The Cahuilla tribes were Uto-Aztecan peoples who arrived in southern California about 2,000-2,500 years ago.
The Cahuilla Indians originally ranged over the entire San Bernardino Basin, the San Jacinto Mountains, the Coachella Valley, and portions of the southern Mojave Desert.
Living in independent clans of approximately 600-800 people, each clan controlled their own separate territories.
These peaceful hunter-gatherers used throwing sticks, clubs, nets, spring-poled snares, and often poison-tipped arrows to provide game for their clans.
The Cahuilla tribe did not encounter Europeans until 1774, when Spanish explorer, Juan Bautista de Anza was looking for a trade route between Mexico and California. Living far inland, the Cahuilla had little contact with Spanish soldiers, priests, or missionaries.
During the Mexican-American War, the Cahuilla joined the Californios, and in the treaty to end the war, the government promised to recognize Native American rights to inhabit certain lands.
However, white settlement on Indian lands became an increasing problem after the US annexed California, especially after gold was discovered.
When the California Senate refused to ratify the 1852 treaty granting the Cahuilla control of their lands, tribal leaders resorted to attacks on approaching settlers and soldiers. In the end, the U.S. government subdivided their lands into reservations in 1877.
Today there are ten Southern California reservations that are set aside for bands of Cahuilla people. Two of those bands share a reservation with members of other tribes. These are all located in Imperial, Riverside and San Diego Counties.
Cahuilla Bands Today
Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians (Cahuilla and Cupeño)
Morongo Band of Mission Indians (Cahuilla, Serrano and Cupeño)
Other California Indian Tribes
After a 30-year closure, the lovely canyon named after a banished Cahuilla shaman called Tahquitz has reopened on a limited basis to hikers in Palm Springs.
At the new Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center, hikers are ushered into a screening room for the “Legend of Tahquitz Canyon” video, then led onto the trail.
Groups wind past ancient rock art, diverse desert flora and sometimes wildlife, including the phainopepla, a small bluish-black bird of the Southwest. Mountain goats are often seen.