Oral Histories

Interview of James Ramos

Chair of the San Manuel tribe. Co-founder of the tribe's Cultural Awareness Program and chair of the California State Native American Heritage Commission. Member of San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
The American Indian Presence in Southern California: Those Who Were Already Here
American Indian History
Biographical Note:
Chair of the San Manuel tribe. Co-founder of the tribe's Cultural Awareness Program and chair of the California State Native American Heritage Commission. Member of San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
Coates, Julia
Ramos, James
Persons Present:
Ramos and Coates.
Place Conducted:
The offices of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in San Bernardino, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Julia Coates; interviewer, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; Ph.D., American studies, University of New Mexico; assistant professor, Native American studies, UC, Davis; and visiting professor, College of Liberal Arts, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Citizen of the Cherokee Nation and served on its tribal council. Coates did extensive interviewing of Cherokee Nation citizens as part of her dissertation and post-doctoral research. Coates prepared for the interview by speaking at length with Clifford Trafzer of University of California, Riverside and by reading Trafzer's The People of San Manuel.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Ramos was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
3 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The interviews in the series the American Indian Presence in Southern California: Those Who Were Already Here survey the experiences of unrecognized tribes at one extreme and gaming tribes at the other. Southern California is the homeland of numerous tribal peoples indigenous to the region. Following the genocidal state policies of the 1800s, which left less than 20,000 California Natives still living (from an original population of more than 300,000 previous to European contact), the peoples of California tribes have been largely invisible to the outside world for much of the twentieth century. The advent of tribal gaming has put California tribes on the radar once again, but the century’s policies also resulted in a loss of federal recognition for still others, including those indigenous to Los Angeles County.
Ancestry on mother’s and father’s sides– Reservation men worked as laborers in the orange groves--Description of the ancestral lands and establishment of the San Manuel reservation–Where Ramos was born and where his family lived–Conditions on San Manuel reservation in early and mid-20th century–Families that resided on the reservation–Parents’ employment–Tribal employment during the years of his childhood–Struggles with poverty throughout those years–People had to leave the reservation to find employment, housing, and education–People returned to the reservation for various reasons beginning around the 1970s–Turmoil with families being moved when bingo hall was opened–Ramos's family was moved twice–Tribe has acquired additional properties for housing development–Tribal population and the significance of the numbers–How the village has moved and the reservation was created–Most adult members now reside on the reservation–Connections retained even with those who live off-reservation–Ramos is in charge of tribe’s cultural programs—Memories of going to school in Highland–Experiences of going to school after moving to reservation– Improvements in the way Indians are addressed since he was in school– Comparison of the two homes he lived in when a child–Description of the neighborhood in Highland–Federal programs for reservation kids–Discrimination increases as the tribe began to progress –Instances of discrimination between tribes themselves–Description of cultural heritage within his family–Creation of tribal cultural community–Description of his grandmother’s economic activities–Distinctions between tribal culture and government–Family’s generational involvement in tribal government–Worked on implementation of gaming with other tribal leaders–Description of other economic enterprises previous to gaming–Evolution of tribal expertise needed to run their own operations–Recollections of life and activities on the reservation when he was a child–Descriptions of hunting quail, rabbit, bighorn sheep–Relationship between tribe and San Bernardino county was non-existent prior to gaming–Internal challenges within the tribe at the present time.
Clarification of tribal government and tribal cultural names–Strength of cultural identity within San Manuel Band–Creation of cultural awareness programs-Public’s lack of awareness of tribal community until recently– Relied on federal assistance, rather than county–Grandparents’ house was flooded and relied on federal aid–Brought heavy equipment in before county injunction could take place–Tension between public’s desire for tribe to succeed, but not more than they were–Responsibility of tribes that are doing well to assist others that aren’t–Describes specific situations when federal assistance would be forthcoming rather than county– Non-profits would offer assistance–Other governments now want to work with tribal government–Education process about sovereignty occurred–How the first bingo operation was established-Splits in the tribal community over gaming–Early economic development enterprises–Good arrangements with investors from the beginning–Education, housing, and other services were developed– Description of first Bingo enterprise–What IGRA does–Different classes of gaming– Struggles with the state to broaden gaming– His role throughout those years–Tribes initiated the regulatory standards–Gaming expanded knowledge base and interactions with other tribes–Describes subsistence agricultural activities–Parents had been agricultural laborers– Orchards were wiped out by urbanization– Impacts on workers–Responsibilities of tribal leaders and elders–Responsibilities of community as a whole–Changes in tribal government throughout the last half of the 20th century–Tribal gaming re-engaged tribal members–Describes the positions in government he has held and the process of learning politics–Describes meeting and bus tour with Jesse Jackson–He went back to school at Cal State San Bernardino–Structure of the tribal council–Ran for election to community college board then tribal chairman–Describes the positive impacts of return of tribal members to the reservation– Describes the negative impacts of new wealth –Describes impacts of cultural revitalization activities–Evolution of relationships between San Manuel and other regional governments– His role as a county supervisor–Tribal business diversification–Tribal educational attainment is increasing–His interest in government beyond tribal positions-The most challenging issues for San Manuel today–Describes a protest by a public official at the casino–Evolution of relationships between individuals within the larger community– Some resentment and targeting of the tribe occurs–Tribal government deals with the same issues as other local governments.