Maurice Lyons, a former Morongo Band of Mission Indians tribal chairman and longtime tribal council member, walked on Wednesday, October 16 at the age of 63. According to a press release from the band he was known for his dedication to improving the lives of Native American children, families and elders.
“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 in the release. “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 self-sufficiency will live for generations. We are deeply saddened by his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
Lyons was raised on the Morongo Reservation in a home that had no electricity until he was 8 years old. He was one of nine children.
He entered the public service arena in 1994 as a tribal housing commissioner and chairman of the Morongo Headstart Parent Policy Committee. That same year was when he was first elected to tribal council. In 2001, he was elected as tribal chairman. He served two terms as chairman. He served a total of 15 years on the council.
It was during his tenure that the tribe developed its $250 million Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa and Lyons was involved in compact negotiations with the State of California.
Lyons was also devoted to youth programs that would help preserve the culture, traditions and language of his people. He initiated and oversaw the development of the Morongo School, a college preparatory academy that opened in 2010 on the Morongo Reservation. It is one of the only tribally-funded academies in the nation for tribal children.
Lyons once served as the president of the board of directors for the National Indian Child Welfare Association as well.
Public services are scheduled for Saturday, October 19 at 10 a.m. at the Morongo Community Center, 13000 Malki Road on the Morongo Indian Reservation.