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Chemehuevi Indians - Ethnography & Ethnohistory

Reservation Affairs

Reservation Affairs. Although the members of the band for whom the Twenty-nine Palms reservation was set aside retained their identity as a group separate from the Chemehuevi who were members of the Chemehuevi on the Colorado River and those on various reservations in the Coachella Valley, they kept in touch with their fellow Chemehuevis. By the late 20th century, they had numerous family ties with other southern California Indians. In 1910, the government issued a trust patent for 640 acres jointly to the Cabazon and Twenty-nine Palms Bands of Mission Indians, and encouraged the Twentynine Palms Chemehuevi to live there rather than out in the desert at Twentynine Palms, which was so distant from other reservations that the OIA felt it too far for Indian agents to travel. This section was added to the already-existing Cabazon Reservation (Trafzer et al. 1997:94-95). When, in the course of time, conflict arose between the Chemehuevis and Cahuillas on the reservation, most of the Chemehuevis left, some of them returning, at least for a time, to the Twenty-nine Palms Reservation. Others "moved to live with the Paiutes in Nevada, Chemehuevis near Parker, Arizona, the Luisenos and Cahuillas at Soboba Reservation, the Agua Caliente Reservation in Palm Springs, or one of the other reservations in Southern California." Some went to live in the desert towns of the Coachella Valley or elsewhere (1997:95-96). The only Chemehuevi family who remained at the Cabazon Reservation was that of Susie Mike Benitez (1997:96).

Four hundred acres of the 640 acres held jointly by the two bands was allotted to eight Cahuillas and two Chemehuevis (1997:96), a division of the allotted acres that gave four times as much land to Cahuillas as to Chemehuevis. In the early 1970s, the Chemehuevis, feeling that they had never been full parties in the reservation, began to press for a larger share of the section. Because the Cabazon Tribal Council was at the time investigating the possibility of economic development, and especially Indian gaming, it was likely considered advisable to clear title to their land by bringing to an end the joint tenancy of the 240 remaining acres of the section. The Council, after due deliberation, decided that the 240 acres of the section held in joint tenancy that had not been allotted should go to the Twenty-nine Palms Band in view of the fact that members of that band had received less than the Chemehuevi share of the allotted 400 acres. The Tribe thereupon petitioned Congress that Section 30 be divided between the Cabazon Reservation and the Twenty-nine Palms Reservation, with the latter receiving the 240 acres plus $2,825 in cash plus interest. Congress under the terms of Public Law 94-271 authorized the division in 1976. This division of a reservation between two groups has been extremely rare in the history of this country. Now the Twenty-nine Palms Band had a land base in the Coachella Valley to which they had clear title, except that the acreage was diminished by rights-of-way for a storm channel and an irrigation pipeline granted the Coachella Valley County Water District, a California state highway, a road used by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and Interstate 10 owned by the U.S. government (Trafzer et al. 1997:98-101).

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