Luiseno Reservation's News

SAN PASQUAL: Family ousted from Valley Center tribe

Bureau of Indian Affairs rules family is not part of San Pasqual tribe

About 60 members of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians in Valley Center, which owns the Valley View Casino, were expelled from the tribe on Monday after a yearslong battle over their true heritage.

The members of the Alto family will lose all tribal benefits, including their monthly share of casino profits, as part of their disenrollment from the tribe. They are the descendants of Marcus Alto Sr., who died in 1988, and whose lineage was questioned in a challenge filed by another tribal member, Ron Mast, in August 2007.

Mast said in the challenge that Marcus Alto Sr. was adopted by a San Pasqual family but was not their biological son. Members of the Alto family have said they rightfully belong in the tribe.

On Nov. 26, 2008, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Pacific Regional Director, Dale Morris, sided with the Alto family, saying the evidence did not warrant their ouster. On Monday, the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Assistant Secretary, Larry Echo Hawk, overturned the regional director's decision.

A "fair interpretation of the most probative, objective and competent evidence available amply supports the (San Pasqual) Enrollment Committee's recommendation to disenroll the Alto descendants," Echo Hawk wrote in his decision.

San Pasqual Chairman Allen Lawson said in a written statement that he was pleased with the decision.

"The assistant secretary's thorough and well-reasoned decision vindicates the tribe's continuing opposition to the bureau's enrollment of Marcus Alto's descendants," Lawson said.

The chairman could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Angela Martinez-McNeal, an Alto family member and a spokeswoman for the family, also could not be reached for comment.

Among the evidence the tribe submitted to the bureau was a baptismal certificate, which the San Pasqual enrollment committee said proved Marcus Alto Sr. was not the biological son of Jose and Maria Alto. The certificate listed the name of the child as Roberto Marco Alto and listed Maria Barrios as the mother.

In his 2008 letter, Morris said the certificate did not prove that Marcus R. Alto Sr. was the child named in the certificate. And even if he was, it suggested that Alto was the son of Jose Alto, who was listed as the father in the certificate, making him and his descendants eligible for membership in the tribe.

Call staff writer Edward Sifuentes at 760-740-3511.