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Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Loses a Leader

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The Juaneño Band of Mission Indians is mourning the loss of its vice chairwoman, Francine Pala Sommers Yorba, who walked on December 7 at her home in San Juan Capistrano, California. She was just 53.

According to her brother, Dennis Sommers, she was a political voice for the Juaneños, also known as the Ajachemen Nation.

“It’s a huge loss… not only a loss to the Sommers family, but a loss to the whole tribe,” Sommers said.

Yorba served on the council for 16 years, Nathan Banda, a member of the tribe and of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission told the San Juan Capistrano Patch.

Photo courtesy Nathan Banda

Francine Pala Sommers Yorba

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“I served on the tribal council with Fran Yorba for three years. She took me under her wing and guided me in my years in the political arena in Indian country,” Banda told the Patch.

There will be a viewing and rosary on December 12 at Lesniki Mortuary in San Clemente at noon. The rosary begins at 7 p.m. Services will be held on December 13 at 10 a.m. at the Mission San Juan Capistrano Serra Chapel along El Camino Real.

The Mission rang its bells in Yorba’s honor on December 7.

“She was a powerful woman in leadership, and it is devastating to us who respected her as a tribal leader,” said Acjachemen member Jacque Nunez.

Yorba is survived by four brothers, two sisters, four daughters, three grandchildren, and a boyfriend.

“She identified our ancestors and history for all our family members. She always greeted everyone with a smile and a hug," Banda told the Patch.