San Diego Presidio Plaque Dedication

By Roy Cook

Tribal people are forever, first and foremost, First Americans. Historically, California Tribal people have paid their ‘fair share’ and nations more! These are fine thoughts for Friday, November 4, 2005. The day is fair and friendly for the festivities and recognition of “one peso from each Indian, donation.” at the San Diego Presidio Plaque dedication.

The California Society of the Sons of the American Revolution organized this dedication. This group and organizations like the California Historical Society and San Diego Historical Society continue to thrive - there are currently five hundred additional small, volunteer-based historical societies throughout California, representing a vast number of nationalistic restoration projects.

Firstly, the Wildcat Singers open the dedication. Jon Meza Cuero, Tipai-Kumeyaay, is a Master singer, native speaker, and culture bearer with a lifetime of traditional experience in Southern California and Baja tribal communities. Singing with him today are Ben Nance, Henry Mendibles and Roy Cook. Jon sings Nyemie, Wildcat or Gato songs. Jon has taught language and music classes on the college level for a number of years. He has organized the ‘Three Aukas’ singing group on both sides of the International border to maintain and preserve the rich singing tradition of the Tipai Kumeyaay Wildcat song.

The Kumeyaay - Tipai people are the original guardians of the Bird song tradition. These songs are composed of an allegorical cycle of approximately 300 pieces. However, what we now generally call 'bird songs' was only one of twelve or more specialized song cycles, such as: Wildcat, Lightning, Salt dances, and Lasha and funeral songs.

Abel Silvas, Acjachemen 'Running Grunion', is the invited Native American Representative. Abel is a Native American/Californio, whose ancestry comes from the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians of the Acjachemen Nation and he is a direct descendant from the Silvas Family, one of the first European families to settle in California.

Of special note is his link regarding many of the San Diego 'Old Town' historic buildings. Jose Miguel Silvas was at the original presidio who brought the rest of his family with Anza's exposition in 1775. He died in 1789 and is buried at the presidio in an unmarked grave. His son, José Manuel Silvas, at the beginning of the Mexican Period of San Diego was one of the first to come down from the presidio in 1821 to build his garden and home site along the San Diego River. This location is now unfortunately covered over with the McCoy house. Further, Abel affirms the Juaneno Tribal presence and contributions to earliest American history.

The California Society of the Sons of the American Revolution dedicate a brass plaque recognizing the financial contributions made by Spain in its war against Great Britain.
The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR) recognizes the Spanish Presidios in California at San Diego, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco as U. S. historical Revolutionary war sites. These four California Presidios were included in the royal orders of King Carlos III of Spain.

With patriotic flourishes and colorful colonial period reenactments the afternoon program took place under sunny skies and a cool sea breeze. Indian summer in San Diego is a beautiful place to be! A heroic military highlight is the All American 82nd Airborne Veterans color guard.

Finally, with the echoes of muskets in the air, the Wildcat Singers conclude the main program with appropriate Kumeyaay songs.

Historical Background: Soon after King Carlos III declared War on England in support of the American Revolution on June 21, 1779, Commandante General Teodoro de Croix of the Provinces of Northwest New Spain expressed concern for the safety of the Presidio horse herds to Governor Felipe de Neva of California. On August 17, 1780 King Carlos, III, requested a one-time, voluntary donation of two pesos from each Spaniard in missions of Alta California and one peso from each Indian. The Missions and Presidios raised 2,683 Spanish silver dollars for the American Revolution. It is not clear how this money was transmitted to the Americans; however, it is known that Spain provided substantial financial support of the Americans during the period of the American Revolution.

If you want additional information about the plaque dedication, or wish to participate in the planning or funding of a future plaque dedication, please contact the Chapter President, William E. Tisch ( or Chapter Secretary Philip L. Hinshaw (

Tribal Reflections respectfully reported by
Roy Cook: Writer, speaker, singer, curator (Opata-Oodham)