For nearly 10,000 years, the rolling hills of Portola Springs were home to the Acjachemen people, a tribe whose legacy is deeply intertwined with the region.
This heritage was recently honored with a series of interpretive panels that tell their story. The signs, placed throughout Portola Springs Community Park, point out the locations of their ancient village and trade routes.
“My hope is that these panels will provide the Portola Springs community with a sense of what came before and what is still here,” Joyce Stanfield Perry, cultural resource director for the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Acjachemen Nation, said at a ceremony attended by Native American leaders and community members. “We were doctors. We were astronomers. And our ancestors used this land during the solstice celebration.”
For that reason, tribal leaders asked landowner Irvine Company to preserve the site. The company agreed, setting aside 124 acres of rolling hills for trails, a park, a Native American garden and a Native American room in the adjoining community center.
The Acjachemen’s deep connection to this land is showcased by artifacts in the community center. Their tools, weapons and ceremonial sites reveal a culture that flourished in these foothills that are flush with natural springs and panoramic views from the ocean to the Santa Ana River.
“While our village has changed and is now Portola Springs,” Perry said, “the sense of connection to, and appreciation of, this beautiful place we call home now has a common thread that holds us all together.”