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Agua Caliente Indians

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History & Culture – Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Centuries ago, ancestors of the Agua Caliente Cahuila (pronounced Kaw-we-ah) Indians settled in the Palm Springs area and developed extensive and complex communities in Palm, Murray, Tahquitz and Chino Canyons. Many traces of these communities exist in the the canyons today including rock art, house pits and foundations, reservoirs, trails, and food processing areas.

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians bath house

Archaeological research has discovered that the Cahuilla have occupied Tahquitz Canyon for at least 5,000 years. The Cahuilla Indian name for Palm Springs area was Sec-he (boiling water); the Spanish who arrived named it Agua Ca- liente (hot water). And then cam the name “Palm Springs” in reference to both the native Washigtonia filifera palm tree and Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Springs.

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians bathhouse
The first bathhouse at the hot springs, circa 1910. Photo credit: Palm Springs Historical Society.

In 1876, the U.S. Federal Government deeded in trust to the Agua Caliente people 32,000 acres for their homeland. At the same time, they gave the So. California Railroad ten miles of odd sections of land to induce them to build the railroad. Of the reservation’s 32,000 acres, some 6,700 lie within the Palm Springs city limits. The remaining sections fan out across the desert and mountains in a checkerboard pattern.

palm springs railroad arriving in 1940
Arrival of the Sunset Limited at Palm Springs, 1940.

As early as the 1890’s, Palm Springs and the surrounding area have been described as a recreation oasis. Tahquitz Canyon and three southern canyons are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Palm Canyon, part of Indian Canyons, is considered the world’s largest California Fan Palm Oasis.

The Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians remains actively involved with the City of Palm Springs.

palm canyon trail in palm springs

Learn more and experience the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians

Take a ranger-led tour and maze through the ancient palm groves, and explore the streams and water- falls at Indian Canyons or Tahquitz Canyon.

red jeep tours palm springs

Learn about the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians through exhibitions, collections, research, and educational programs at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in downtown Palm Springs. This sits on the original site of the sacred hot springs. (Opening early 2021) 

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians cultural museum rendering

Attend the annual Native Film Festival in March starring Native Americans and other indigenous people. Details will be posted at www.aguacaliente.org.

Gaming and entertainment daily at the Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs.

Agua Caliente casino palm springs

Golf at the two signature courses at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort.

indian canyons golf course in palm springs

Note: Title image from Edward S. Curtis collection.

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