The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is a federally recognized tribe of primarily Cahuilla and Serrano peple. Tribal members also include Cupeño, Luiseño, and Chemehuevi Indians.
Official Tribal Name: Morongo Band of Mission Indians
Address: 12700 Pumarra Road, Banning, CA 92220
Phone: (951) 849-4697
Official Website: www.morongonation.org
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:
The name Morongo comes from the Serrano clan Maarrenga’.
Common Name: Morongo Tribe
Meaning of Common Name:
Cahuilla has been interpreted to mean “the master,” “the powerful one,” or “the one who rules.”
Alternate names / Alternate spellings / Misspellings:
Formerly known as the Morongo Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians of the Morongo Reservation.
Name in other languages:
State(s) Today: California
Reservation: Morongo Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land
The Morongo Reservation is located in Riverside County, California at the base of the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Mountains. On May 15, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant established this and eight other reservations in the area by executive order.
Land Area: 35,000 acres (14,000 ha)
Tribal Headquarters: Banning, California
Time Zone: Pacific
Population at Contact:
Registered Population Today:
996 enrolled tribal members, with 954 living on the reservation.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
Name of Governing Body: Tribal Council
Number of Council members: 5 plus executive officers
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Executive Officers: Chairman, Vice-Chairman
Uto-Aztecan => Northern Uto-Aztecan => Cupan => Cahuilla (Ivii’a) => Pass Cahuilla
Uto-Aztecan => Northern Uto-Aztecan => Serran => Serrano
Pass Cahuilla and Serrano
Number of fluent Speakers:
Both lanuages are considered extinct. Joe Saubel, the last pure speaker of Pass Cahuilla, died in 2008 and Dorothy Ramon, the last pure speaker of Serrano died in 2002. However, a revitalization project is in progress, and younger members are now trying to learn these languages as a second language. There are 35 speakers of Cahuilla.
In 2012, the Limu Project announced that it had successfully reconstructed Pass Cahuilla, and is offering an online course. The project also offers online courses in Maarrenga’ (Morongo Band “Serrano” dialect) and Yuhaviat (Santos Manuel Band “Serrano” dialect).
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.
- Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
- Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians
- Cabazon Band of Mission Indians
- Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians
- Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla Indians
- Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians
- Ramona Band of Cahuilla Indians
- Santa Rosa Band of Mission Indians
- Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians
Ceremonies / Dances:
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
The Thunder & Lightning Pow Wow is held the 4th weekend in September.
The Malki Museum on the Morongo Reservation is open to the public. The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has an extensive collection of artifacts.
The reservation is also home to the Limu Project, a tribal community-based nonprofit organization that helps families preserve knowledge of their indigenous languages, history, and cultural traditions.
The Cultural Heritage Days Celebration in late spring is a gathering celebrating Morongo’s culture and history.
Legends / Oral Stories:
Art & Crafts:
The Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa was opened in 2004 in Cabazon, California. Several restaurants and bars are part of the complex, Desert Orchid: Contemporary Asian Cuisine, Potrero Canyon Buffet, Cielo: Pacific Coast Steak and Seafood Restaurant, Serrano, Sunset Bar and Grill, a food court, Mystique Lounge, and the Pit Bar.
The Tribe also runs AAA Four Diamond Resort, Ruby’s Diner, the 36-pump Morongo Travel Center, Hadley Fruit Orchards, and the Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon.
The Morongo Tribe has become the largest private sector employer in the Banning-Beaumont region and is a major contributor to the San Gorgonio Pass economy. The Tribe now employs more than 3,000 people. An independent study in 2008 reported that the tribe’s gaming and non-gaming businesses would generate more than $2.8 billion into the regional economy.
A bottling plant on the reservation is operated by Nestle Waters North America Inc., which leases the property from the tribe. The plant bottles Arrowhead spring water as well as purified water sold under the brand Nestle Pure Life. In his 2010 book “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water”, author Peter H. Gleick said the plant was producing more than 1 billion bottles of Arrowhead spring water per year.
Religion Today: Protestant, Catholic, Traditional Religion
Traditional Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
Newspapers: The Malki Museum Press publishes the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology and scholarly books on Indian culture.
Famous Cahuilla Chiefs & Leaders
In the News:
1987 – The tribe opened a small bingo hall in 1983, which became the foundation of what is now one of the oldest Native gaming enterprises in California. The government of Riverside County, California, attempted to shut down the bingo hall, so the tribe joined with the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in a lawsuit eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. On February 25, 1987, the court upheld the right of sovereign Indian tribes to operate gaming enterprises on their reservations.