Tahquitz Canyon Way 1

Tahquitz Canyon Way 1

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Drawing by Robert W. Daley, 1949

Courtesy of Palm Springs Life. All Rights Reserved.

ATTRIBUTION: named for one of the nukatem (sacred beings) who resides in the mountain range


Tahquitz is properly pronounced in Cahuilla as táw-kwish.  The anglicized spelling Tahquitz is a result of an 1897-98 U.S. Geological survey, followed by the issuance of a 1901 San Jacinto Quadrangle map on which Tahquitz Creek, Tahquitz Peak, and Tahquitz Valley were shown.

About Tahquitz the Sacred Being

Nukatem, or ancient sacred beings, were formed in the beginning by the Cahuilla creators Mukat and Temayawet.  Most nukatem are no longer on earth, but some did not leave and remain active participants in this world.  While there are many nukatem, Tahquitz is by far the most vivid character within this pantheon.

Tahquitz was created by Mukat.  He was the first shaman, and is both respected and feared.  Tahquitz acted as a spiritual guardian to many powerful Cahuilla shamans.  As such, he was a source of i'va'a (power) and knowledge, visiting other shamans in dreams or in physical meetings.  As prescribed by Mukat, Tahquitz was required to share his i'va'a with humans.

While all supernatural beings are considered to be capable of both good and evil in Cahuilla culture, Tahquitz is more often associated with malevolence.  Infamous for his habit of stealing souls, Tahquitz is blamed for disasters and tragedies, including earthquakes, diseases, lost hikers, and automobile accidents.  Special ceremonies were once held in the Cahuilla kishumna’a (ceremonial house) to appease him following such events.  He is particularly unruly when his own territory is disturbed.

Tahquitz lives separately from others because the other nukatem did not like his predilection for malice.  At times manifesting himself in the form of a meteor or a falling star, such sightings may be attributed to Tahquitz hunting for victims.  Tahquitz takes captured souls to his home in the San Jacinto mountain range and eats them.  It is said that these captive souls can see out of Tahquitz’s rock, where they are stored, as clearly as if it were glass. 

Tahquitz’s influence and reputation are not limited to Cahuilla territory.  Stories of his activities are known by all Native peoples of southern California.