Francisco Patencio and Margaret Boynton
Francisco Patencio and wife, DoloresAgua Caliente Cultural Museum. All Rights Reserved
Francisco Patencio was both a net (ceremonial and clan leader) and a political activist for the Agua Caliente people, traveling to Washington D.C. at the age of 80 in defense of Tribal land. He was of kauisik lineage and inherited his role as net from his elder brother Alejo. Though self taught, he was well-educated and a skilled linguist, with knowledge of English, Spanish, French, and several Indian dialects.
The tumultuous times which occurred during his life certainly affected his decision to write the book Stories and Legends of the Palm Springs Indians. Concerned that young Cahuilla people were no longer learning sacred songs, ceremonies, or even the Cahuilla language, Francisco Patencio dictated his book, which described and preserved Cahuilla history, oral literature, and cosmology.
"...the older ones of our tribes are slowly passing away. The churches and schools of the new American people are teaching our children. We find that the beliefs of the Indian people are being forgotten.
"Even now there is much that will never be remembered again; and so, before I, too, pass into the world of spirit which is around and about us, but which we do not often see, I now write this book for the ones who have interest in new things, for the ones who like to hear new stories, and for the men of science who study the world. But most of all I write the songs and stories for my own people, our children and our children's children, and those yet to come, that when the Indian customs are forgotten, they may read and know and remember in their hearts the ways and thoughts of their own people."
Lacking an interpreter and an anthropologist, this book represents a unique perspective on Cahuilla knowledge and culture.
Margaret Boynton collected the stories in this book from interviews with Francisco Patencio. However, not much is known about Boynton’s life, education, or character; nor is it known where her interest in the Cahuilla and the recording of their history stemmed from.
According to Marshall McKinney who wrote about Margaret Boynton in his book Vanishing Footprints from the Hot Desert Sand (1996), Boynton was a governess for many years at a military academy prior to moving to the desert and becoming a live-in housekeeper. She owned a small adobe house, once belonging to William Pester, which she moved to Patencio’s trailer park at the time of the sale. McKinney states that “she spent many hours of her spare time writing, to preserve the Indian myths as told to her by the aging Francisco Patencio, the local tribe’s Teller of Legends.” She was considered by some to be an “Indian lover.”