are both San Juan Capistrano residents. All the tribal council members have ties to San Juan Capistrano’s founding families.

“It’s kind of taking it back to how it used to be. All these folks have grown up here,” tribal member Nathan Banda said.

The new officers’ four-year terms officially began immediately after the final voters were tallied. They will be officially inaugurated at the tribe’s next general council meeting in mid-February.

Jacque Nuñez

Jacque Nuñez, the new vice chair of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Tribal Council. Courtesy photo

With 1,941 current members, the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, of the Acjachemen Nation, are the original inhabitants of San Juan Capistrano, as well as parts of Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside counties.

The state-recognized tribe continues to work toward federal recognition after they were denied in 2011. “That’s always one of our primary goals,” Romero said.

Over the last several years, in-fighting between tribal members has led to the formation of Juaneño factions in San Juan Capistrano and throughout Orange County. Romero said bringing all factions back into the fold will be among the new council’s greatest challenges.

“We’ve been divided for a long time. There’ve been a number of different factions and splinter groups over the past 20 to 30 years. A lot of folks have been disenfranchised,” Romero said. “Unification will be our main goal and focus.”

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31 Responses to “Juaneño Tribe Elects First All-Woman Council”

  1. John
    January 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    Teresa Romero was kicked off the council when she was a member at-large for tainting her blood lines and leaking classified information. She also ran up thousands on a credit card given to her by recently-deceased vice chair Fran Yorba.

    Tribal “member” Nathan Banda resigned as Tribal Secretary in 2012 amidst serious allegations of leaking classified information and obstruction of justice. Yet he was allowed to run the Election Committee. I have already heard tribal rumblings (many in Nathan’s own family) of voter fraud as Nathan alledgedly ran around town urging members to vote absentee instead of at the polls. It turns out that after the polls closed and the votes cast at the polling station were tallied, neither Romero nor Vice-Chair Nunez were leading. But yet the absentees went 95% their way. At least the ones that were counted.

    It should also be noted that the “factions” Romero talks about are factions of non-Juanenos. They are led by David Belardes, who was removed from his position as Tribal Chairman over a decade ago once it was proven that he had no Juaneno blood. Belardes began a new faction and tried tI get federal recognition (84B), which was quickly and summarily dismissed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs because its leaders had no genealogical evidence as being Juaneno.

    All in all, this tribe is certainly heading for a downfall. As the late Fran Yorba said about Teresa “if she wins, the tribe is done for.”

    • native
      January 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

      Hey john why don’t u state your real name? Coward! Your no real Juaneno! And all your statements are false and untrue. You wont expose your name because im sure you would be sued for slander! Get a life and remove yourself from the tribe. We don’t need rotten people like your self!

  2. sherrie
    January 23, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    John im frans daughter and your information about her and my moms credit card is false. Dont know your source but its wrong. And this is coming from someone who did not vote for teresa. You are correct about her being removed. Please keep the personal rumors out of this as this is public

    • sherrie
      January 23, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

      And even if any personal history between my mom and teresa were true it is not your business to discuss. I am not happy of the outcome of the election but as my mom always said. The truth will come out on its own and ultimately you just need to pray for the new council

      • sherrie
        January 24, 2013 at 4:44 am #

        And one last thing. Native aka teresa, get use to this. There are way more that the couple of hundred members who votef for you who are not happy with you. And if they personally dont like you then suck it up. And please do you want to be the kettle in this. You slandered chairman rivera and my mom all over town so you can just stop there. Just from this article it says so much about you. You would remember if you were around. We are the tribe the others are groups that either did not submit proper evidence to the government or were denied as the leader is a prooven non juaneno. Also you would remember is that the juaneno people are the ones who decided against unification noy the council. Lets see you get the people to change their mind

  3. Nathan K Banda
    January 23, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    For the record “John” if you are going to try to slander me I ask that you get your facts straight and if you are an “Active Tribal Member” you would know that I resigned back in July of 2011 and NOT 2012. I resigned from Tribal Council for personal reasons and for the record I have NEVER leaked classified information /obstruction of justice nor was I ever accused of it by the Tribal Council. In regards to your comment about “running the Election Committee” I was exercising my born right as a Juaneno and stating our Tribal Constitution. I did encourage voters to vote Absentee ballot as I know members are busy and for their own convenience, nothing less.

  4. Sherrie
    January 24, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    The council gave Nathan the option, either we remove you and tell everyone what you have done by leaking confidential tribal business or bow out gracefully and resign stating something like you needed to be more with your growing family. So pretty much Chairman Rivera and my mom Fran gave him grace. He got lucky.
    As for your last statement “if she wins, the tribe is done for.” I have never heard that from my mom but she did tell me that you can never trust her.

  5. Vicenta
    January 24, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    These comments are sad and sickening. This is the very reason so many tribal members have decided to not participate in the tribe. Chairman Rivera lost this election because chose to treat the members & his council with zero respect. He was consistently condescending & demeaning during meetings. He has never showed one bit of humility during his time in office & continued to feed the people a bunch of lies as if they weren’t smart enough to see through the smoke and mirrors. The people are not stupid. They can tell when someone has their best interest at heart or when someone only wants to be their leader for his own benefit. How can you lead a nation when you don’t even act like you genuinely care about the well being of each & every individual. How can you be a good leader when you won’t even listen to your own elders or sitting council? Reality is you can’t. If Chairman Rivera truly has the tribe’s best interest at heart he would be humble enough to accept defeat & stick around and continue the efforts of Federal Recognition. The most important thing is not his pride & hopefully he understands that. Teresa Romero may not be able to work miracles & fix every existing problem the tribe has but hopefully she can get the tribe who has become increasingly divided inspired & united again. Good luck to the new tribal council. Many people have faith & trust in all of you.

  6. Nathan K Banda
    January 24, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Sherrie in regards to your false statement above, I encourage you to come back to Capistrano and take the time and listen to all the Executive Tribal Meetings to hear when they gave me this option. It was my decisions to leave and left for personal reasons to maintain a full time job and provide for my family and no longer wanted to continue to deceive my Tribal Community. Anthony and your mother did not give me grace and did me NO favor trust me and if this was true how you would know about this “confidential tribal business” very interesting. Don’t forget Sherrie of all the info you gave me when I wasn’t on Council, look who’s calling the kettle black!

    • Sherrie
      January 24, 2013 at 11:35 am #

      Sorry Nathan but you just are wrong, but I know you will never admit it because of your pride.

      • native
        January 24, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

        Wow Sheri! If you only knew the truth, can not believe how nasty and rotten u have become. I used to think you were a sweet trust full person. And no this is
        Not Teresa. Let me tell you something about Rivera, he never had your moms back. Maybe when he gave her those stipends that the tribe did not know about. We saw Rivera laugh @ your mother when she walked into the nomination meeting and and make a rude comment to his sister about your mom. Why dont u ask Nunez if ge wasnt trying to align himself with her before your mothers passing. From what I understand Teresa is family to you, I pray my family never stabs me in the back the way you are doing to yours. Ithink you are afraid the truth may come out about all illegal doings that went on with that council including you. You and Rivera should have bailed out gracefully. Now you and him will be exposed by your own family.

      • Amanda Welty
        January 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

        Sherrie: How dare you post these false allegations. I find it trite and pathetic that you feel the need to always slander people on social media sites and articles. There may be many tribal members who are unhappy with the outcome but a larger amount of members clearly were more unsatisfied with the current tribal council. The tribe has spoken and for so many years your family spoke about coming together as a tribe and working towards a common goal, I never realized was only if it was to your benefit. What a hypocrite you are to post that Nathan or Teresa leaked classified tribe information, funny how you had a direct link to tribal information and you are spreading lies based upon inaccurate tribal information that you must have received via leaked information. You have the nerve to say to Teresa, “She would remember if she was around” as you sit in Texas on your computer posting these comments. You tell “John” above to keep personal rumors out of the media but it’s ok if you do it? Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones Sherri. I would never speak ill of your mother because I loved her but as her daughter you were privy to tribal information that you otherwise wouldn’t have been. Creating false statements and posting them doesn’t look good on you.

        PS You should learn to use spell check, you look really uneducated.

  7. Becky
    January 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Whoa, stop the public fighting. As an OC resident/non tribal person, I have had some interest in your tribe. You are a part of our local history. I see stories of your tribe in a number of local news outlets making some small strides and sharing in your traditions. It keeps me interested. I must say this is very sad to see your tribe is such a mess. It is very clear why the Feds won’t help you. You are NOT a UNITED tribe. So from one OC resident to another I would urge you not to argue in public like this and I hope in some way you can find a way to unite. Then hopefully you will finally get federal recognition and put yourselves on the map. I hope for the best for your tribe.

    • Renee
      January 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      I couldn’t agree more with Vicenta, which was why I stopped volunteering and attending meetings. What I most admired about Fran was her grace and from what I saw she stayed out of the gossip. I discourage everyone from continuing this long unfortunate “tradition” of fighting that has gone on for so long in our town, in our families, in our tribe, in our history and move forward. Why is it so important to be right?!?! Why must we play this tit for tat game? Because that’s all we know, it’s what we’ve grown up in, unfortunately our history. Our generation is young enough that we can rewrite and change it for our future generation and possible move forward and not stay idle like we have for so long. We need change, and who cares where or who it comes from. Let’s bring honor to our ancestors and move forward. Stop the fighting and pointing fingers, it’s time to act like adults. Even children know if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.

  8. Nathan K Banda
    January 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    Like I said Sherrie I invite you to come back to Capistrano and bring forward the Tribal Executive Minutes to prove me wrong. There is nothing for me to admit other than the TRUTH.

  9. native
    January 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    @ Becky, thank you for supporting the tribe! This is just a disgruntled member that is upset about the outcome of the elections! And I’m pretty sure she scared of what may be exposed in the near future. I know with this knew council things won’t be perfect but we are looking to a brighter future and with all the help from current and old members and including people like yourself we can pray and continue the fight.

  10. Dennis Judo Sommers
    January 24, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    I want to say I’m not here to finger point—it’s completely irrelevant and makes no difference at this point anyway.
    What does make a difference is we’ve e come this far and done everything WA has told us. The two factions have already given up on the federal recognition process:
    WA dropped Belardes as even a person of interest as he has no proven bloodline.
    Sonia just gave up
    Neither faction appealed for their recognition.
    We, the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation with the help of our elders did appeal and our case is still pending. Hard to believe, given the history of dissent with these “factions” that the elders would either approve or agree to allow this to happen.
    One of our biggest hurdles with WA was proving our bloodlines—and unfortunately there were many who had to be left off our enrollment which affected many families and caused a lot of hurt feelings. However it does not make sense to drop this fight of recognition for our tribe it is like pointing the middle finger at all our ancestors who died fighting hard never seeing our recognition .
    To Theresa, It’s been said that recognition was not one of your main goals but it was hard for me to believe this until now. Why wasn’t this ever brought up in any of your messages to the tribe, in your agenda, bio…whatever? This has been our main goal, our main fight , our main objective and what our people have been fighting for the last 8 years (indeed for the last 150 years) and you know this. Because you were voted in, does not mean that people are voting against recognition—in fact they didn’t know this was not one of your goals—even though this is our—your families, our families all Juaneno families main goal.
    Juaneno families—main goal. The people that voted for you were under the impression that this would be a fresh new beginning for our tribe—but in reality this new beginning ironically could be the end of the Acjachemen nation as we know it—and clearly this is what you wanted all along.
    I’d like to apologize to Clarence Lobo, and Jose Dorham for you not finishing what they started so many years ago.
    And to my sister Fran I only wish that you were still here because only you could have stopped the finger pointing and brought an end to this absolutely- self-inflicted injustice to our people.
    I would like to finish saying that I have always been a proud Juaneno and have always been in support of our tribal leaders. And now I feel that for the first time in our history our tribal leaders are not supporting us.
    Theresa please think about your intentions and actions—please stop thinking for yourself and think about what our nation needs.
    In closing I really hope that you reconsider and we can put all of this behind us and our tribe can really have a new beginning, a fresh start towards our federal recognition.
    Please post here when your next meeting is—so you can face all of us and tell us exactly what your true intentions are.

  11. Amanda Welty
    January 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    Sherrie: How dare you post these false allegations. I find it trite and pathetic that you feel the need to always slander people on social media sites and articles. There may be many tribal members who are unhappy with the outcome but clearly a larger amount of members were unsatisfied with the current tribal council. The tribe has spoken and for so many years your family spoke about coming together as a tribe and working towards a common goal, I never realized that was only if it was to your benefit. What a hypocrite you are to post that Nathan or Teresa leaked classified tribe information, funny how you had a direct link to tribal business and you are spreading lies based upon inaccurate tribal information that you must have received via leaked information. You have the nerve to say to Teresa, “She would remember if she was around” as you sit in Texas on your computer posting these comments. You tell “John” above to keep personal rumors out of the media but it’s ok if you do it? Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones Sherri. I would never speak ill of your mother because I loved her but as her daughter you were privy to tribal information that you otherwise wouldn’t have been. Creating false statements and posting them doesn’t look good on you.

    PS You should learn to use spell check, you look really uneducated.

  12. Laura v.
    January 24, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    Congratulations to the new Council members.

    It truly is a wonderful and amazing time. There have been many women Chieftains in history and I am very proud we have them in our present.

    This is a time of great change. I believe in the strength, spirit, compassion, and loyalty that these women possess. Being on the council is not just a position. Every decision you make affects your brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, etc… It is very personal. It is going to be a challenge bringing the people together. First teaching all of us to have respect for one another and ultimately move forward in a positive manner.

    We all have different views and different perspectives on past events but we cannot let them blind us from the truth. The truth of who we are. The truth is we are a dislocated family. We were hunted down, killed, and stripped of our culture and land. We have lost so much of ourselves with no voice or recourse from the government.
    The truth is we split from each other long ago. We split in order to survive.
    Now the only thing we can do to try to right a wrong is to fight for our Recognition (and we have been fighting).
    Unfortunately, the fight for Recognition has come with a high price tag. Many families and friendships have been destroyed. The destruction has been so deep I pray we will recover.
    The truth is the government does not want to recognize any tribes. They would rather we all would go away and disappear. It is all a waiting game. All they have to do is wait. Wait until we destroy ourselves or wait until we are all deceased.

    I remember going to the tribal meetings before Recognition was even an issue. I remember always having a great time and leaving with a great sense of pride, peace, and community. That was a really happy time and I was proud to say I was Juaneno. Don’t get me wrong I will always be proud of who I am. I am just very aware of how we speak to and treat each other. I am also aware of how the rest of the world perceives us.

    I don’t know if Recognition is really worth the fight. Thank god it is not my decision. I try to imagine what my ancestors would say if I was to ask them if it was. I think they would say, “The great spirit knows who you are”.

    It is time for change.
    I hope every one will pray for the new council on their exciting new journey and chapter in the Juaneno History book. Also, I pray they will be led by their love of the people and our land.

  13. Dusty w Otero
    January 25, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    Congratulation ..

    • Dusty w Otero
      January 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi I want to be Honest and say when all the genealogy was done it ended up that my cousins were Juaneno and I was Mutsun,,,that is still a mission Indian please click on my name and that will show you proof of what the government agreed on and I am satisfied with that decision..Teeter Romero is my blood cousin and where the split is when Custodia Manriquez got married twice… I want to be a part of this tribe and in helping anyway I can to show the community and all of Orange county,,we want federal recognition and we can build some power plants… waste to energy projects and give jobs to many people not just Juaneno,,Mutsun…Pala or any other,,please lets unite in that way,,,Ok yes I am not Juaneno according to my genealogy and the federal government..but I am 1/8 Mission Indian and we were all living together in villages right here in this valley,,go to my website http://www.smartybelt.com and scroll down and see …Frany told me that I had more blood than most why because my mom was my dads full blood cousin,,ok Teofilo manriquez was my dads moms father,,,and custodia manriquez his sister was my moms mothers mother ,please lets all unite in this way,,we missed 5 critera ?? remember not just the genealogy…so the government wants all criteria not just blood lines thanks and Peace…

      • Riosfamilia
        January 26, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

        We shouldn’t focus on what we can build because we aren’t recognized, we should focus on recognition. And yes, the government does care about genealogy that is why it’s a criteria.

      • raul vargas (@ross1904)
        January 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

        Its a shame and disgrace that anthony rivera and sonia johnston were one in the same they both were never for the tribe as a whole they were only thinking of themselves!!!

    • Art Guevara
      February 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      Dusty congratulations to you for being the only one that congratulated the Woman Council they deserve all the support for their hard work, I know they will get things done, we men are procrastinators.

      San Juan Capistrano Artist
      Art Guevara
      Human Rights Advocate

      • Dusty w Otero
        February 19, 2013 at 11:22 am #

        Thanks Art yes ..its a good thing to have new blood on the council,,and we are mission Indians,,not all Juaneno built the mission,,lets all get along .

  14. Dusty w Otero
    January 27, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    Focus ,,,All of the O-C is flying by us native mission Indians that is what Clarence Lobo called everyone ,,and that is what we are and should all build on being that together,,u know how strong we can be,,Jobs..here and now and nothing can stand in our way,,we have Jerry Brown,,democratic California,,.I am not waiting around…4 criteria was missed ,..Mission Indians of Orange county unite and all you who are blooded Juaneno,,You are the seeds ok..we need divisions,,groups ,,under the Juaneno sponsor,,,,Even with f- recognition ,,there is 3 to 4 years before any grant money will come…start fresh and unite all proven blood line California Mission Indians,,,,that will work to benifit our Dreams,, ARE U INN smile and have a nice fresh native American Mission Indian Day..

  15. Dolores (Bibi) Moreno
    February 5, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Hellow, I’m Bibi a new commer. I came to San Juan three months ago met alot of the trible members who welcomed me with open arms. I came with only a suite case and a back pack from Arcadia Florida. I called and left messages at the trible office with no return answer. I had questions to ask I was getting fustrated. So I sold my pick up truck for hardly nothing to come here not knowing what to expect or knowing anybody at the time. My mother pasted away Sept. 2011 and left the Indian papers behinde.Witch my step-father gave me. I took thoose papers and helt them close to my heart and said a Prayer that now It’s time. All my life I new I was Califorina Indian. But we could’nt pratice it. I felt ocword all my life. Now that I’m here I’m so Proud I never gave up on who I was and am. Life was hard very hard I felt like one of my ansesters going threw the hard times like they did. AS it is we all are one on this matter. I say never give up on the Tribe cause you’ll be giving up on our Heritage. Our ansesters would be ashamed to know all this bickering is going on. Yes people are hurting from the past we all have our own way to say we’re hurting. But please people if your a God forsaken person forgive so we can move on and show the World we are here and we can over come. Nothing should stop the progerss. I ask that we all Pray to be united for the better of the Tribe and our well being. Bibi Moreno Proud Juaneno Indian

  16. Art Guevara
    February 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    Congratulationsthe Woman Council they deserve all the support for their hard work, I know they will get things done, we men are procrastinators.

    For the last 20 years I have being close friends with the Juañenos specially with Jaque Nuñes and Rebeca, Jaque is a born leader she and Teresa will get things done and fast let’s show our support to the new Council.

    Lets all forget about our differences and work together, is the only way to get things done.

    San Juan Capistrano Artist
    Art Guevara
    Human Rights Advocate

  17. Ramona Casioce
    March 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    I know for a fact that Sonia Johnston is the chair woman of the Juaneno’s she has been for a very long time and has been their forever and she knows what our tribe needs and you guys just came along out of nowhere and decided to take over and mess things up for us…

    • Raul Vargas
      May 12, 2013 at 9:39 am #

      sonia isnt the chairwoman she’s now buisy spending money that she swindled from the investors using the juaneno name she fooled alot of people she never should have held any office within the tribe because she wasnt even close to having the minimum required blood degree to even vote let alone be a chairwoman!!!!

    • TrueJuaneno
      May 29, 2013 at 2:09 am #

      Sonia is NOT Juaneno, and if she cares so much, why is she now in Hawaii living there leaving you guys to rot? She has always been a fake.

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