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LEWIS, PAULETTE A. Viejas tribal member and leader October 23, 1956 to July 28, 2011 Paulette A. Lewis, dedicated Wife, Mother, Daughter, Viejas tribal leader and ardent supporter of Indian Rights, passed away Thursday, July 28th but her legacy will live on for generations. Paulette was a tireless advocate for the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians for decades. She served as Secretary on the Viejas Tribal Council for 18 years, stepping down in 2002 to spend more time with her family and members of her beloved tribal community. Paulette represented the Viejas Band at the local, state and national level, advocating for self determination, tribal sovereignty and social justice. She was at the forefront of the battle for the rights of Native Americans to pursue tribal gaming. She was well known among policy makers and legislators at the state and national level, including those most closely involved in the battle to pass Propositions 1a and 5 - both of which were overwhelmingly approved by California voters. The success of those propositions cleared the way for tribal gaming and ushered in a new era of economic development and self sufficiency for the Viejas Band and other tribes throughout California. "Paulette will forever be remembered for her dedication and loyalty to the Viejas people, as well as her uncompromising values," said Viejas Tribal Chairman Anthony R. Pico. "She was a modern day advocate and a role model we should all aspire to become." Chairman Pico also noted that Paulette was perhaps at her best when times were at their worst. "She had a true belief in the destiny of the Viejas people and she would face incredible adversity and insurmountable odds with optimism and absolute determination." Prior to the advent of tribal gaming, Paulette was a force for change on the Viejas Reservation, where her leadership helped improve living conditions, health care and social services for tribal members at a time of abject poverty, scarce resources and, often times, little hope. She was instrumental in creating a comprehensive health care program for tribal members, establishing fire and emergency medical services, and building a safe, modern infrastructure, including drinking and waste water systems. Paulette was also the driving force within her biological and extended family. She was happiest at family celebrations and get-togethers. In addition to being a loving wife and mother to two daughters, she was also known for taking in other children of her extended family, providing love, comfort, food and shelter. Upon the passing of her daughter Jennifer from leukemia, Paulette and members of the Viejas Band and other tribes created Jennifer's Circle of Life. The non-profit organization raises funds for leukemia research, testing of Native Americans for transplant matches, and support for those suffering from the disease. The organization also works closely with the San Diego Blood Bank and Bone Marrow Center. Paulette is survived by her husband, Les, daughter Tina Hood, her mother and siblings. Her legacy will live on forever in future generations of Viejas tribal members.

Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on Aug. 7, 2011
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