Both the Agua Caliente Band and the City of Palm Springs derive their names from the famous Agua Caliente Hot Spring. Cahuilla oral literature tells of the Spring's creation in the beginning by a powerful elder who created it as a perpetually-enduring place to heal.
According to Stories & Legends of the Palm Springs Indians by Francisco Patencio, the first Cahuilla Indians to live in the area dared not live near the Hot Spring because they were afraid of it. In the same way a stranger is treated with a cautious sense of distance, the Hot Spring was considered a sentient and unfamiliar entity. The Kauisik community’s eventual settlement at the Hot Spring happened only gradually.
Although the people came to bathe in its warm mineral waters, the Hot Spring was treated with the respect of a living being. If its waters were to be utilized or disturbed in any way, food and prayers were offered to the Hot Spring within the kishumna’a, or ceremonial house. By doing so, the Hot Spring could be made use of without any harm happening to community members.
Bathing in the Hot Spring eventually played a central feature in traditional life. As instructed by Menil, the Cahuilla Moon Maiden, bathing once in the morning and once towards evening was practiced. Hygiene was particularly important to hunters. The absence of a hunter’s scent would allow them to get closer to their prey without being detected. The Hot Spring’s palatable waters were also important for irrigation and consumption.
Mirroring the interconnected nature of Cahuilla communities reliant on one another for the reciprocal exchange of food and other goods, hot springs throughout the region were believed to be connected underground. The discovery of rotted ears of green corn found in the Spring — crops planted in other locations where hot springs existed — represented hard proof of this. Cahuilla shamans, such as Pedro Chino, likewise utilized these subterranean channels in order to consult with the nukatem, or sacred beings, dwelling there. The knowledge they obtained would be utilized to cure the sick.
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