Many people will claim to be “from La Jolla.” Though they may have lived here for quite a good deal of time, and it is understandable to want to be associated with “the jewel,” or “land of holes,” few can call it a birthright. Those who were born and raised here are truly proud of their heritage, and Kilma Lattin is no different when it comes to his Pala Indian and La Jolla upbringing.
Lattin’s father was a community leader in the Pala Indian tribe, and his mother was a native La Jollan. As a child, he split his time between the reservation, located in north county San Diego, and La Jolla. His father passed when he was ten, after which he came to La Jolla to live with his mother full-time.
“During this time I really didn’t make it [back to Pala] nearly as much as I would have liked,” said Lattin. “Growing up, I was the kid that no one’s parents would let them hang around with. Unfortunately for those parents, the kids were drawn to me because I was having the most fun.”
After attending La Jolla High, it seems Lattin had left his mischievous behavior by the wayside. Attending UC Santa Barbara, he graduated with Bachelor’s Degrees in both History (with honors) and Communications. Lattin continued to further his education, graduating with an MBA from University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business as well.
Prior to attending USC Marshall, Lattin decided to serve his country and enlisted in the Army. Though men in Lattin’s family have served gallantly since WWII, along with a large percentage of Native Americans, it was not family tradition that drove him to serve.
“The events of September 11, 2001 had a profound effect on me,” elaborated Lattin. “I was at UCSB, where it seemed that all of my classmates were set on partying and not on what was happening to our country. Unlike most who enlist, I had not taken any money for school through ROTC or any other programs, and solely joined as a service to my country.”
Lattin began his service as a military aviation officer, in which he started out flying the OH-58 Kiowa, then moved on to the AH-64 Apache helicopter. He informed La Jolla Blue Book that he had always wanted to serve his country and fly since a young age, in which he half-jokingly credits to watching Top Gun (filmed in San Diego) as a youngster. During his service, Lattin was awarded the Soldier’s Award for Valor among many other decorations.
After his service was completed, Lattin returned to San Diego with another purpose – to assist his Native American community in any fashion he could. From 2005 to 2011 he served three terms on the Executive Committee for the Pala Band of Mission Indians. Here he placed an emphasis on community development, assisting in the drafting of social and administrative policy on the reservation.
His work with the executive committee led to several landmark accomplishments. This includes the overseeing of digital archiving of all tribal records dating back to 1992, forming a tribal judicial court system in 2006, the developments of DNA testing for tribal enrollment eligibility, and the construction of a 22,000 square-foot skate park. Though the list of accomplishments continues, Lattin is also credited with establishing KOPA 91.3 in 2010, the tribe’s radio station and one of the first new full-power FM radio stations in California in twenty years.
“What stands out to me in my experience with the executive committee is the direct and immediate impact that we could have in the bettering of the lives of our constituents,” said Lattin. “We could draft new ordinances or regulations, or have other projects cleared one week, then see them implemented the very next week.”
Lattin feels that his military service greatly parallels his role as a community leader with the Pala, as well as any other project he has been involved in. The ability to adapt to different situations, people, and personalities – often with a limited use of resources – is a key component to his success.
This past June, Lattin was awarded an Emmy Award for the production of his documentary “Defending the Homeland.” The documentary focuses on the history of Native Americans’ large role in military service from World War II until present day.
The project stemmed from the idea of focusing on Lattin’s grandfathers and family members, for Lattin’s grandfather, Roy Lattin, served as a Marine PFC in the Pacific Theater. It wasn’t until he began to interview Gilbert Mojado, one of the last surviving Pala WWII veterans, that Lattin realized that the scope of the project was much larger than he had anticipated.
Lattin currently resides in La Jolla and is always open to new projects, as he has seen a great deal of success in his past ventures. He told La Jolla Blue Book that he wanted to become more involved in the realm of technology, creating new solutions to future problems. One concept that he is mulling is the idea of creating a technology hub on a reservation, which would be one-of-a-kind in the United States.
Lattin was accepted into the Harvard School of Business in 2012, and recently returned home from studying in India for the month of June.