"We are a people. We are a heritage. We are a nation."
Welcome to the Sovereign Nation of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. The members of the Cabazon Indians of today are descendants of Chief Cabazon who was a heroic leader of the desert Cahuilla Tribe during the middle decades of the 19th century from the 1830's to the 1870's and have called the valley home for more that 2,500 years.
Many of the local desert Tribes are known as Mission Indians due to the influence and control exerted by the Spanish Franciscan (Catholic) mission system established in the early 1700's which became prevalent throughout the Alta California state of Mexico. These bands of neophytes were "encouraged" to construct the mission buildings, abandon traditions, and become "civilized" under the direction of the mission fathers. However, the Cabazon Band of Indians were never conquered by the Spanish missionaries although the European-American settlers still called them "Mission Indians" and somewhere along the way, the name took hold.
Like all of the desert Tribes, the Cabazon share a common ancestry to the Uto-Aztecan family, Cahuilla linguistic group (kah-we-ahs, "masters" or "powerful ones") but were a people with their own heritage, territory, and traditions. The Indians who made the desert home learned to survive in harsh conditions by digging wells and harvesting available foods such as acorns, mesquite, and pinon pine nuts.
Their homes were made from reeds, branches, and brush.
When the outsiders arrived and the Southern Pacific Railroad laid claim to much of the desert during the 1850's the Cahuilla people suffered greatly. As a result of disease, diminished water rights, low yield crops and an unnatural nomadic way of life the people's population dwindled.
Chief Cabazon's people were living near Indio, California when President Ulysses S. Grant issued an executive order on May 15th, 1876 creating the Cabazon Reservation for the 600 surviving Tribal members. The Cabazon Reservation was defined as three parcels of raw desert totaling 2,400 acres. Southern Pacific Railroad later claimed 700 acres to create a railroad and interstate right-of-way.
Today there are fewer than 50 members of the Cabazon Tribe. Their reservations covers 1,459 acres in various small parcels spread over 16 miles. The largest section contains the tribal offices, police and fire departments, gaming operation (Fantasy Springs Casino) and bowling alley.
Across the street from Fantasy Springs Casino you can find the Cabazon Cultural Museum where Tribal Chairman John Hames stands next to a photo of Chief Cabazon. Admission is free and you can enjoy interactive hands-on exhibits of past, present and future Cahuilla culture.
Like all the desert Indians, perseverance and a diversified economic base encourage their future to remain optimistic.