Art & Art History ETDs


Elysia Poon

Publication Date



The history of Native people in Southern California is both unique in that, until the last few decades, many people within the state were completely unaware of the presence of living Native Californians. With the onset of the gaming industry in the late 1980s, however, the visibility of Native California skyrocketed. Beginning in the 1990s, homes and streets were filled with gaming ads, political campaigns touting the benefits of gaming and at times, entire tribal councils were making their presence known at public events. Additionally, the fight for many unrecognized tribes in California in conjunction with the rise in economic enterprises, and a long history of ignoring the presence of Native Californians, led many non-Native California residents to challenge the legitimacy of gaming and federal recognition. It is through this complex and highly charged climate that I examine contemporary Native landscape in Southern California. By looking at public spaces owned by California tribes, I study the impact of these spaces on the socio-political climate of today and the Southern California landscape. These spaces, with varying levels of interiority and exteriority (places meant for tribal members versus non-tribal) as well as financial capacities, came to fruition during the same period of increased visibility and helped change the ways these highly contested issues were viewed. I argue that, depending on the level of exteriority or interiority, the architecture and design will often take on a decidedly Indian' look that ranges from being definitively California Native to Native American in general. I attempt to shed more light on the complex histories leading to the creation of some of the tribally owned institutions dotting the Southern California landscape today. These Native-owned spaces metaphorically and literally change the way the public views landscape and themselves.'



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Craven, David

Second Committee Member

Buick, Kirsten


landscape, native america, southern california, california, kumeyaay, viejas, tataviam, fernandeno,, cupa cultural center, pala, mapping, architecture