According to Cahuilla bird songs – the oral literature of the Cahuilla people – the Cahuilla Indians have occupied the region now known as the Coachella Valley since time immemorial. Recent excavations in the Tahquitz Canyon area mirror these stories, revealing evidence of human habitation in the Palm Springs area as early as 3000 B.C.
The Cahuilla Indians are the aboriginal people of this region. They traditionally occupied a diverse territory of desert, canyons, passes, and mountains with elevations ranging from 273 feet below sea level at the Salton Sink to 11,000 feet at Mount Jacinto. These traditional territories spanned an area of about 2,400 square miles. Estimates place the population between 6,000 and 10,000 prior to European contact.
Today there are a total of nine Cahuilla bands, each with their own reservation. These reservations are: Agua Caliente, Augustine, Cabazon, Cahuilla, Los Coyotes, Morongo, Ramona, Santa Rosa, and Torres-Martinez.
The Agua Caliente Indian Reservation is named for the hot spring in downtown Palm Springs. This reservation comprises a little over forty-nine sections of land, or approximately 32,000 acres in three townships. The reservation was set aside for the use and occupancy of the Agua Caliente people during the administrations of President Grant in 1876 and President Hayes in 1877. It is not a contiguous reservation but a checkerboard of alternate (even numbered) sections in the cities of Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and unincorporated Riverside County.
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