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DEATH LEAVES VOID IN THE DWINDLING KWAAYMII TRIBE

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Tomas Lucas, the last full-blooded Kwaaymii Indian, has died at age 87 in the Laguna Mountains area that was home to his ancestors for centuries.

Lucas, who eagerly retold his tribe's history and described its cultural traditions for audiences ranging from anthropologists to elementary school children, died Thursday, said his daughter Carmen Lucas.In his final days, Lucas contracted pneumonia, she said.

"He knew he was dying. He told us so," she said. "He told us of his disturbing dreams where he was surrounded by angels, but when he reached out to touch them, their wings turned to paper."

Because Lucas was the last full-blooded member of the dwindling tribe, Kwaaymii elders had forced him to learn and repeat the tribal history.

Anthropologists and archaeologists came to hear his recounting of tribal history and many hours of his monologues were recorded on videotape during talks with children from a nearby school.

"I guess that I'm the only one today that remembers the past," he told a reporter last year. "I was the only child and no kids to play with.

"At night, I was bound to listen. Listen to stories, listen to prayers. "By keeping my ears open, as I most generally have, I picked up quite a few things. Some things I wasn't supposed to know I heard anyway."