News from southern California

Tribe hires veteran gaming official

ALPINE, Calif. – Tracy Burris, a former treasurer for the National Indian Gaming Association, will now head the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians Gaming Commission, the tribe said in a news release Sept. 16.


Burris, a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, served as chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association and the Chickasaw Gaming Commission. He is a board member for the National Tribal Gaming Commissioners-Regulators Association and is a gaming adviser to the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission.

“We are very proud to have Mr. Burris assume this critical leadership position. He has the experience, expertise and energy that will help Viejas build upon its reputation as a national leader in tribal gaming regulation,” said Viejas Tribal Chairman Bobby L. Barrett.

Burris will lead a staff of 52 full-time regulatory members and a multimillion-dollar annual budget to oversee the surveillance, inspection, auditing and licensing departments as well as compliance officers at the Viejas Casino. Located east of San Diego, Viejas Casino has thousands of slot machines, more than 80 table games, a poker room, bingo and off-track wagering.

“I am truly honored to be selected for this position,” he said. “The Viejas Tribal Gaming Commission is one of the most respected in the nation and Viejas Casino is among the most successful in California. I am dedicated to continuing the tribe’s commitment to protecting the integrity of the casino through effective regulation and oversight.”

Burris has also worked on the floor and in management at a class II facility in Red Rock, Okla., and worked in tribal programs for his Chickasaw Nation. He has a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University.

Sycuan helps showcase beach history in art

LA JOLLA, Calif. – The Kumeyaay’s traditional back-and-forth migration from the mountains to the coastline has been recorded in a 2,300-square-foot art piece known as “The Map” at a La Jolla beach, as hundreds attended a dedication of the project Sept. 18.

The interpretive map of the La Jolla Shores Underwater Park and Ecological Reserve – which is surrounded by scenic cliffs and some of the most stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, and is popular among scuba divers – aims to raise appreciation of San Diego County’s ecosystem and commemorate the Kumeyaays’ longstanding mark on coastal San Diego County.

“Sycuan’s support of The Map is part of its effort to ensure the Kumeyaay lifestyle along the coast is not forgotten. The tribe hopes the project will become a tool to help children and all of us to understand the rich culture along San Diego’s coast and its relation to the heritage of the Kumeyaay Nation,” said Sycuan Chairman Daniel J. Tucker and Vice Chairman Ricci LaBrake in a joint statement.

“I think this far exceeded everyone’s expectations and the project is accurate to detail and artist’s [work] was incredible. It’s an incredible addition to San Diego and it really provides information for people on their history and culture,” said Mary Coakley, of the Friends of the Map nonprofit organization.

About 500 people attended the ribbon cutting.

The map contains 55 lifelike fish and invertebrates embedded in a patented concrete matrix made with colored recycled crushed glass, seashells and aggregates called Lithocrete. The park gets 2 million to 3 million visitors per year, Coakley said.

“The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation has taken great pleasure in working with the La Jolla community to support this project because it relates to not only today’s preservation of our environment for tomorrow, but also yesterday’s tradition of our ancestors for all to enjoy,” the tribe’s statement said.

“The level of detail and vibrant colors will enchant park visitors for many years. More importantly, the depiction of the kelp forest and rich marine environment off shore brings a new appreciation and understanding for our ocean just steps away from The Map,” said Kathleen S. Hasenauer, deputy director for the San Diego Park and Recreation Department, adding that although the tribe’s monetary contribution was significant, it is its rich heritage that has enhanced the region.

Reservation gets historical site markers

SAN JACINTO, Calif. – A church and other sites located on a southern California Indian reservation received recognition as a historical site Sept. 9 from a historical society.

The Hemet Heritage Foundation gave the honor to the St. Joseph’s Mission Church, which was established on the Soboba Indian Reservation in 1888, said tribal spokesman Mike Hiles. The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians received plaques for the reservation’s prehistoric Soboba Maze Stone and its Masonry Water Storage Facility, erected in the 1930s, as well.


The church is where five Soboba women died after an earthquake struck the region on Christmas Day 1899. And it was the first substantial structure built in a united effort of the Indian parishioners, clergy and skilled non-Indian workmen, Hiles said. Regular masses are still held there twice a week.