Introduction - Capitan Grande

Capitan Grande is the name of the canyon through which the San Diego River once ran, about 35 miles east of San Diego. With abundant water, Indians living there had sustained themselves through farming. In 1875, a Presidential Executive Order withdrew lands from the federal domain, setting aside a number of small reservations, including the Capitan Grande Reservation from which the Viejas Band and Barona Band descended.

Capitan Grande, which was patented in 1891, included portions of ancestral land of the Los Conejos Band. In 1853, the Federal Indian Agent gave other Indians from Mission San Diego permission to locate on Capitan Grande. Over the years, a few other Indians were placed there as well. As the non-Indian population grew, demand for water increased. The City of San Diego built Lake Cuyamaca, laying its flume through the Capitan Grande Reservation, taking most of the San Diego River water originally used by the Kumeyaay. They were left with only a small share from the city’s flume, resulting in crop losses on Indian farms.

The city later decided to dam the river and take all of the water by creating El Capitan Reservoir. Though the Kumeyaay protested, Congress - at the wishes of land speculators and unknown to the Indians - granted the city permission to purchase the heart of the Capitan Grande Reservation upon which the Kumeyaay had built their homes.

From the proceeds of this forced “sale” of lands, some members of the valley’s inhabitants, the Coapan Band, or Capitan Grande, bought Barona Valley, and are now known as the Barona Band of Mission Indians.