Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

Tribute To The Life Of Richard Milanovich

Rep. Joe Baca

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I stand here today to pay tribute to a great tribal leader, role model, and veteran Richard Milanovich. Richard, Chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, passed away on March 11, 2012, at the age of sixty-nine.

Richard was born on December 4, 1942, and spent his childhood living with his mother, LaVerne Saubel, who was a strong advocate for Indian rights in her own right. LaVerne set an outstanding example for her son, and was a member of the all-female tribal council that persuaded Congress to allow self-governance for the Agua Caliente Band of Chauilla Indians in 1957. Richard's upbringing in his mother's home instilled in him a passion for the Indian community.

Richard lived with his mother until the age of 17, when he left home to join the United States Army. After his time in the service, Richard worked as a door-to-door salesman, selling items such as vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias, until joining the tribal council at age 35.

Richard was one of the earliest patriarchs of Indian gaming in California. During his first few years on the council, he convinced the tribal council to purchase the Spa Hotel in downtown Palm Springs in 1992. This purchase helped to revitalize downtown Palm Springs and paved the way for the future economic stability of the Agua Caliente band of Chuilla Indians, as well as other tribes in California.

At the time of his passing, Richard was the Chairman of the Agua Caliente band of Chuilla Indians. Richard's 30 years of service to the tribe left a lasting impact not only on his tribe, but California at large. Richard was not only passionate about protecting the future and stability of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, but he also gave back to his surrounding community through his advocacy for the gaming industry. Indian gaming is one of the surest ways to create economic development in a region; proving jobs and revenue for tribal self governance, maintenance, and education.

Richard's strong advocacy at the state and national level for the rights of the Indian people and gaming allowed his tribe to gain respect and high standing among tribes across the country.

Richard was known as a great mentor to the younger leaders; his tireless work on behalf of the Indian community left younger tribal leaders with a strong example of hard work and dedication. He taught young tribal members the importance of cherishing and understanding the past, in order to pave the way for a bright future for the Indian community.

Richard is survived by his wife, Melissa, and their six children. He leaves with cherished memories and a loving family. My thoughts and prayers, along with those of my wife, Barbara, and my children, Rialto Councilman Joe Baca, Jr., Jeremy, Natalie, and Jennifer are with Ruben's family at this time. Mister Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring a beloved community member and tireless advocate, Richard Milanovich.