'Among the Palms, Deer Moon.'
Ancestors of current Torres-Martinez Tribal members, like all the Coachella Valley Indian Tribes, are Cahuilla Indians. The Torres-Martinez distinguished themselves with their ability to develop water supplies with hand-dug, walk-in wells which helped them accommodate the strict requirements of desert living. These water pits were constructed with terraced sides and were sometimes 100 feet across and were able to sustain the Tribe when no other surface water could be found.
The Torres-Martinez Reservation was established by Executive Order on May 15, 1876 and is named after the early Toro Indian Village and the Martinez Indian Agency and is located in the lower Coachella Valley and the downstream end of the watershed.
The Torres-Martinez Historical District consists of three buildings believed to be the oldest standing Indian Agency buildings in California and was placed on the National Registry of Historical Places in 1973 and is a California Point of Historical Interest. Also, the old Bureau of Indian Affairs schoolhouse, which still stands today, was built in 1907 and served as part of the center of Tribal activities.
The Tribe, which consists of over 700 souls, is considered to be one of the most 'land-rich' Tribes in California with varying accounts of lands totaling between 24,024 and 24,800 acres. However, approximately 12,000 acres of the Reservation were flooded by the Colorado River when the Salton Sea was formed in 1905-1907 and are still submerged. The remaining acres are checker boarded with private agricultural land, representing one of the most productive agriculturally rich areas in the country.
The reservation has been the focus of much scrutiny over the years due to pollution, and the substandard housing of migrant agricultural workers. Many stories and news articles have exposed these serious issues however not much coverage is available about its brighter outcome.
In April 2006, 25 governmental agencies took part in the formation of the Torres Martinez Solid Waste Collaborative. The Agency has been responsible for the closure and clean up of a multitude of illegal dumps that marred the face of the reservation. Much of the hazardous waste (local golf club trimmings, treated wood, waste oil, tires, batteries, general trash & debris and even raw sewage) dumped illegally and subsequently burned posed major health, safety and environmental risks to the native people and the surrounding community. However, by working together, the tribal leaders, governmental agencies and even students from nearby Desert Mirage High School have been able to accomplish what neither could achieve alone and have closed over 20 of the most egregious offenses and have prevented almost all further illegal activity.
Like many of the other Tribes of the Coachella Valley the Torres-Martinez ventured into the casino market. The 10,000 square foot, modest Red Earth Casino opened March 31, 2007 with 349 slot machines, six table games, and 180 employees making them the 10th Tribe to join the Inland gaming world. With ambitious plans for expansion over the next several years the Red Earth positions the Tribe to become fully self-reliant, a financial community leader, and a story of success.