Paulette A. Lewis

Tribal Member, Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians
Administrator, Advocate, Humanitarian, Mother


Native American Living Legacy Award

Paulette A. Lewis served as an officer of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians for 16 years, stepping down in December 2000 after a long, productive career with the Tribe. Ms. Lewis is most known for her dedicated service to the Tribe, having worked with the Tribe during its pre-gaming days when resources were scarce and opportunities for Native Americans were limited. Ms. Lewis was responsible for administering the Viejas government office, maintained all tribal records, scheduled meetings, and developed the Councilís agendas. As well, she was one of the seven tribal leaders who developed gaming and other business ventures on the Reservation.

Ms. Lewis spent nearly two decades committed to improving the quality of life on the Reservation. Many of her accomplishments have had broad-sweeping impacts for tribal members. There are many examples of her work. She provided critical leadership in developing the Reservation fire and emergency medical services, including development of a permanent fire station and acquisition of a 75í aerial ladder truck, which also provides support to the Alpine community. She created a comprehensive health care program for tribal members, which offers members full coverage and has a strong wellness and educational component. She provided key leadership as a member of the Council that strongly lobbied for Native Americansí rights and led the Tribeís legislative program for many years. Ms. Lewis represented the tribe in local, state, and national circles, advocating strongly for self determination, sovereignty, and strengthening of tribal autonomy. She fostered major improvements to the infrastructure of the Tribe to ensure clean drinking water and proper disposal of wastewater. She also played a key role in helping protect the environment through the creek restoration project.

In addition to her work with the Tribe, Ms. Lewis has contributed to the broader San Diego and national communities. During the fatal illness of her daughter, Jennifer, from leukemia, Ms. Lewis, together with members of the Viejas Band and other tribes, created Jenniferís Circle of Life. This is a non-profit organization that raises funds for leukemia research, testing of Native Americans for transplant matches, and provides financial support for those suffering from the disease. The foundation works closely with the San Diego Blood Bank and Bone Marrow Center.

Prior to her 16 years with the Tribe, Ms. Lewis worked in the building industry, which provided her with valuable background experience when she assumed responsibility for the construction of new homes on the Reservation.

Ms. Lewis resides on the Reservation with her husband, Les. She is taking a brief rest from her many years of service to the Tribe and is exploring new avenues in her career path.

Women's International Center applauds the great and good works and mission of Paulette A. Lewis by presenting her with the Native American Living Legacy Award.

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