The Barona Cultural Center & Museum is dedicated to preserving the Native American culture and
history of San Diego County. With more than 3,000 artifacts, listening alcoves, photographic displays,
and archives, the Museum’s historic treasures unfold many fascinating and inspiring stories of the
As San Diego County’s only museum on an Indian reservation dedicated to the perpetuation and
presentation of the local Native culture, the Barona Museum offers a unique educational journey
for visitors of all ages. The museum’s collection represents thousands of years of history—some
objects dating as far back as 10,000 years—and it demonstrates the artistry and skill of the hemisphere’s
A visit to the Barona Cultural Center & Museum is an exciting opportunity to witness history and explore the living cultures of Southern California’s indigenous populations. It showcases maps and treaties of ancient Tribal territories, interactive displays of Kumeyaay/Diegueño life, listening alcoves featuring sounds and songs of ancient Native American life and exhibits that illustrate important industries of the people, such as basketry, pottery making, and flaking of stone tools.
The museum’s collection includes everyday items such as coiled baskets and grinding stones, ceramic and shell objects (some ceremonial), and currency. Research materials are also available. Our library houses over a thousand books, including some that are rare and out-of-print, and we have an extensive archive of photos and historical documents to help visitors discover more about how the ancient ancestors lived.
The Purpose of the Barona Museum is fourfold:
• To increase understanding and appreciation of Kumeyaay/Diegueño People, residents of Southern California from time immemorial, and the Barona Band of Mission Indians, in particular.
• To preserve the Barona Collection of artifacts and to display them for tribal and public enjoyment.
• To preserve the Kumeyaay/Diegueño language (‘Iipay Aa), arts, and traditional ways so that future generations of Barona youth can grow in strength and knowledge, secure in the richness of their heritage.
• To educate the public about the history of Kumeyaay/Diegueño People and their traditions such as birdsongs, language, gatherings, gaming, and artwork from the early days to the present.
History and Culture
During the 1840s and 1850s, the town of San Diego experienced such growth that some groups of Indians living in the Mission Valley area were pushed into what is now the East County. In 1853, many of these people established a village in a canyon of the upper San Diego River. In Spanish, this area was called Capitan Grande, or “Great Captain.” Colonel John Bankhead Magruder of the U.S. Army issued a federal permit for the Indians to inhabit the area. At that time, Capitan Grande was part of the public domain and, after the permit was issued, the general public was warned against disturbing the Indians who resided there. From then on, those Kumeyaay/‘Iipay/Diegueño people and their descendants were known as the “Capitan Grande group of Mission Indians.” The descendents of these Capitan Tribal members also call themselves either Kumeyaay, ‘Iipay, or Diegueño depending upon family preference.
Not until December 27, 1875 did Capitan Grande become a reservation, established by an Executive Order of President Ulysses S. Grant. Grant also created the San Diego reservations of Pala, Iñaja, Cosmit, Portrero (La Jolla), Santa Ysabel, Rincon, Sycuan, and Mesa Grande.
Two bands shared Capitan Grande until 1931: the southeastern group, Los Conejos, and the northwestern group, Capitan, who eventually became known as Barona. In 1931, the city of San Diego bought the majority of the reservation from the Indians to create a reservoir. With the money, the two bands purchased land nearby to establish two new reservations. The Los Conejos group purchased the Baron Long Ranch in Alpine, now known as Viejas. The Capitan band purchased 5,816 acres of land on the Barona Ranch, originally named Cañada de San Vicente y Mesa del Padre Barona under the original Spanish land grant. It became known as the Barona Indian Reservation and the people of Capitan began resettling there in 1932.
For the next fifty years the Barona Tribe struggled in the backwoods of San Diego County. They worked hard to remain self-supportive even after decades of deprivation. In 1984, Barona took the first step towards self-reliance when a bingo hall was established on the reservation. In 1994, a major “Big Top” expansion was completed, making Barona Casino the first gaming operation to integrate a central theme into its casino and marketing.
Today, Barona hosts one of the largest, most impressive casinos in California. The Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino opened in 2002 with a world-class golf courses, hotel, convention and events centers. More importantly, the Casino has become the means of restoring self-worth, prosperity, and renewed hope for the Barona Band of Mission Indians, having attained an unprecedented level of economic self-sufficiency. The Casino employs over 3,500 people and has eliminated unemployment on the reservation, a rate as high as seventy percent. Since the onset of gaming, the Barona Tribe has been able to eliminate all dependence on government welfare. The despair of unending poverty is replaced with a future of unlimited potential.
Indian gaming revenues have enabled tribal leaders to not only give back to the San Diego community, but also to begin building the physical, educational, and cultural infrastructure necessary to ensure the future of the Barona people. The economic impact of the Casino has allowed the Tribe to provide scholarships for eligible Tribal members, new homes for young families, emergency services on the reservation, and even a $2 million multi-lane entrance to the Casino, named “Founders Way” in honor of the original Barona residents who established the reservation in 1932.
Through cultural and economic ventures, the Barona Band of Mission Indians has finally reversed a long history of cultural disintegration and is building a renewed sense of dignity, optimism, and inner strength among their people.
The rock art figure depicted in the Barona Cultural Center & Museum logo has been affectionately named “‘Iipay Man.” This optimistic and joyful little man is one of the many human figures found painted on and carved into rocks throughout southern California Indian territories. This figure is found in our traditional lands between the Barona and Capitan Grande reservations and is part of our Kumeyaay heritage.
Scientists identify the ‘Iipay man figure as a pictograph. He is painted onto the rock face in red hematite, a local mineral that our ancestors used for pigment. Most rock art similar to the ‘Iipay man was made long ago; Indian people in recorded interviews have stated that they cannot remember people creating this type of rock art within the last hundred years. However, this may also have been a response for those who are not privy to some of the sacred symbols and traditions of the Kumeyaay culture.
The ‘Iipay man pictograph still exists in an undisclosed location on our traditional lands for preservation and protection. The ‘Iipay man ensures that we remain connected to our ancient past. It reminds us that often behind simple things are profound thoughts, complex rituals, and a world of unspoken depth that remains hidden in time.