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A native daughter of San Juan, Banda brought Native American education into local schools

By Brian Park

Barbara “Bobbie” Lucille Banda, a native daughter of San Juan Capistrano and a Juaneño tribal elder who helped incorporate Native American Indian education into local schools, died on Saturday. She was 66.

She died after suffering a series of strokes, her family said.

Banda was a ninth generation member of the Rios family, one of San Juan Capistrano’s historic families that predate the Mission. She grew up in the Little Hollywood neighborhood in the Los Rios Historic District and attended San Juan Elementary School. In 1964, Banda was a part of the last graduating class at Capistrano Union High School.

Not long after graduating, Banda began working as a teacher’s aide in the Capistrano Unified School District. She worked alongside the late Evelyn Lobo Villegas, a fellow member of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians who was crowned Matriarch of San Juan Capistrano in 1992.

Her son, Nathan Banda, said his mother had a “sixth sense” when people were troubled and that she would often provide emotional support to them, especially children.

“She loved teaching children. She knew the troubled children in class and she always gave them extra love,” Nathan Banda said. “She took other people’s burdens off of them and put them on herself so they’d have a renewed soul.”

Banda also worked for Endevco Aerospace for 28 years, according to Nathan Banda.

During the 1970s, Banda was instrumental in bringing federally-funded Native American Indian education programs to the Capistrano Unified School District. The program exists to this day and is currently led by her son.

“She instilled those native traditions and cultures in us,” Nathan Banda said.

Barbara "Bobbie" Lucille Banda. Courtesy photo
Barbara “Bobbie” Lucille Banda. Courtesy photo

Banda served as co-director of the Juaneño tribe’s elders committee for six years, until the time of her death. She carried significant political influence in the tribe, according to her son. She helped campaign for the six new members of the first all-female tribal council earlier this year.

At a fundraising event for Banda’s funeral services at El Adobe de Capistrano on Monday, more than 350 friends and family members arrived to show their support for the family, including Banda’s former students.

“Having everybody there that night, it was nothing but good vibes and it was good medicine for us,” Nathan Banda said.

Although her mother was a public figure within the tribe, Banda’s oldest daughter, Monica Clifton, said her mother was an even larger presence in the family.

“My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but it didn’t matter. She made every birthday special for us and her grandchildren,” Clifton said. “Our kids never wanted money or gifts. They’ve always just wanted her birthday cards because of what she’d write for them.”

Clifton said her mother’s smile was infectious, even to complete strangers.

“My mother would do this thing where we’d be driving through San Juan Capistrano and she’d honk and wave at random people and they’d wave back,” Clifton said. “She did that with her grandchildren, too. She was just silly.”

Banda was a constant presence at her grandchildren’s sporting events and school presentations. Clifton said just as she’s taken her parental cues from her mother, so too have Banda’s grandchildren who are now parents themselves.

“A mother’s love never dies. She told me how she was proud of how we raised our kids, but I told her it’s because of her,” Clifton said. “I am so proud to say she was my mother and I was her daughter.”

The San Juan Capistrano City Council dedicated their meeting on Tuesday, May 7, in memory of Banda.

Banda is survived by her husband of 48 years, Frank; four children, Frank Jr., Monica Clifton, Erika Zammoron and Nathan; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A viewing will be held on Thursday, May 9, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at O’Connor Mortuary, 25301 Alicia Parkway in Laguna Hills. A rosary will also be said in her memory on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Serra Chapel in San Juan Capistrano.

A funeral mass will take place on Friday, May 10, starting at 10 a.m. at Mission Basilica Church in San Juan Capistrano.

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comments (3)

  • I met your mother thru my Aunt Velma,I Remember how happy and loving towards my Aunt and myself……I felt like I had known her forever…..My Aunt Velma was very lucky to have a friend like Barbara,Nathan,your mother will be missed by many….All my prayers go out to you and family…..Sandy Liggett…

  • Thank you Kika for introducing me to a sweet and wonderful lady. In the few months I knew her we lalked and laughed about everything… she was a friend and a Great Leader…Sorry for every ones loss…. BiBi Moreno

  • Frank Banda was my son Steven Macias Godfather. Bobbie stepped in to take the place of Compader. Always there to help and listen. She came and sat with me when Steven died. I just can’t believe she is gone, she’s to young.

    So sorry for you loss. Love and prayers to the family

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