Raised on and still residing at the Soboba Indian Reservation, Rosemary Morillo was recently elected to lead her people for the next two years in the role of Tribal Council chairwoman of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians.
As the first female leader in more than 30 years, Morillo plans to address the challenges of her tribe and Indian Country as a whole.
“Ever since gaming brought Indians into the public eye, it’s an everyday battle to retain sovereignty,” she said. “There are still myths out there. People don’t understand what our status is. They think we are wards of the federal government because we are identified through our enrollment numbers.”
Programs that could benefit the tribe are not getting funded through community resources because people think the tribe’s needs are funded by the federal government, she said.
“The Soboba Band resides on trust land. We gave up everything to be put on lands chosen for us to live on,” Morillo said. “(Our council) is really no different than local municipalities. We have the same concerns about infrastructure, housing and services needed for a decent quality of life. We just have different titles: we have a chair and vice chair (instead of a mayor and vice mayor).”
Morillo replaces Scott Cozart, who was elected to a two-year term as chairman in 2010.