El Capitan

El Capitan

by Tanis C. Thorne


With Photo Essays by Heather Ponchetti Daly

Product Details

-- 236 pages
Publisher: Malki-Ballena Press (2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0939046490
ISBN-13: 978-0939046492
ISBN-10: 0939046482
ISBN-13: 978-0939046485


Richly Embellished with historic photos and innovative digital maps, El Capitan is Southern California regional history at its best. Based upon extensive archival research, the study blends the dynamic social history of Native people with the changing winds of federal Indian policy. El Capitan is framed within the larger story of legal dispossession and cultural adaptation of Southern California’s Mission Indians under Spanish, Mexican and American rule. Challenging stereotypes, the book traces the actions of strong-willed and capable Native leaders (aka captains) who defended boundaries and resources with the support of “friends of the Indian” and the federal guardian. An intense conflict over water rights culminates in the removal of the Capitan Grande people from their trust land in order to construct the El Capitan dam and reservoir. Defining terms of their capitulation, the Capitan Grande people insist on being relocated as communities. Out of the geopolitical maelstrom of the Depression era came the birth of two new reservations in San Diego County: Barona and Viejas.

Above all, this is a story of Native survival in place. The Name “El Capitan” is an embodiment of the history, social principles, and world view of Indian people on the Southern California landscape.


“The story of the seizure of El Capitan from the Capitan Grande Indians is long overdue. How a politically weak community made the best of a tragic situation is an inspiration that echoes into the present day. Dr. Thorne’s study of the topic provides a range insight beyond the legal doctrines and into personal, political and economic dimensions of Indian existence in the early 20th century,”

-- Michael Connolly Miskwish
Kumeyaay Historian

“This compelling book about one of the many Indian reservations in Southern California tells what the California Indians face in dealing with the Federal Government.”

-- Lowell Bean

“This is a story of a people and their persistence that needs to be told and understood. Thorne has provided a well-researched and powerful narrative.”

-- Richard L. Carrico