Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation is a federally recognized tribe of the Cahuilla, located in Riverside County, California.[3] They inhabited the Coachella Valley desert and surrounding mountains between 5000 BCE and 500 AD. With the establishment of the reservations, the Cahuilla were officially divided into 10 sovereign nations, including the Agua Caliente Band.[4]

Agua Caliente Band
of Cahuilla Indians
Total population
2010: 410 alone and in combination[1]
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( California)
English, Cahuilla language[2]
Traditional Tribal religion, Catholic and Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Cahuilla people


The Agua Caliente Indian Reservation was founded on May 15, 1876[5] through Executive Order and signed by President Ulysses S. Grant and occupies 31,610 acres (12,790 ha). On 1877 and 1907 the Reservation was extended to over 32,000 acres of land. Since 6,700 acres (2,700 ha) of the reservation are within Palm Springs city limits, the tribe is the city's largest collective landowner. The tribe owns Indian Canyons, located southwest of Palm Springs. The canyons are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3] They also own land in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.


The tribe's headquarters is located in Palm Springs, California. They ratified their constitution and bylaws in 1957,[5] gaining federal recognition. For many years the band was headed by Chairman Richard M. Milanovich until his death on March 11, 2012. Their current tribal council is as follows:

  • Chairman: Jeff L. Grubbe (elected June 19, 2012)
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Vincent Gonzales III
  • Member: Anthony Purnel
  • Member: Reid Milanovich
  • Vice Chairman: Larry Olinger


Agua Caliente is one of three reservations where speakers of the "Pass" dialect of the Cahuilla were located, the other two being the Morongo Indian Reservation and Augustine Indian Reservation. Pass Cahuilla is a dialect of Cahuilla found within the Cupan branch of Takic languages, part of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Though revitalization efforts are underway, all dialects of Cahuilla are technically considered to be extinct as they are no longer spoken at home, and children are no longer learning them as a primary language.[6] The last native speaker of Pass Cahuilla died in 2008.

Programs and economic development

Tribal programs and family services

Tribal Family Services was established in 2003 to support social and educational programs for tribal members. Other services include cultural preservation, child development, and scholarships.[7]

The Jane Augustine Patencio Cemetery[8] provides burial services. (Palm Springs artist Carl Eytel is one of the few non-Indians buried in the cemetery.)

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs was founded by the tribe in 1991. It houses permanent collections and archives, a research library, and changing exhibits, as well as hosting an annual film festival.[9]

Spa resort and casinos

The tribe owns two major casinos: the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs, California at the original hot springs[10] and the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage, California. The resort at Rancho Mirage also includes a hotel, fitness center and spa, the Canyons Lounge, and seven different restaurants.[11] The Spa Resort Casino, opened in 2003, features gaming, the Cascade Lounge, and four restaurants.[12]

Indian Canyons

Tahquitz Canyon southwest of downtown Palm Springs is accessible for hiking and guided tours.[13] The Indian Canyons (consisting of Palm Canyon, Murray Canyon, and Andreas Canyon) also accessible for hiking, horseback riding, and tours, are south of Palm Springs.[14]

Golf courses

The tribe also maintains two golf courses in Indian Canyon which are open to the public.[15]

Downtown Palm Springs arena

In June 2019, it was announced that the tribe and entertainment company Oak View Group plan to build a privately funded arena on tribal land in downtown Palm Springs, California with the intent of the arena serving as the home ice for the expansion Seattle NHL team's American Hockey League affiliate.[16]

Notable tribal members

  • Tribal leaders who have been honored with "Golden Palm Stars" on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars include:[17]
    • Richard Milanovich – Chairman of the Agua Caliente Band
    • Flora Agnes Patencio – Cahuilla Indian elder
    • Ray Leonard Patencio – Cahuilla Indian leader
    • Peter Siva – Cahuilla Tribal Chairman
  • Woodchuck Welmas (1891–1968) – professional NFL football player in the 1920s

See also

  • Mission Indians
  • Golden Checkerboard, a book about legal issues related to the checkerboard patterned division of Palm Springs real estate, wherein the tribe retains ownership of alternating "squares" of the region, including Palm Springs and surrounding cities.


  1. "2010 Census CPH-T-6. American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2010" (PDF). Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  2. Eargle, 111
  3. California Indians and Their Reservations. San Diego State University Library and Information Access. 2009. Retrieved 1 Nov 2012.
  4. "Cultural History". Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  5. Pritzker, 120
  6. Hinton, 28, 32
  7. Tribal Services Archived October 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  8. Jane Augustine Patencio Cemetery, Palm Springs Find A Grave
  9. About the Museum Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. (retrieved 10 May 2010)
  10. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Agua Caliente Spring; at 33°49′24″N 116°32′43″W
  11. Agua Caliente Casino Rancho Mirage 500 Nations (retrieved 10 May 2010)
  12. Spa Resort Casino Palm Springs 500 Nations. (retrieved 10 May 2010)
  13. Agua Caliente Band: Tahquitz Canyon Archived November 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  14. Agua Caliente Band: The Indian Canyons Archived January 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, for information on each canyon.
  15. "Indian Canyons Golf Resort".
  16. "Seattle NHL franchise to have AHL affiliate in Palm Springs". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  17. Palm Springs Walk of Stars: By Date Dedicated Archived 2012-12-08 at the Wayback Machine


  • Bean, Lowell John; Schafer, Jerry; Vane, Sylvia Brakke (1995). Archaeological, Ethnographic, and Enthnohistoric Investigations at Tahquitz Canyon, Palm Springs, California. Menlo Park, California: Cultural Systems Research. pp. 800+. OCLC 35045166.
  • Eargle Jr., Dolan H. California Indian Country: The Land and the People. San Francisco: Tree Company Press, 1992. ISBN 0-937401-20-X.
  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.

Further reading

  • Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians (1952). The Story of the Palm Spring Reservation. Palm Springs, CA: Agua Caliente Band of Indians. OCLC 17733446.
  • Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians (1962). 1962 Progress Report. Long Beach, CA: Technicomm, Inc. : Imperial Press. p. 64. OCLC 14933990.
  • Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians, Tribal Council (c. 1960). "All that glitters is not gold" : an interim report from the Agua Caliente Tribal Council. p. 23.
  • Berman, Burt. From squatter to conservator: effects of federal policy on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and their land, 1850-1974. p. 83. A senior thesis in the Social Sciences Division, Dept. of Interdisciplinary and General studies, University of California, Berkeley. [WorldCat note]. OCLC 810236228, 14691345.
  • Bowes, Ronald Wayne (1973). The Press-Enterprise Investigation of the Palm Springs Indians Land Affair in 1967-68: one newspaper's protection of minority rights. Fullerton, CA: California State University. p. 108. Masters Thesis. OCLC 9158475, 14156105.
  • James, Harry Clebourne (1968) [1960]. The Cahuilla Indians. Morongo Indian Reservation: Malki Museum Press (Westernlore Press). ASIN B0007HDH7E. LCCN 60010491. OCLC 254156323. LCC E99.K27 J3 ASIN B0007EJ4OM
  • Patencio, (Chief) Francisco; Hemerdinger, Bill (illustrations) (1971). Hudson, Roy F. (ed.). Desert Hours with Chief Patencio. Palm Springs, CA: Desert Museum. p. 38. LCC E99 C155 P3
  • Patencio, (Chief) Francisco; as told to Margaret Boynton (1943). Stories and Legends of the Palm Springs Indians. Los Angeles, CA: Times-Mirror. p. 132. LCCN 44018350.
  • Prather, Bonnie Gean; Schnarr, Jimmy; Schnarr, Dennis E. (1964). Palm Springs Cahuilla Indians. Bloomington, CA: San Bernardino County Museum. p. 20. OCLC 5896878. Notes on archaeological investigation of the Indio area.
  • Przeklasa Jr., Terence Robert (2011). The band, the bureau, and the business interests: the Mission Indian Federation and the fight for the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. Fullerton, CA: California State University (Masters thesis). p. 141. OCLC 767861063.
  • Wolfe Fischer, Virginia (1995). Footprints Through the Palms. p. 36. OCLC 40422476. The stories herein are legend, or lore, as such stories are often called. They have been gathered from talks with both older and younger citizens who store these wonderful memories of the 'way it was', to be shared with those who care. This is a tribute to what was, lest it be lost. [Author's note]

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