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Mojave Desert Indians - Historic Desert Indian Territories Map:


Early History
The history of the Cahuilla in general has been told in various Bean and Vane reports (1978; 1991; 1995; 1997), and in Bean and Mason 1960. Some history is contained in Mukat's People (1972). Archaeological data suggest that they have occupied their traditional territory in the central part of the southern California area south of the San Bernardino Mountains for some two thousand years.

Arrival of Europeans and Euro-Americans
The arrival of the Spanish and Mexicans in southern California in 1769 may have pushed them further inland and further into the mountains. Otherwise, they were less impacted by the Spanish intrusion than their neighbors. Few were baptized in the coastal Spanish missions until the 1820s, when some were brought into Mission San Gabriel. Others were baptized at a later time at the San Ysabel Asistencia (later the Franciscan Indian Mission) established in the Santa Ysabel Valley southwest of Warner Springs by Mission San Diego, and at the church of Our Lady of Snows, which Santa Ysabel established on Cahuilla Reservation (Bonaventure 4/25/1945). Not much has been reported about Cahuilla involvement in the Project Area, but it is remembered that the southern part of Joshua Tree National Park was within the area in which Cahuillas from the settlements at the northern end of the Salton Sea hunted and gathered plant products.

In 1874 gold and silver was discovered in the vicinity of Twentynine Palms, bringing it about that numerous prospectors procured themselves mining outfits and headed for the mines. A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about his own trip. His party left the stage road at Whitewater and branched off to the left into the desert. Eventually it reached the Blue Jay mine. The Eagle and the Valentine had not yet been as thoroughly prospected, he wrote. Supplies were brought in by the Cahuilla Indians from Agua Caliente, who had "some fine ranches and now find a profitable market for their products." It was said that the mines had been discovered by the Cahuillas. "Some of them have some very fine specimens of gold quartz which they freely exhibit, but are very reticent when questioned as to the locality in which they found it" (San Francisco Chronicle 3/7/1874).

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    Cahuilla woman under the palms

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