Belardes, David Lee
Chief, Chairman, Tribal Scholar, Historian, Genealogist and Teacher
David Lee Belardes, born to Frances and Matias Belardes on March 8, 1947, Chief and Chairman of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation, and lifelong resident of San Juan Capistrano, passed away surrounded by loved ones on Monday, December 29, 2014. He is survived by his sons, Matias and Domingo Belardes, grandchildren, Matias, Ciara, Marcella, Wyatt, Antonio and Andres Belardes; his sister, Donna Murphey, husband Butch, three children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren; brother-in-law, Rueben Paramo, wife Debbie, six children and sixteen grandchildren. Raised with a deep sense of community and an understanding of the ways of his ancestors and Old Time families of San Juan Capistrano, David remained committed to honoring the traditions of his people. With quiet dignity and often behind the scenes, David devoted his life to supporting the community. He was always there to lend a hand without ever seeking recognition. He helped community members with burial services, taking care of Elders, providing wood for ceremonies, supporting young peoples' search for family histories, and in many other ways. David was recognized across the state as a scholar amongst the scientific and archaeological communities for his expansive knowledge of San Juan Capistrano and tribal history. Throughout his life he advocated on behalf of the Juaneno people throughout Orange County, the state and the nation. In 1993, under his leadership, the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation received the honor of being the first state recognized tribe in California. A man of vision and conviction, David was always willing to take a strong stand on behalf of the Native Americans of San Juan Capistrano, even when such positions were not politically popular. Over the course of his life-long dedication to raising cultural and historic awareness about San Juan's first people, the Juaneno Indians, Mr. Belardes was deeply involved in many local and state preservation organizations and received numerous awards in recognition of his work. He was a founding Board Member of the California Mission Studies Association and the California Mission Foundation, Founding Board Member and President of the Blas Aguilar Adobe Foundation, served on the Board of the Orange County, Saddleback Valley, and San Juan Capistrano Historical Societies, served as a member of the City of San Juan Capistrano Cultural Heritage Commission for many years, helped establish the Capistrano Indian Council and was instrumental in bringing Indian Education to Capistrano Unified School District where he worked for over thirty years. He was a recipient of the San Juan Capistrano Cultural Heritage Award, an honoree for the City of San Juan Capistrano Wall of Recognition, and a recipient of the Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen Award for superior contributions in furthering the preservation and protection of California Missions. David's legacy of cultural and historic preservation lives on through his family. Viewing will be on Friday, January 2, 2015, from 6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., followed by the Rosary from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. in Serra Chapel, San Juan Capistrano. Services will take place in the Mission Basilica on Saturday, January 3, 2015, beginning at 12:00 p.m., reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Blas Aguilar Adobe Foundation. "If somebody remembers the Juanenos, or if my children and grandchildren remember who they are and where they came from, then my efforts have been worthwhile." --David Belardes, Los Angeles Times, 1996
Published in Orange County Register on Jan. 1, 2015.