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History of the Cahuilla
by Donna Lopez

One of the most important inhabitants of the Morongo Reservation are the Cahuilla people.  During our field work, we were able to photograph and capture some of the Cahuilla culture.  Click on the thumb nailed images to view them in full size and splendor.
Before the arrival of the missionaries, the Cahuilla Indians were a benign group with a beautiful culture to boast.  They were very resourceful and had a creative use for all plant and natural elements, notably acorns, mesquite, and pinyon.

They carefully crafted their homes, also known as “kish” using reeds, branches and brush.  The Cahuilla Indians are known for their artistic tendencies.  The photograph on the left is obscured but gives you a basic idea of a typical Cahuilla dwelling.

Cahuilla ceremonies

Events of a religious or social nature were often held in a Big House, kish’amna’a.  Traditionally this was constructed of posts and palm fronds, and was large enough to hold all the members of the village.  Among the most significant ceremonies were rituals honoring those who died.

Cahuilla Basketry

The Cahuilla culture is distinguished for their beautiful baskets embellished with patterns of animals, birds, clouds, lighting, etc.  This style further emphasizes the peoples’ appreciation for nature.

[ Read More about Cahuilla Basketry ]

Bird Songs
However, the Cahuilla also have a strong fondness for music.  Not only does music serve as a creative and artistic outlet, but it is also a means of recording history.

Bird songs tell how the Cahuilla people migrated like birds in ancient times, wandering the length and breadth of the land before coming to settle in their present area.  There are over 100 songs describing the travels.  Several men continue the tradition of bird songs today, and young men are learning the extensive repertoire from the elders.


However, after the arrival of the Anglo-Americans, the Indians were ultimately placed on a 24,000-acre reservation in Riverside County. Currently there are approximately 600 individuals that are members of the Cahuilla tribe.  The Cahuilla Indians are divided into numerous bands including: the Cabazon band, the Agua Caliente band of Palm Springs, the Augustine band near Coachella, the Ramona band of Anza, the Morongo band in Banning, the Santa Rosa band located at Hemet, the Los Coyotes of Warner Springs, and the Torres-Martinez band situated at Thermal.

[ Read more about the Reservations ]

Cahuilla Today

After many generations of hardships and struggling to survive, the beautiful culture continues to thrive through regularly scheduled powwows.  Powwows allow the Cahuilla to trade, socialize and celebrate.  This special event takes place twice a year.  At the threshold of spring, the Cahuilla gather to celebrate the end of winter.  The event is celebrated a second time during the year during autumn days.  The second powwow demonstrates the Cahuillas’ generous nature; it is during the fall event that the unselfish people trade food and other goods with those that were less fortunate with their harvests.



Unless otherwise stated, contents of this web site (photographs and text) are property of
Elton Chang, Paula Araos, Donna Lopez.

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