AISA Chair shares importance of her Pechanga heritage

Student Leader Spotlight

Nicole Holman, Community News Editor


Student leader Laila Basquez shared the importance of her American Indian culture’s influence on her life and how her culture is shaping her future.

Identifying as American Indian, Basquez hails from the Pechanga tribe known to many in San Diego County. Basquez described her community as friendly and knowledgeable about their lineages and history.

The Basquez name is known especially within the six tribes because of Raymond Basquez Sr., Basquez’s grandfather. Raymond Basquez Sr. was a renowned activist and community member in the Pechanga tribe and the remaining five tribes.

“My grandfather was a death singer and knew the traditions of our culture. He would sing traditional songs at funerals which was not just his duty, but an honor within our tribe.”

Basquez’s grandfather was also a key leader in political activism such as aiding in the petition to stop the plan to drill into Liberty Quarry. The reason for this fight: the land is the Pechanga people’s place of origin in their creation story.

What the Pechanga people call Pu’éska Mountain, Liberty Quarry is the “Garden of Eden” of the Pechanga tribe, and therefore, drilling into it would have been devastating.

After a seven-year fight, the Pechanga tribe has recently agreed to buy this sacred site to prevent any damages. The Pechanga tribe has kept in step with Basquez’s grandfather. Basquez herself, is extensively involved in the community.

Not only is Basquez incredibly involved in her community, she is also the Chair of the American Indian Student Alliance on campus.

She dedicates time and effort in order to create a safe environment on campus for all students who identify as American Indian.

“The American Indian Student Alliance tries to foster a diverse and healthy environment for students who identify as American Indian. We’re surrounded by tribes but have a small population here on campus, so I’m trying to get our name out there more,” said Basquez.

Coming from a background rich in history and tradition, Basquez said that her Pechanga heritage has immensely influenced her life views. She described the Pechanga culture as one with the utmost respect for nature and all living things.

“My culture is really why I am the person I am today. I was raised with specific traditions and customs that allow me to be open minded and allow me to see the world more beautifully.”

As for future improvements, Basquez has high hopes for both hers and other fellow American Indians and would like to see a progressive approach in relation to the American Indian community.

“I would like to see more open mindedness; being more open to learning about cultures that aren’t your own. I’d like better education, I want to see improvement between people. We all share this one earth, we need to learn how to coexist in a positive way.”