William PabloCourtesy Palm Springs Historical Society. All Rights Reserved
ATTRIBUTION: WILLIAM PABLO
LIVED: Circa 1850 – 9/21/1935
Although Pablo was at one time captain of the Potrero (Morongo) Indians, the United States Indian Service, locally headed by a Protestant Indian Agent, refused to recognize his commission. Though the reasons cited were many, it is likely that Agent Horatio Rust worked against him in retaliation for promoting Cabezon’s regional leadership and because Pablo identified as Catholic. Cabezon promoted Indian sovereignty by sending Indian rights advocates to Washington D.C. and by refusing to accept federal interference in tribal affairs. Agent Rust sought to have Pablo jailed so as to quell his “trouble-making.”
Under the leadership of Cabezon, Captain Pablo was placed in charge of Coachella Valley Cahuilla groups, working closely with the panik clan at Andreas Canyon and the kauisik clan at the hot spring – the two clans that form the Agua Caliente Band.
Pablo became a major political figure who exerted influence throughout southern California. He advocated the maintenance of traditional leadership patterns in Native American communities and bitterly opposed the allotment system, convincing many reservations to reject it. He viewed allotments, being the individual parceling of formerly communal lands, as a way of dividing and conquering Indian communities. Pablo sought to set up a modern Indian government separate from the Bureau of Indian Affairs – a precursor to the Mission Indian Federation. He recruited lawyers and the media to pursue this agenda.
At the turn of the century, the Department of Indian Affairs began a crusade against the sale of alcohol and Pablo was employed as a prohibition officer. He also acted as the reservation’s police officer, a position that his brother Henry Pablo later inherited.
Willie Pablo contributed to our modern understanding of Cahuilla culture by collaborating with ethnographers. In 1914, he shared the panik version of the Cahuilla creation story with photographer Edward S. Curtis. In 1918, Lucile Hooper recorded him and others performing bird songs, the oral literature of the Cahuilla people.
Maria Andreas Pablo, mother of Willie Pablo and thirteen other children, was known as both an expert basket weaver and as a net. Affiliated with the wanikik clan by marriage, she maintained a ceremonial house, or kishumna’a, at the Morongo Reservation until the 1930s. She died on June 1, 1938 at the age of 124.