Juaneño Tribal Leader David Belardes Dies at Age 67
David Belardes, tribal chairman of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, died on December 29 after a brave battle with cancer.
Serving his tribe since the 1970s, Belardes was repeatedly elected chairman for the Juaneños of the Acjachemen Nation since 1989. The tribe is currently a non-federally recognizied coastal tribe still living in and around their ancestral lands of Orange County, Riverside west county, Los Angeles south county, and San Diego north county.
Belardes, who grew up with the “old knowledge,” cared dearly for his people — all of whom he knew, most of them personally. Over the years, he became a highly respected and successful leader in dealing with the politics, ceremonies, and social services for his tribe, among numerous other responsibilities he gladly took on.
In San Juan Capistrano, Belardes was the head of a cultural museum at the Blas Aguilar Adobe/Foundation, which was originally built for his mission neophyte family in 1794 and later in 1845 for his Californio Mexican colonist family. It now belongs to the City and is operated as an interpretive center of Juaneño/Acjachemen history. Thanks to David’s time and efforts, this museum and its foundation will received a preservation grant that will ensure his people’s legacy forever.
Having sat on Chairman Belardes’s tribal council off and on since 1997 (as I currently do), I can personally attest to the many selfless traits that made him such a great leader and friend. Like many others, I owe the respect and dignity I now have for my Juaneño tribal brothers and sisters to David Belardes — who, despite much political and cultural controversy, brought people together.
He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, tribal members, and all who had the good fortune to know and work with him.
San Diego, CA
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