Clarence Lobo

Clarence H. Lobo, Juaneño, (1912-1985)

Early Years | Family Life

Clarence H. Lobo was born September 12, 1912, in San Juan Capistrano, and grew up on Los Rios Street, known as Little Hollywood. Lobo’s parents were John Edward Lobo and Esperanza Robles. Lobo claimed that his great, great grandfather was Juan Antonio, a Cahuilla leader. Lobo stated that Antonio was born in 1776, and baptized at the San Juan Capistrano Mission in 1826 (Clausen 1964). Lobo had four brothers, and three sisters. He attended San Juan Elementary School and Capistrano Unified High School (Figura). [When?] Lobo drove a bus and led tours to famous adobes and other historical sites in San Juan Capistrano for tourists visiting the town.

Post-WWII involvement in California Claims Cases

In 1946, Lobo was elected as a spokesperson for the Juaneño band of Mission Indians (Figura 1985), after traveling on a motorcycle with wife Bess to Sacramento to represent the tribe in the state’s capital. “Speaking to a local Rotary Club in 1951, Lobo pointed out that a series of treaties signed in the 1850s between the US government and California’s Indian tribes had left out the Juaneno, making them ineligible for their own reservation or to get compensated for land (Figura 1985).” Lobo claimed that all land between four points, Santiago Peak, Aliso Creek, Las Pulgas, and Temecula, is Juaneño land. In 1963, Lobo participated in a lawsuit against the United States, representing the Juaneño band of Mission Indians, arguing that lands were illegally stolen in 1848. The case was known as The Mission Indians of California vs. The United States.

Mission Indian Federation

In February, 1964, Lobo ran against Andrew Johnson of the San Jacinto reservation for presidency of the revived Mission Indian Federation (MIF). He lost, but continued participation and support for the organization, especially in efforts to abolish the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Lobo stated that the BIA has kept the “Indian in bondage by teaching generation after generation how to be totally dependent on government.”

1964 Occupation of 25 acres of Cleveland National Forest land

After California Indians had been offered 47 cents an acre, Lobo responded by sending a check to the government for $12.50, in return for 25 acres in the Cleveland National Forest, or 50 cents an acre, a 3 per cent per acre profit for the government. The action was in opposition to 29.1 million dollars offered for 70 million acres of land. On May 21, 1964, Lobo moved into Upper San Juan Campground in the Cleveland National Forest, declaring the land his property and Juaneño territory. He moved his trailer to the campground, and challenged the Forest Service to evict him. The first powwow held in the campground happened on May 30. Lobo stated, “the mountains are resounding again to drums which have come to life after 150 years or so.” When a Caucasian family pulled into the campground in their 1957 car, with no food or clothing, Lobo fed and offered to find them work. “If it wasn’t for the Lobos,” the family told the Register, “I guess we could starve (Clausen 1964).” During his occupation of the campground, while at work in town, Lobo’s trailer was burglarized and vandalized. Lobo received his check of $12.50 back from President Lyndon Johnson, and he was told to direct his land claim to the Forest Service regional office in San Francisco. No one is San Francisco could help him.

On November 3, 1972, American Indian Movement and other groups occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. In an article in the Register, Nov. 12, 1972, entitled “Chief Lobo Says Seizure of BIA May Hurt Indians,” Lobo was quoted saying that the occupation “could not do the Indian cause any good.”

Last Years in Oroville

In 1975, Lobo and his wife Bess, moved to Oroville. Lobo died of a heart attack at his home in Oroville in July, 1985. His last visit to San Juan Capistrano was in April, 1985, to “look over the recently renovated Harrison House and Parra Adobe (Figura).” Lobo’s ashes were buried atop his mother’s grave at the San Juan Capistrano Mission Cemetery. His funeral was held at San Juan Capistrano Mission.


Lobo served as spokesperson for the Juaneño Indians for 39 years. In September 1994, the Clarence Lobo Elementary School opened in San Clemente, the first school in California to be named in honor of an American Indian. The school is a part of the Capistrano Unified School District, and is located at 200 Avenida Vista Montana, San Clemente, CA 92672. In 1996,the University of California, Irvine, dedicated a Lobo Day Celebration to honor the life of Clarence Lobo.


Clausen, Jerry. “Indians Starving for ‘Rights.’” The Register. 27 December, 1964.

Figura, David. “Local Juaneno chief dies in Oroville at age 72.” The Register. 9 July, 1985.

Gibson, Pamela. Two-Hundred Years in San Juan Capistrano. City of San Juan Capistrano. 1990.

Hawk, Steve. “Clarence H. Lobo, Chief of Juaneno Indians, dies at 72.” The Register. 6 July, 1985.

O’Toole, Cathy. “Indian Chief Blasts U.S. Bureau, Claims Bondage” The Register. 21 January, 1964.


“Isn’t there somebody with half a heart in this world who could see that if these Indians are starving at Christmas, they must be starving the rest of the year.” – Clarence Lobo (qtd. in “Indians Starving for ‘rights’” The Register, by Jerry Clausen)

“In this land of the free and home of the brave everyone else is free but the Indian, who is still held in bondage by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.” – Clarence Lobo (qtd. in “Indian Chief Blasts U.S. Bureau, Claims Bondage” The Register, by Cathy O’Toole)

UC IRVINE Location 1963

Descendants of the Juaneno branch of the Mission Indians, including Chief Lobo, hike past the “Bell Tower” marker at the center of what would become the UCI campus, on the original 1,000 acres donated to The Regents by the Irvine Company. Clarence Lobo, elected chief of the Juaneno, wrote this about the plans for the UCI campus on this land: “Our children shall not know the experience of roaming over these rolling hills and listening to the wild birds as they talk to nature. Here now will be a fountain of knowledge where the cream of our youth shall drink from the rivers of learning…. The future belongs to our youth. Our footprints upon the sands of time shall be history to them.”

AS-061.  University Communications Photographs. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.