2020 Palladium Honoree: San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

SMBMI Chairman Ken Ramirez (left) with former Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena at the annual Forging Hope Yawa' Awards celebration, honoring transformative work of nonprofits in the Inland Empire and Indian Country. 
Exterior shot of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Community Center

Exterior of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Community Center

Sep. 30, 2020

Each year, the UNLV Foundation honors donors whose lifetime giving to UNLV has reached $1 million or more with the Palladium Award. Honorees are recognized at the UNLV Foundation Annual Dinner, a tradition that began more than 25 years ago. Because of COVID-19, the 2020 Annual Dinner has been postponed but we look forward to celebrating this year's Palladium Awardees when we can gather together once again.

Since their creation, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians have expressed themselves through a culture of giving. Today, the federally recognized American Indian tribe is a national leader in tribal gaming, and the tradition of giving continues. Their commitment to tribal gaming education at UNLV is just the most recent demonstration of their strength and values, bridging past and future.

The Yuhaaviatam (San Manuel Band of Mission Indians) are one of several clans of Serrano Indians, the indigenous people of California’s San Bernardino highlands and valley. The reservation was established in 1891. With its governmental gaming operations and other enterprises, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians currently employs more than 4,000 people.

In Spring of this year, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians reached an historic agreement with UNLV and committed $9 million to support course development, faculty, and programs at both the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality and the William S. Boyd School of Law. The gift positions UNLV as a world leader in education and innovation related to tribal gaming operations, law and economic development.

“UNLV is a natural partner for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians,” reflects San Manuel Chairman Ken Ramirez. “Together, we can realize the full potential of tribal gaming and provide opportunities that benefit our children, their children, and Indian Country for an economically sustainable, healthy future.”

The contribution is the largest out-of-state gift granted by the tribe. It will create the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Endowed Chair in Tribal Gaming at the College of Hospitality and bolster the college’s curriculum in tribal gaming. It also will develop a set of online certificate courses accessible to Native Americans across the U.S.

At the Boyd School of Law, the gift will support a professor-in-residence, a visiting professor, and a program administrator to explore tribal governance, regulations, and economic development. It also will create a scholarship for an LL.M. student in gaming, with preference given to tribal members and indigenous students. Additionally, the contribution will allow UNLV Boyd Law to expand its Tribal Law Practicum and hold an annual workshop on emerging issues in Native American gaming.

The San Manuel Band has a tribal government consisting of the General Council comprised of Tribal Citizens age 21 and over, and a seven-member elected Business Committee. Chairman Ramirez, an active member of the Inland Empire community and broader Indian Country, embodies the philanthropic values of the Tribe through his work in healthcare, education, and support of other nonprofit partners.

* SMBMI Chairman Ken Ramirez (left) with former Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena at the annual Forging Hope Yawa' Awards celebration, honoring transformative work of nonprofits in the Inland Empire and Indian Country. 


Marian Alper