Born in Riverside County as one of nine children, Maurice Lyons grew up on
the Morongo Indian Reservation. "Life on the reservation prior to gaming
was a hard life," said Lyons. "We didn't have electricity so until I was 7
or 8 we used kerosene lamps. We would stuff the cracks of our windows with
paper to keep out the wind. Having that kind of a life to start with made
me appreciate the importance of tribal self-sufficiency."
Lyons began his public service career in 1994 and has served as a tribal
housing commissioner and as chairman of the Morongo Headstart Parent Policy
Committee. He was elected tribal chairman in July, 2001.
The Morongo tribal members conduct elections annually to cast their ballots
for a tribal chairperson and six members of their tribal council. Terms of
office are for two years and are staggered. Chairman Lyons and the council
establish policy and oversee the legal and business affairs, economic
development, and community services for the tribe.
Chairman Lyons also works with both state and federal legislators on Indian
issues and matters affecting tribal government and economic development.
"Today tribal governments are in a transition that began with independence,
progressed through a long, difficult period of survival, and are now moving
again to self-determination and control. We plan to continue our progress,
protect the legacy of our sovereignty and provide for the future
self-sufficiency of our people," Lyons said.
Lyons is deeply committed to youth programs and language programs designed
to preserve tribal culture, customs and traditions. "Our heritage is
everything and we are working hard to ensure our children learn our
languages and traditions," he said.
Lyons attended Banning High School and in those days there were no classes
available in tribal history or culture. "Governor Davis has signed two
historic pieces of legislation that will provide for true Indian education
in California and will protect our sacred sites and artifacts."
Lyons is also making it a priority to improve the quality of life on the
reservation. "We are moving forward to take care of the children, families
and elders who live on the reservation. Planning is under way for a new
administration building and complex," said Lyons.
Lyons represents the Morongo tribe with the California Nations Indian
Gaming Association (CNIGA), a 70-member state association of tribal
governments and with the Tribal Affiance of Sovereign Indian Nations
(TASIN), a regional federation of 13 tribal governments based in the
Riverside and San Bernardino counties.