OCEANSIDE — San Luis Rey Rotary Club members were treated to a sneak peak into the Mission San Luis Rey history series at MiraCosta College when Mel Vernon, captain of the San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, spoke at the Sept. 22 meeting.
The talk allowed members to hear a bit of what will be shared at the yearlong history series at MiraCosta College sponsored by the Old Mission San Luis Rey Historical Foundation.
The San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians is a significant part of Oceanside history, but is not officially recognized as a tribe. “We don’t have a land base, but we have pride in our culture,” Vernon said.
Vernon explained that the roots of native people go back thousands of years. He said Native Americans watched ships go by for 200 years before they were put into compulsory labor to build Mission San Luis Rey. “They promised in 10 years to give it (the mission) to the native people — it never happened,” Vernon said.
Vernon said the sustainable living practices used by Native Americans before the Spanish arrived are often left out of history.
To help balance what is left out of history lessons, Native Americans have helped develop numerous historical sites and displays in North County that honor early Native American life, including development of the Maron Adobe, Indian Rock, Luiseno Park, Rancho Guajome and Vista Sports Park.
“History is all over the area,” Vernon said. “It’s been buried. We want to bring it to awareness of the general public.”
Education is a key component to sharing Mission Indian history and culture.
Diania Caudell, the sister of Mel Vernon and secretary of the California Indian Basketweavers Association, helps keep Mission Indian culture alive by sharing the band’s basket weaving practices and language.
Rotarian Jim Downs also has a keen interest in Mission Indian history. He is a member of the Old Mission San Luis Rey Historical Foundation and is in the process of writing a book on Mission San Luis Rey history. He began his research for the book over a year ago. “There’s a wide range of interpretations on what happened,” Downs said.
Mission San Luis Rey history lectures at MiraCosta College began Sept. 23 with keynote speaker Iris H. Engstrand, a history professor at the University of San Diego.