Tribal Captain

Rudy Ortega Jr.

Rudy Ortega Jr. is a Tribal Captain of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.

In the early 1980s, Rudy Ortega Jr., great grandson of Antonio Maria Ortega and son of Rudy Ortega Sr., shadowed his father at Fernandeño meetings at less than 10 years old. In 1997, he went through ceremonies that confirmed his role as designated future captain of his lineage, a role he stepped into after the passing of his father in 2009. For decades he served as the Tribe’s Administrator and by 2015, he was elected as Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, and has since served two four-year terms.

In the 1870s, Antonio Maria Ortega represented the Fernandeños in a land dispute court case at just 18 years old. Over a century later, his great grandson Rudy Ortega Jr.  was appointed in his teens as hereditary Tribal Captain through the consensus of Fernandeño elders.

Cultural, Political, Spiritual: Innovation & Inclusivity for Fernandeño Futures

Ortega Jr.’s leadership has underscored the importance of community. Furthering his father’s leadership practice of  inclusivity, Ortega Jr. uplifts the needs of all Fernandeños. As an unbiased representative of the Fernandeños, Ortega Jr. is a committed leader that leads with humility, advocates with integrity, and protects his community politically and spiritually. 

Through shadowing his father from childhood in political spheres, Rudy Ortega Jr. learned at a young age that the Tribe would never rely on the federal government. Thus, he began investigating innovative methods to overcome barriers imposed onto the Fernandeños. Through his captainship, Rudy Ortega Jr. has continued to assert the Tribe’s sovereignty, establish monumental economic development opportunities, nourish a growing Tribal government, and provide supportive community practices through his cultural and spiritual leadership.

In his time as Captain, Ortega Jr. helped reinvigorate the Fernandeño’s 1970s non-profit and the first American Indian Cultural Center in his homelands. In Los Angeles County, he has established many firsts, including these Tribal government-led organizations: land conservancy, conservation corps, loan lending and renewable energy.


At 23, he went through ceremony to confirm his role as captain. While Ortega Jr. is the Tribal Captain of his lineage, he also became an elected official, a leadership role separate from Captainship, serving as Tribal Vice President until he transitioned to the role of Tribal Administrator in 2004. In 2015, he was elected as the Tribal President of the Fernandeños, a role he continues to serve today.
Photo: Tribal Captain Rudy Ortega Jr. with Tribal Citizen in Pacoima, 1990s. 

Fernandeño Visibility

At the core of the Ortega captainship legacy has been increasing the Tribe’s visibility. Fernandeños are often erased in contemporary maps and literature on the history of Los Angeles County. Through his leadership and decades of volunteerism, Ortega Jr. has uplifted the Fernandeño story through opening ceremonies, cultural demonstrations, and school presentations.

Photo: Tribal Captain Rudy Ortega Sr. and Rudy Ortega Jr. at the Cultural Village built at North Hollywood High School, 2002. 

Political Engagement

Under Ortega Jr.’s leadership, the Fernandeño’s political status as a non-recognized tribe did not hinder the Fernandeño pursuit for government-to-government engagement. He engaged with local governments on behalf of the Tribe years before the implementation of laws that would come to require it in California.
Photo: Tribal Captain Rudy Ortega Jr. providing a cultural blessing to Los Angeles Councilmember Richard Alacon, 1999.

Following his father’s legacy, Ortega Jr. continues to lead the Fernandeños through the Federal Acknowledgement Process. FTBMI is the first Tribe to be reviewed under the new regulations and to submit a fully documented petition in Los Angeles County. 


 1824- 1904

Rogerio Rocha


Antonio Maria Ortega

1885 – 1951

Estanislao Ortega


Rudy Ortega, Sr.