Barona Band of Mission Indians Commemorates 80th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Barona Mission
2012-08-17 · By Editor
The Barona Band of Mission Indians recently celebrated the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the historic Catholic Mission, a small stucco church on the reservation that was designed by renowned San Diego architect Irving J. Gill in the 1930s.
The celebration, which was attended by Tribal elders, Tribal members, parishioners and community residents, coincided with the Feast of the Assumption. A healing service and traditional blessing of the animals was also part of the celebration for the Mission that has served as a spiritual home for members of the Barona Tribe for 80 years.
The church has always been a source of pride for the people of Barona. It was the first building constructed on the reservation after the Tribe was relocated to the Barona Valley in the early 1930s when they were forced from their Capitan Grande reservation so the City of San Diego could create the El Capitan Reservoir.
After purchasing the Barona Ranch and moving to the Barona Valley in 1932, the Barona Tribe decided that having their own place of worship was one of their first priorities. Gill, who had drawn attention for his designs for low-cost housing and a well-known commitment to causes for people of modest means, was tapped by the federal government to help Barona draft plans for a small church and 30 houses. Gill worked closely with Tribal leaders to design a project that could be funded and built by the Tribe. He lived on the site to supervise construction.
While only 10 of the 30 houses were ultimately completed, Gill and the Tribe collaborated to create the beautiful red roof-capped, white stucco church that includes design elements inspired by Spanish and Native American architecture. Construction on the church began in 1932 and Tribal leaders dedicated the Mission to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, 1934.
“Our church, just like our Tribe, has a rich history that we hold close to our hearts,” said Edwin “Thorpe” Romero, Chairman of the Barona Band of Mission Indians. “The plans Irving Gill drafted in 1932 were not just designs for a building. They were — and still are — a blueprint for the spiritual health of Barona.”
Today, the Barona Mission, a part of the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Parish, still serves a vital role in the spiritual and social life of the Tribe. Under the spiritual guidance of Edward Nolan, Pastoral Coordinator who has served the Tribe for more than 30 years, and Fr. Michael X. Tran, who has served as Chaplain for nearly a decade, the Barona people continue to enjoy a strong and vibrant journey of faith.
Gill, who trained with Frank Lloyd Wright before moving west, designed many buildings that are now considered San Diego County landmarks. His work includes the Gill Fountain in Horton Plaza Park, which opened in 1909 and is still there today, the La Jolla Woman’s Club building and the first structures at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla.
One of Gill’s most prominent clients was Ellen Browning Scripps, a self-made newspaper millionaire who was born in England and moved to San Diego in 1891. Gill designed a variety of progressive projects for Scripps including the La Jolla Recreation Center and building at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla.
The Barona Mission was one of 10 churches he designed during his long career.
About the Barona Band of Mission Indians
The Barona Band of Mission Indians, recognized by the United States government as a sovereign nation, has lived on the Barona Indian Reservation in rural eastern San Diego County since 1932. Prior to that, the Tribe lived on the Capitan Grande Reservation which was established by the federal government in 1875. Long before living on a reservation, the Tribe traveled across Southern California in tune with the seasons and what nature provided. Today, the sovereign nation, governed by an elected Tribal Council, is serving its Tribal members, their families, and sharing with the San Diego region. One of the most successful Tribes in the country, Barona also owns and operates the Barona Resort & Casino, San Diego’s leading gaming resort, casino and golf course. For more information, visit www.barona-nsn.gov.