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Mary Ann Green
*Mary Ann Green is celebrated on this date in 1964. She was a Black Native American (Cahuilla) tribal leader and politician.
She was born Mary Ann Martin, years after members of the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians had abandoned their reservation and traditional lands surrounding Coachella. (There were only 11 living members of the Augustine Band in 1951, thirteen years before Green's birth). She was raised by her paternal grandmother, who was Black.
Green was unaware of her Native American heritage during her childhood and early adulthood. In 1981, an executive order recognized and established the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians as a federally recognized tribe. However, in 1986, Roberta Augustine, the last living member of the Augustine Band, as well as Green's other grandmother, died. Green discovered her previously unknown Cahuilla heritage following her grandmother's death. She eventually decided to move with her children to the Coachella Valley surrounding the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians' reservation a few years after the death of her grandmother.
Green also gained custody of four her nieces and nephews following the murder of both her brothers in a gang shooting in Los Angeles. Together, Green, her children, and her extended family comprised the entire Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians. She Green became tribal Chairperson in 1988, a position she held until 2016. Under Green, the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians established a tribal government in 1994. Two years later, Green and her family resettled the Augustine Band's reservation in Coachella in 1996.
During the 1990s, Green and her government established a long-term source of income, economic development, and stable employment for its members. Funds from the casino would also be utilized to preserve traditional Cahuilla culture. Green, who lacked the expertise to open a casino, contracted with Paragon Gaming to establish and temporarily operate the proposed casino for its first five years. The Augustine tribal government and Paragon Gaming funded the construction of the $16 million casino entirely through loans offered by Centaur, a finance company based in Indiana. In addition to the casino, Green initiatives included the establishment of an organic farm and a 3-megawatt renewable energy project located on the reservation.
On July 18, 2002, the eight member Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians, led by Green, opened its casino in Coachella, California. The $16 million casino included 349 slot machines and only 10 card tables at the time of 2002 opening, less than the original plans had called for. Dignitaries in attendance included the leaders of several California tribes, as well as Tony Andreas, a traditional Cahuilla bird song singer who had been raised on the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians' reservation during the 1930s and 1940s before its abandonment. Mary Ann Green died on January 8, 2017, at her home in Coachella, California, following a long illness. She was survived by her three children, Amanda Vance, who succeeded her as the Chairperson of the Augustine Band, Ronnie and William Vance, and three grandchildren.
She was an example of the intersectionality of African and Native bloodlines and an administrator of environmental justice for her community and family. She Chaired the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Native Americans based in Coachella, California, for over 25 years. Under Green, the Augustine Band established a tribal government and resettled their reservation in Coachella, in 1996. She also oversaw the development and establishment of the Augustine Casino, which opened the small Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians as one of the largest employers in the Coachella Valley. Her burial was at the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians' Tribal Cemetery in Coachella.