A lifelong advocate for human rights, Larry Banegas, MSW, represented the Kumeyaay nation during the Native American occupation of Alcatraz.
He has since devoted his time to working on behalf of children who couldn’t defend themselves. Larry worked his way through the ranks of: Mental Health Counselor, Intervention Counselor, Foster Parent Recruiter, Adoptions Applicant Social Worker, and Child Protective Service Worker.
In 1997, duty called and Larry joined the ranks of tribal councilman on Barona, his Native American reservation located east of San Diego, California. During that term, he and fellow council members completed years of due diligence to set into motion the establishment of the now multi-billion dollar per year Native American gaming industry. Larry has defining experiences of working with local, state and Federal governments and combatting corruption and greed that plagues the industry. The business persevered and Barona Resort & Casino is a premier Southern California family-friendly gaming destination. Having successfully established this “family business”, Larry was able to retire at an early age. Today, Barona Resort & Casino hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and employs thousands.
In 2000, the entrepreneurial spirit took over and Larry launched Kumeyaay.com. The website is a go-to online resource for Native American news, is a portal for sustaining the Kumeyaay language and culture, and celebrates all indigenous cultures of the world.
Throughout his life, Larry has focused his energy by teaching Kumeyaay culture and tradition in a variety of outlets including:
- Kumeyaay.com – Founder & CEO
- San Diego Film Festival – Native American Advisory Board
- San Diego State University – American Indian Recruitment (AIR) Program Board Member
- San Diego Museum of Man – Board Member
- Southern Indian Health – Ret. Director & Social Services Program Chair
- San Diego Natural History Museum – Board Member 2005-2008
- Barona Cultural Center and Museum – co-Founder
- Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College – Early California History, Humanities Instructor
- Q. University at Sycuan – Indigenous Studies Instructor
- Kumeyaay Adult Education – Instructor
San Diego State University (SDSU) recognized Larry’s contributions to society with their prestigious Monty Award in April, 2013. In May, 2013, on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s commencement speech at the SDSU, Larry was honored to deliver the school of Health and Human Services’ commencement address.
In addition to teaching Native American culture, music has been a passion for Larry from a young age. He instilled this in all of his children and, in turn, passed it along to his grandchildren. Larry actively plays in rock and blues bands and has produced many works by industry renowned artists.
In mid-2013, Larry broke ground on the Barona reservation and created the Kuseyaay (medicine person) Spiritual and Wellness Center. In early spring 2014, the Kuseyaay Wellness Center opened and continues to welcome spiritual leaders, healers, and community leaders from around the world. The Kuseyaay Wellness Center is a private location that attracts people who are seeking the ancient practice of natural ways of healing the mind, body and spirit.
History shows that the Kumeyaay have inhabited the region now known as Southern California and northern Mexico for at least 14,000 years. Larry believes in combining ancient ways of healing with advances in today’s medicine; he is a private investor in three California dispensaries. Larry feels that cannabis is a sacred botanical and its restoration by sovereign nations is a next-step in exercising Native American human rights. Larry will share his experience of empowering individuals with the knowledge of cannabis and witnessing them overcome a variety of ailments including prescription opioid addiction.