Tribal Captains

Traditional Leadership

Ancestors of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians had patrilineal, patrilocal, and exogamous lineages with various lineages that intermarried for strategic economic and political ends and formed a loose coalition of social, economic, and ceremonial cooperation.

Language did not determine political or national organization, nor marriage patterns, or ceremonial exclusivity, or right to territory or political organization or political leadership.  The ties extended not only to other lineages of the same linguistic group, but also to other lineages in the region, where social, ceremonial and associated economic exchanges and gift giving were essential ways to maintain access to regional foods and materials.

The mission alcalde system introduced elected leadership, and leadership based on multi-lineal constituents. Before the mission, the lineage headperson was the primary leader.


Captains/Lineage-leaders v. Family Spokespersons

Traditionally, several title-names were used across regional groups for the hereditary leaders of lineages. These titles include Tomiear/Tomiar, Chari, Mu, Nu, Nuguit, Cunu, Genu, and more. These titles are synonymous with the Spanish title Captain, which was used in the Spanish and Mexican periods.

All adults, persons past the age of puberty, were under the authority of the lineage headman and group leaders. Lineage leaders resolved disputes within each lineage. Disputes between lineages were resolved by discussion between the leaders of the two lineages. If two lineages could not resolve a dispute, then a third lineage leader, from a third lineage, was called to resolve the issue. His decision was final. Within each lineage, the decision of the lineage leader was final and there was no higher appeal. The community and group leaders made rules for the lineage as they thought were necessary.

Each tribelet/lineage retained collective land where other lineages recognized their rights to first harvest of hunting or plant life, and well as resources such as water. The members of a lineage groups worked cooperatively and pooled the fruits of their labor for collective distribution.

In addition to the captain/lineage leader were family spokespersons within the lineage who would communicate directly with the lineage leader on behalf of their family. Lineage leaders or spokespersons did not have executive powers, but rather maintained influence through persuasion and counsel supported by their standing in the community.


Elected Leadership

Today, the practice of lineage spokespersons is still prevalent. In addition to this hereditary role, lineages elect a representative of their coalition, which is called a Tribal President.

In many ways, political leadership and organization remain consistent with traditional patterns. As in the past, lineage spokespersons today organize the community for the collective benefit of their families, lineages, and all citizens. While leaders are elected under the constitution, the traditional lineage and family ties continue to influence leadership and management decisions. Each of the constituent lineages retains considerable political and social autonomy, and the leaders must respect the autonomy of individuals, families, and lineages in their exercise of governance.


Rogerio Rocha

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Antonio Maria Ortega

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Rudy Ortega, Sr.

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