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Community Mourning Former Morongo Leader's Death

Image by Morongo Tribe Photo

Community Mourning Former Morongo Leader's Death

By David Reese. CREATED Oct 18, 2013


MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION – Maurice Lyons, a former Morongo tribal chairman and
longtime tribal council member known for his dedication to improving the lives of Native
American children, families and elders by advancing tribal self-sufficiency, passed away
Wednesday at the age of 63.

“Maurice Lyons was a highly respected tribal leader who was guided by a deep commitment
to creating educational and economic opportunity for all of Indian Country,” Tribal Chairman
Robert Martin said.

“Maurice helped secure a better future for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and our youth, and his dedication to preserving tribal culture and promoting selfsufficiency will live for generations. We are deeply saddened by his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

Raised on the Morongo Reservation as one of nine children, Lyons spent his childhood in a
home that lacked electricity until he was 8 years old. His firsthand experience with the
challenges facing tribal youth led him to become a steadfast advocate for Native American
families, children and education.

Lyons entered public service in 1994 as a tribal housing commissioner and chairman of the
Morongo Headstart Parent Policy Committee. He was first elected to tribal council in 1994
and was elected tribal chairman in July 2001. He served an additional two terms as chairman.
Lyons served on the tribal council for a total of 15 years between 1994 and 2011.
While chairman, Lyons helped lead the tribe during the development of its $250 million
Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa, and was involved in compact negotiations with the State of

Lyons was devoted to youth programs that preserved tribal culture, traditions and language.
As an advocate for children, Lyons sought to improve educational opportunities for Morongo
members. He initiated and personally oversaw the development of the Morongo School, a
college preparatory academy that opened in 2010 on the Morongo Indian Reservation. The
school is one of the only tribally funded, tuition-free preparatory academies in the nation for
tribal children.

He also served as president of the board of directors for the National Indian Child Welfare
Association (NICWA), the nation’s only American Indian organization focused specifically on
preventing child abuse and neglect.

As a member of the Riverside National Cemetery’s governing board, Lyons was instrumental
in establishing and building the cemetery’s MIA-POW monument. Lyons was serving as
Morongo’s Chairman when the tribe donated the seed money for the National American
Indian Veterans monument.

Public services are planned for 10 am Saturday at the Morongo Community Center located at13000 Malki Road on the Morongo Indian Reservation.