Community impact of the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians

Claudia Buccio

Amanda Vance stands in the podium remembering the many contributions her family has made to the Coachella Valley. She takes pride in the legacy her mother Mary Ann Martin left. Vance told the story of Martin, a strong woman who wanted to preserve her tribe. Martin returned to her native land 30 years ago, which lead to the establishment of the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians.  

I saw everything that she did and helped me become the leader that I am today,” Vance said.

Martin served as the chairperson of the Augustine Tribe from 1988 to 2017. She founded Augustine Casino in 2002 as a way to secure her family’s future.

“By all means, I try not to fill her shoes; I just try to build on from what she’s built,” Vance said. “She left the foundation for us, so we continue to build on to that.”

Running a successful business was not enough for the tribe, they wanted to give back to their community beyond creating job opportunities.

“The people she donated to saw her heart and saw that she was loving and willing to help,” Vance said.

Vance said their work has lead to a healthy and diverse work environment. Based on Augustine Casino’s employment statistics, 90% of their casino team members are minorities, and 42% of their management positions are filled by women.

“We created educational program for tribal members, healthcare for our tribal members not only that we were able to build 401ks for the casino,” Vance added.

In addition to the tribes efforts to help the community, they have also made sure they take care of the environment. The tribe owns an organic farm, and the casino is powered by solar energy panels.

“That creates a way for the community to have more power and less outages,” Vance said.

During this community event, the tribe received a certificate of congressional recognition from Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz and a leadership recognition from Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.

Vance’s mother passed away in 2017, but her family is making sure her legacy is never forgotten.

“I know I will be forever grateful for her and so will other people,” Vance said.

As for the future, Vance said the tribe is moving forward with projects her mother started but always with the goal of staying self-sufficient