Arid and sun-drenched, the Coachella Valley of the Colorado Desert in southeast California is the home of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. Primarily Cahuilla Indians (pronounced Kaw-we-ah), the Cabazon Indians fall into the Desert Cahuilla distinction and were referred to as “Mission Indians,” which, despite the misleading nature of the terminology, remains today. They were split into two moieties, the Wildcat and the Coyote moieties, and because of the unique difficulties of the terrain, became experts in navigating and surviving among the harshest of conditions.
At the time of the first real contact with Spaniards in the 1770s, the Cahuilla people were estimated to have a population of over 5,000, which, due to the isolated nature of their location, retained their numbers until the nineteenth century. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the federal government withdrew almost all jurisdiction over Native Americans and the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians emerged as a sovereign entity with the power to elect its own Tribal council. With their centuries old wisdom for adapting and living harmoniously with the earth, they continue today.
The Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Reservation stretches along the Interstate 10 corridor in California’s Coachella Valley, covering over 1,600 acres in discontiguous parcels. Today, the reservation is used for both economic development and housing to meet the Tribe’s diverse needs. It has become home to not only the Tribe that inhabits the valley, but also the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino, the Special Events Center, and the Cabazon Tribal Utility Authority, with even more to come.
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The Cahuilla endeavored to create beauty in day-to-day projects and in objects that held religious meaning. Traditional Cahuilla baskets are coiled on bundles of horse grass stems, the wrapping is being either sumac splints or Juncus rush. Inspired by nature, the designs mimic animals, clouds, lightning, and wind using mostly earth-toned hues of red, brown, olive, and yellow. For the Cahuilla tribe, body paint held a ceremonial purpose, while facial tattooing was a means of personal adornment. Decorations were used for magical purposes and to indicate ownership, such as designs on arrows that were believed to enhance one’s success as a hunter. In the Cahuilla tribe, the most common means of creative expression was music and it was used to record history, imbued with religious meaning, and to accompany games, secular dances, as well as hunting and gathering.
To witness this rich culture for yourself, the annual Pow Wow held in November on Tribal property can immerse one in a celebration of tribal culture through dance, musical competition, and displays. On Tribal property, there is also a museum dedicated to Cabazon Tribal culture that can provide a wealth of knowledge as a catalogue of both the history and culture of the tribe.
For more information call 760-238-5770.
The Tribal government consists of the following departments:
The Administration Department oversees all ten departments of the Reservation by providing oversight and assistance for the operation of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Tribe. The Administration Department handles Tribal affairs and Tribal assets while serving as the core administrative support for the five-member Tribal Business Committee.
The mission of the Economic Development Department of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians is to stimulate economic activity by creating and administering programs designed to support local businesses, develop quality commercial corridors, provide affordable business alternatives, supply community services, and enhance the reservation. The Economic Development Department bears the responsibility of both marketing the reservation and attracting, assisting, and retaining businesses.
The Finance Department of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians provides financial information to allow for the effective management of Tribal assets and secures funding for the management of any projects on the Reservation through the grants office. The Finance Department works with all Tribal departments to apply for and manage funding from federal, state, and private granting agencies.
The Legal Department provides support to the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Tribal Council and entities to protect the Tribe’s sovereignty, constitution, and laws. The Legal Department represents the Tribe and reviews any legal affairs for all departments of the Reservation, including assessing any contracts, personnel matters, or other legal issues.
Planning and Development
The Planning Department of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians works closely with other departments and outside businesses to promote effective use of the Tribal Reservation Land while acting in their best interests. The Planning Department protects and improves the Reservation environment with efficient use of space and meticulous planning for all projects and opportunities that fall within their jurisdiction. The Planning Department bears the responsibility of serving as a point of contact for projects that impact culturally or historically sensitive sites and monitors the actions of the local city, county, and state agencies that may have an affect on the Tribe. The Planning Department also serves in an advisory capacity to the Planning Commission regarding any proposals for development submitted by potential clients.
The Environmental Department manages the natural resources of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Reservation and serves to preserve the wildlife and environment of Tribal lands using modern technologies in the capacity of air, water, soil, and waste. The Environmental Department bears the responsibility of ensuring that Tribal lands are in compliance with the Federal Government’s programs and laws, while ensuring that the Tribal laws that govern the land maintain Tribal sovereignty.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
The Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Department of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians manages mapping data by providing high quality technology-based support for all other Tribal departments. The GIS Department contributes to the efficient and effective planning of projects through mapping, spatial information, and analysis of the Tribal Reservation land.
The Realty Department of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians oversees and manages approximately 1,600 acres of Tribal Trust, Allottee land, and Tribally owned fee land. The Realty Department assists with both the development of Tribal Land and Tribal Members with matters relating to property management in the capacity of leasing, purchasing, and appraising Tribal Land. The Realty Department oversees the management of the historical and current records of Tribal Reservation Land by processing, updating, and recording all pertinent documents.
The Public Works Department of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians bears the responsibility of managing, operating, and maintaining the physical facilities of the Tribal Reservation. The Public Works Department carries out this responsibility through managing new construction, modifying Tribal facilities, maintaining Tribal housing, assisting in special events services, and any other related services on the Reservation.
The Tribal Services Department provides a wide range of services to all Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Families and Tribal Members in matters relating to Tribal affairs, including housing, education, healthcare, and an abundance of other helpful benefits for Tribal Members and their children.
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