Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians of the Cahuilla Reservation


Last Updated: 3 years

The Cahuilla Band of Cahuilla Indians of the Cahuilla Reservation is a federally recognized tribe of Cahuilla Indians located in California. 


Official Tribal Name: Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians of the Cahuilla Reservation

Address:  52701 Hwy 371, P.O. Box 391760, Anza CA 92539-1760 
Fax: 951-763-2808

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

Iviatim is their name in their language for themselves. Cahuilla is a name applied to the group by outsiders after mission secularization in the Ranchos of California.

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:

Cahuilla Indians – The word Cahuilla is probably from the Ivia word kawi’a, meaning “master.”

Alternate names / Alternate spellings / Mispellings:


Name in other languages:

Region: California

State(s) Today: California

Traditional Territory:

The traditional Cahuilla territory was near the geographic center of Southern California. It was bounded to the north by the San Bernardino Mountains, to the south by Borrego Springs and the Chocolate Mountains, to the east by the Colorado Desert, and to the west by the San Jacinto Plain and the eastern slopes of the Palomar Mountains.

Confederacy:  Cahuilla


Reservation: Cahuilla Reservation

The present-day reservation is located within the ancestral lands of the tribe on the site of an ancient community called Paui. The reservation was established by Executive Order on December 27, 1875. The acreage was increased on March 14, 1877, and was reduced two months later. The land base increased again with additions on April 14, 1926, and March 4, 1931. All land is held in trust. Only 2,000 acres belong to the tribe in common; the remainder is allotted to individual members of the Cahuilla Band.
Land Area:  18,884 acres
Tribal Headquarters:  
Time Zone:  

Population at Contact:

Prior to European contact, when they occupied the better part of Riverside County and the northern portion of San Diego County, the collective Cahuilla bands numbered from 6,000 to 10,000 people. Some people estimate the population as high as 15,000 Cahuilla people, collectiively. There were once 22 bands of Cahuilla.

Registered Population Today:

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


The tribal council serves as the Overall Economic Development Committee. Additional committees are formed around issue-specific concerns such as personnel, economic development (Cahuilla Economic Ad Hoc Committee/C.E.A), housing (All Mission Indian Housing Authority/A.M.I.H.A), health (Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health), and education (Title V). The standing committees function within established policies and procedures.

Charter:  The Cahuilla tribe is organized under a non-IRA constitution which was revised in 1983. It is a PL-638 Tribe.
Name of Governing Body:  Tribal Council
Number of Council members:   Two tribal council members, plus executive officers.
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 
Number of Executive Officers:  Tribal council officers include a chairperson, vice-chairperson, a tribal administrator.


Members age 21 or older make up the tribe’s General Council, and they elect a Tribal Council every two years.

Language Classification: Uto-Aztecan => Takic

Language Dialects:  Ivia

Number of fluent Speakers: Elder reservation residents continue to speak their ancestral language.



Members of the Cahuilla tribe have long resided in the area of southern California where the present reservation exists for thousands of years.

Bands, Gens, and Clans

The Cahuilla can be generally divided into three groups based on the geographical region in which they lived: Desert Cahuilla, Mountain Cahuilla and Western (San Gorgonio Pass) Cahuilla. All three spoke the Cahuilla language, had similar lifestyles and practiced the same traditions. The Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians are Desert Cahuilla, and are one of a total of nine Cahuilla Indian nations living on ten indian reservations.

The Cahuilla People were divided into two moieties: Wildcat and Coyote based on their family heritage. Those animals were the totem figures (symbols) for the groups.  Members of both groups might live in the same village. 

Related Tribes:

Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians, Ramona Band of Cahuilla Indians, Santa Rosa Band of Mission Indians and Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla Indians. There are also some Los Coyotes in the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians.

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

Ceremonies / Dances:

Some forms of traditional music, such as Bird Songs and Peon Songs, remain important and are preformed regularly on social occasions.

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Legends / Oral Stories:

Art & Crafts:

The Cahuilla were one of the few early California people to make pottery.  The methods they used were like those used in the Colorado River area to the east, in Arizona.  The clay was rolled into long ropes and then coiled in circles to form pots, bowls, or dishes. 

Crushed rock was sometimes mixed with the clay, to make it  stronger.  After the bowl or pot was formed, it was allowed to dry in the sun and then was baked in a fire.  Sometimes the pots were decorated with designs in red dye.  The pottery was light and thin, and broke easily. 

Cahuilla baskets were made using several kinds of grasses woven together, and decorated with yellow, red, brown, and green fibers of the juncus plant.  Baskets made by the coiling method were either flat to be used as plates or trays, round to be used for storing things, or deep and cone-shaped for carrying things.



Unlike many early Californians, the Cahuilla often wore sandals on their feet.  The sole of the sandal was made either of several layers of deerhide, or of mescal (a type of cactus) fibers woven together and bound with cord.  The sole was held onto the foot by thongs of cord or deerhide.  The cord was made by twisting together mescal or yucca plant fibers.

Cahuilla women wore skirts made from the bark of the mesquite tree, which was softened by pounding it.  The skirt was a double apron type, with one piece covering the front and another piece in the back.  Sometimes the skirt was made of tule reeds, and sometimes of deerskin.  Cahuilla men usually wore a loincloth of deerskin.  Blankets were made by sewing together strips of rabbit skin.



The Cahuilla built several kinds of shelters.  Some were open all across the front.  They were made by setting several poles in a line in the ground and topping them with a ridge pole.  More poles were slanted down from the ridge pole to form back and side walls, which were covered with brush. 

Other houses were dome-shaped with an entrance opening.  These houses were also made on a framework of poles covered with brush.  Sometimes earth was packed against the brush on the outside walls.  The home of the village leader was usually the largest house in the village. 

Shade roofs were sometimes attached to the house, to provide working areas outside that were protected from the sun.

Some Cahuilla villages had sweathouses, built low to the ground, and ceremonial houses used for special rituals and social activities.

 The village leader inherited the position from his father.  He organized the food gathering and hunting, settled disputes, arranged ceremonies, and decided issues of trade and war. 


Game animals were not as plentiful in much of the Cahuilla area as they were for many early Californians.  Although the men hunted deer and rabbits, the people depended more on desert plants for their food supply.

Acorns were important to the Cahuilla, but because of the lack of water and the desert conditions, oak trees did not grow in much of Cahuilla territory.  A more common food for the desert dwellers was the fruit of the mesquite tree, which has roots that can go deep down for water.  In the spring, mesquite blossoms were boiled and eaten. 

In the summer, the green bean pods from the tree were ground up and used to make a drink.  After the pods dried on the mesquite trees in the fall, they were gathered and either eaten right from the tree, or ground into a meal and made into mesquite cakes, which could be stored for a long time.

The agave and yucca plants were also used for food.  A variety of desert cacti produced edible fruit, as did the palm tree.  Seeds from the juniper and pine trees were harvested by the Cahuilla.  They also had chia seeds and the seeds of other plants. 

The seeds were dried or roasted with coals shaken in a basket, and then ground into a meal which could be eaten dry, boiled, or baked into cakes.  In addition, several kinds of berries were dried and ground into meal. 

The Cahuilla men hunted with bows made of willow or mesquite wood and strung with mescal fiber or a strip of sinew (animal tendon). They used curved, flat throwing sticks when hunting small animals.  

Stone mortars and pestles were used to grind seeds and nuts.  The Cahuilla of the desert areas also used a wooden mortar sunk into the ground for grinding mesquite beans.  For this grinding process, a slender  stone pestle about two feet long was needed.

Cahuilla territory was crossed by a major trade route, the Cocopa-Maricopa Trail, that brought people from the east to the Pacific Coast.  The Santa Fe and Yuman trade routes also bordered Cahuilla land. 

Some Cahuilla people became known as expert traders, traveling west to the ocean and east to the Gila River carrying goods for trade. 

From the Gabrielino they got steatite (soapstone) and objects made from steatite.  The shell beads that served as money also came to the Cahuilla by way of the Gabrielino.  These were the olivella shells, shaped into disks and strung on strings.

From people living along the Colorado River, the Cahuilla traded for food (corn, melons, squash, and gourds), turquoise, and axes.  With all of their neighbors, they traded their crafted items such as baskets, pottery, bows and arrows.

Economy Today:

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs


Famous Cahuilla Chiefs & Leaders

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

In the News:

Further Reading: