Palm Canyon Dr

Palm Canyon Dr

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Depiction of Moul by Stuart Funk, from the publication A Monument to Treasure

Courtesy of Stuart Funk.  All Rights Reserved

ATTRIBUTION: named for the 15-mile long canyon and its impressive palm oasis, located at the south end of Palm Springs


About Palm Canyon

The Cahuilla name for Palm Canyon is Tev ing el we wy wen it, meaning “a round flat basket closed up at the top, that is hung up.”  The canyon is 15 miles long and is named for the 3,000 native California palms that thrive there.  These palms, the Washingtonia filifera, were so named by European palmographer Hermann Wendlund in 1879 in honor of George Washington.  They are the only palm variety native to this region.

The existence of the palms is explained in a Cahuilla migration legend:

“One of the head men of the people of Sungrey felt that his time was about gone. His years among his people were many, and he must be prepared to go.  This man wanted to be a benefit to his people, so he said, ‘I am going to be a palm tree.  There are no palm trees in the world.  My name shall always be Moul (palm tree).  From the top of the earth to the end of the earth my name shall be Moul.’  So he stood up very straight and very strong and very powerful, and soon the bark of the tree began to grow around him, and the green leaves grew from the top of his head.  And so he passed from the sight of his people.”

The Cahuilla were diligent caretakers of palms.  Palms were able to recover from periodic insect infestation thanks to active management.  Shamans were responsible for burning infected palms, resulting in healthier trees and higher fruit yields.  Early settlers were often baffled and angered by these practices, not grasping the mutually beneficial relationship which existed between the Cahuilla and their environment.  In a 1923 report, an employee of the government wrote:

“… that the Indians were taking care of the canyons has no truth in it… In 1916, some hundred or more palms were burned… Mr. McManus of Palm Springs induced several white men to help in controlling the blaze.  He states that he tried to get several Indians to help and failed as they refused to budge.”

Larger palm oases such as Palm Canyon, Thousand Palms, and Andreas Canyon were habitation sites for Cahuilla groups and permanent villages were frequently located in these locales.  The panik and kauisik, two Cahuilla lineages, were permanently associated with palm oases.  Lineages owned palm groves, with individual trees owned by families.