In the photo above, from left, Brian Haynes, CSUSB vice president of Student Affairs; CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales; Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes; Mario Castellano, CSUSB Native American and Indigenous Student Association; San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena; and Turajha Moore, coordinator, SMSU Multicultural Center. Photo: Peter Acosta/CSUSB

The First Peoples’ Center at Cal State San Bernardino celebrated its second grand opening to formally receive a state Assembly resolution recognizing it and its work.

A crowd filled the Cross Cultural Center in the Santos Manuel Student Union — where the First Peoples’ Center is located — for the brief program on Feb. 2, where state Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, presented the framed resolution to the university.

“I truly believe that we not only have to respect each other, but we also have to take the time to understand one another, and to build spaces where we can do just that,” Reyes said. The First Peoples’ Center is such a place, which not only supports indigenous students to succeed academically, but also celebrates their heritage.”

“These are the spaces I believe in — spaces that reflect and celebrate the dynamic diversity of our region. When our students are understood and included, they soar toward success,” she said.

Also in attendance was Lynn Valbuena, chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the tribe named after Santos Manuel, leader of the Yuhaaviatam or People of the Pines, in the late 1800s. The university’s student union also bears his name.

“Those of us from Native American and indigenous communities know that we continue to do what we can in the face of significant challenges,” she said. “And one of those significant challenges is educating the general public and educating civic organizations about what we do and our culture. And that goes on across the country.

“However, as leaders of tribes and nations and education, we are convinced that by establishing important initiatives, like the First Peoples’ Center here at Cal State San Bernardino, that we are making progress in addressing these challenges with greater conviction than ever before,” Valbuena said.

First People, also known as American Indians, Alaska natives and native Hawaiians, are considered sovereign nations from their first interactions with European settlers.

The First Peoples’ Center, which opened its doors in September 2017, is dedicated to the social and personal success of students with the support of staff, faculty and community members of local clans and cities. The center provides a welcoming, diverse and culturally sensitive environment to all of CSUSB’s student body.

The center’s goals are to:

  • Create innovative learning-centered opportunities to develop students into becoming leaders in global society;
  • Provide support to First People students at Cal State San Bernardino;
  • Provide information on current issues pertaining to the First People;
  • Provide cultural awareness; and
  • Serve as a resource to the campus community on First People culture and issues.

With the other affinity centers under the Cross Cultural Center’s umbrella, the First Peoples’ Center is a testament to “CSUSB’s commitment to ensuring that our students — all our students — are successful,” said Brian Haynes, the university’s vice president of Student Affairs. “I hope that you take from this event motivation and encouragement to go out and really, really make not only this community, but the global community, an inclusive one.”

CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales mentioned that plans are in the works to expand the Santos Manuel Student Union. “We literally are going to be more than doubling the center,” he said “It’s going to be, I think, the most incredible student center named after an extraordinary Native American leader.”

For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-50076 and visit