Se-Khi or "Boiling Water"
Welcome to the Sovereign Nation of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. To most, this noble Tribe is responsible for a sizable area of land in the Palm Springs area and owners of the two local casinos, Spa Resort Casino & Agua Caliente Resort Casino. But there is so much more to the history and culture of the majestic "masters" or "powerful ones."
As long as can be remembered the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla (Kah-we-ah) lived and flourished in the area called "Se-Khi" or "boiling water." This was the ancestral name bestowed upon the area by the Tribe due to the restorative, mystical hot-bubbling waters that rose up from the earth. Their lands encompassed some 2,000 square miles of homeland and included the most sacred hot mineral springs located in the Palm, Murray, Andreas, Tahquitz, and Chino Canyons along with areas of the Coachella Valley, Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains.
With their spirit guides of the land, water, plants, and animals ever present, it was here that the Band nurtured traditions and gathered knowledge, developed agriculture & irrigation, forged trails, created clothing & tools, and ensured their prosperous way of life through trade with neighboring Tribes. But, they would soon be forced to adapt to the changing times of an uncertain and dangerous world.
With the arrival of Spanish explorers, the Europeans, and American settlers came a shattering upheaval of this tranquil, successful, and deeply spiritual way of life. The area was given a Spanish name, "Agua Caliente" or "hot water," the Southern Pacific Railroad came crashing through, American settlers took most of the ancestral lands of the Indians, there was forced labor and oppressive war, religious missions, and horrible diseases. The onslaught devastated their population, spirits, and land.
The worst news was yet to come in the federal government's decision to "give" the railroad all the odd numbered parcels on either side of a ten-mile stretch of the railroad right-of-way. It was only through determination; self-preservation and fighting spirit the Agua Caliente were finally deeded, and were able to keep 32,000 acres of the even-numbered parcels of their rightful land. We know this as the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, a checkerboard of parcels encompassing major areas of Palm Springs, and portions of Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and unincorporated Riverside County.
This new world was incredibly different and very unsupportive of continuing tradition, knowledge and self-identity of the native peoples. Oppression brought many hardships in all its forms. Disallowed their native language, ceremonies, hunting & gathering, and traditions, the Cahuilla people had little choice but to adapt to the white settlers way of life or wither away. Many availed themselves as laborers, farm-hands, and domestics in ranches and hotels. Others were able to adopt businessman qualities in areas such as creating and farming local orchards, raising horse & cattle and leasing their lands. Many were forced to live on government regulated reservations, abandon their religious beliefs, and watch as their crops and lives died.
More self-determination and perseverance was necessary, and a turning point was around the corner for the impoverished people. Finally winning congressional legislation allowing the Tribe to actually benefit from their land, potential economic autonomy was soon to follow. With deep traditions, immense spiritual beliefs and a solid, unwavering connection to the land the Agua Caliente people have been able to move forward in many positive ways. From generation to generation through ritual and ceremony, new ideas of community connection emerged.
Through adverse personal and collective struggles the Tribe today consists of approximately 432 enrolled Agua Caliente Tribal Members, with nearly 2,600 Team Members working at all of the Tribe's developments, including the Tribal Government. A small portion of the Tribe's 32,000 acres is developed into retail, residential, and tourist areas and includes billions of dollars worth of valuable real estate with the rest set aside as part of the Tribe's Habitat Conservation Plan. An array of business enterprises such as their Palm Springs & Rancho Mirage casinos, land leasing, and banking help ensure success, thus allowing the Tribe to exercise significant influence in the preservation of their culture, tradition and history.
The Agua Caliente people of today respect their past and maintain their historic preservation through documentation and proper management of significant cultural resources such as archaeological sites, burials, trails, structures, plants, minerals, and the sacred springs and hills of the local canyons. The Historic Preservation Office of the Tribe works closely with organizations such as the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and many others to ensure their historic and cultural sites are treated with respect and dignity.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians continues its spirit of harmony and peace in many ways. Demonstrations of their commitment can be seen in millions of dollars in charitable contributions to our American soldiers, local charitable organizations & civic groups, enormous financial contributions to California & local government budgets, and the immense opportunity for employment valley-wide that they provide.
For additional detailed information contact the Tribal Offices or the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum with the links provided below.