San Manuel’s Landmark $14M Gift Means Improved Healthcare for SoCal Natives

Check presentation with San Manuel Chair Ken Ramirez (left), San Manuel Business Committee Member Johnny Hernandez (center), and CGU President Len Jessup (right). (Courtesy San Manuel Band of Mission Indians)

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indian’s landmark $14 million gift to Claremont Graduate University is not only the largest in the university’s 100-year history, it marks a partnership that will provide much needed healthcare services to underserved communities in the Inland Empire region of Southern California.

The gift allowed for the purchase of the Huntley Bookstore building, which will become the 23,000-square-foot Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies. With a name meaning “People of the Pines,” referring to the original inhabitants of the area, ancestors of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the center will facilitate collaboration among CGU researchers, scientists, and outside partners to address health and well-being challenges especially prevalent in underserved, vulnerable populations of the Inland Empire and Indian Country.

Native American communities historically face higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, mental health issues, lack of overall well-being, and other chronic conditions. CGU President Len Jessup said the partnership will make it possible to create “powerful new collaborations on preventive and proactive responses to the kinds of chronic illness affecting so many today.”

The collaborative environment of the Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies will focus on integrative health and advanced research to improve healthcare for vulnerable populations. The Center’s reach will extend to Los Angeles, where the largest population of urban Native Americans lives.

“In our role as stewards of our ancestral lands, we support our neighboring communities, in addition to our Tribe. For generations, low-income communities and underserved populations have needed quality healthcare. Our gift is an investment in future healthier communities and one we are happy to make,” said San Manuel Tribal Chair Ken Ramirez.

As former San Manuel Chair, an alumnus of CGU, and a member of the university’s Board of Trustees, Deron Marquez believes the Center’s work will reach far beyond even Southern California. 

“The types of health and well-being research that will be tackled by the center are relevant to the needs and situations of so many today. Its benefits will ripple out,” Marquez said. “To bring together the university’s pioneering approach to research with San Manuel’s philanthropic vision is truly exciting.”