Online Exhibitions

Bathhouse #2: Mid-1910s

Agua Caliente bathhouse, circa 1910s

By the early 1910s, the original bathhouse had fallen into disrepair and was in need of improvements. Although the bathhouse enterprise was now owned and operated by the tribe, the federal government viewed tribal members as wards and collected money on their behalf. Ironically, federal red-tape prevented repair of the bathhouse due to the government’s inability to account for entrance fee money. Tribal leaders were aware of these missing funds because they had kept accounts.

Eventually the bathhouse was razed and a second one was constructed in the mid-1910s. This bathhouse, immediately recognizable thanks to its signature turret and “BATHS” sign, witnessed more instances of federal interference. Federal agents routinely questioned tribal use of bathhouse profits, including one $500.00 donation to the Mission Indian Federation: a pro-sovereignty Indian organization. Not understanding that economic decisions were the hereditary and sacred duty of tribal leaders, federal Indian agents routinely failed to understand Cahuilla leadership traditions during this period.

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