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 California.
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
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 at 13000 Malki Road on the Morongo Indian Reservation.