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Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

agua caliente cultural museum Entrance and Oasis Trail

Connecting the Past and Present

(Opening Spring, 2023)

A visit to the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum begins with the words, “Welcome to Our Home.” Almost 10,000-square-feet of permanent exhibit space is dedicated to the Tribe’s collection of art and artifacts as well as a 360-degree animation theater telling the creation story.

cultural plaza

Setting The Foundation

Your journey will begin with an education of the creation story.

The Cahuilla people share a creation story that began with two nights, representing a man and a woman. With a flash of lighting, twin boys were born. They were alone, so the brothers decided to create companions made people from earth. The one brother made his people much faster than the other brother did. He could not understand how, so he made the sun in order to see. It would fall to earth, but by the next morning, it would rise again.

When the sun fell, it became dark, so they created the moon. The moon was a woman and was bright and beautiful. Her name was the Moon Maiden. To make more light they blew stars into the sky.

This introductory theater-in-the-round contains crescent-shaped benches for comfortable viewing. Once you have gained this foundational context, you will then embark on a cultural journey through various art forms and narratives.

cultural_plaza entry

Cultural Journey

The next exhibit area highlights the Indian Canyons, which is comprised of Indian Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Palm Canyon. It also includes information on Tahquitz Canyon. and Chino Canyon. In addition to harboring flora and fauna that are historically and culturally significant to the Agua Caliente, these ancestral lands played a direct role in how the Tribe’s clan structure evolved.

From here, you will continue through the gallery featuring many elements of Agua Caliente artistic expressions and material culture. This will include ceremonial practices and objects such as baskets and ollas (clay vessels used for seeds, food, and water). Audio and video explain how and why the Agua Caliente changed, adapted, and embraced self-determination. You will also learn the significance behind Séc-he, the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Springs.

By the time you reach the fourth exhibit area, you will have arrived at the most linear part of the permanent gallery, where a visual timeline and digital map table display the Agua Caliente’s focus on the arrival of Euro-American settlers in the 19th century.

The final exhibit area highlights archaeology. This includes many artifacts discovered during construction such as manos, metates, and projectile points dating as far back as 8,000 years.

Another section of the museum will feature rotating exhibits, classrooms, a meeting space, and screening room for films. Outside is a native plant garden where visitors can learn about traditional sources of food, medicine, and shelter.

cultural plaza

The Tribe’s Voice

The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum is the Tribe’s voice. It’s their story, and it’s being told the way they want it told. It focuses on elements that they believe are important. In keeping with this, members’ stories will appear throughout the permanent exhibition.

Before leaving, your will encounter a crescent-shaped room housing five large monitors that feature first-person narratives on video. The person is always a Tribal member talking about who they are and why being a member of the Agua Caliente community is important.

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Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza

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