July 14, 2012

Cabazon Band of Mission Indians


The members of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians of today are descendants of Chief Cabazon who was a  leader of the desert Cahuilla Tribe from the 1830’s to the 1870’s and have called the valley home for more that 2,500 years.

The Cabazon Band of Indians were never conquered by the Spanish missionaries, although the European-American settlers still called them “Mission Indians.”

Official Tribal Name: Cabazon Band of Mission Indians

Address:  84-245 Indio Springs Drive, Indio, CA 92201
Phone:  760.342.2593
Fax: 760.347.7880

Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

The Cahuilla call themselves Iviatam, speakers of ‘Ivia’ – the ‘original’ language.

Common Name: Cabazon Band of Cahuilla Indians

Meaning of Common Name:

Cahuilla has been interpreted to mean “the master,” “the powerful one,” or “the one who rules.” 

Alternate names / Alternate spellings / Mispellings:

Name in other languages:

Region: California

State(s) Today: California

Traditional Territory:

Confederacy: Cahuilla


Reservation: Cabazon Reservation

Native American Original Homeland Security T-Shirt
Buy This Native American Original Homeland Security T-ShirtChief Cabazon’s people were living near Indio, California when President Ulysses S. Grant issued an executive order on May 15th, 1876 creating the Cabazon Reservation for the 600 surviving Tribal members. The Cabazon Reservation was defined as three parcels of raw desert totaling 2,400 acres. Southern Pacific Railroad later reclaimed 700 acres to create a railroad and interstate right-of-way. 
Land Area:  1,459 acres in various small parcels spread over 16 miles.
Tribal Headquarters:  Indio, California
Time Zone:  Pacific

Population at Contact:

The Cahuilla collectively once numbered as many as 10,000 in the 17th century. About 600 were in Chief Cabazon’s band in 1876 when their reservation was formed.

Registered Population Today:

Population on the reservation is approximately 806 

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


Name of Governing Body:  Cabazon Tribal Business Commitee
Number of Council members:  
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 
Number of Executive Officers:  


Language Classification:

Uto-Aztecan -> Northern Uto-Aztecan -> Takic -> Cupan -> Cahuilla–Cupeno -> Cahuilla

Anthropological and archeological evidence suggests that the ancestral homeland of the Uto-Aztecan peoples was in the present day state of Nevada. Like all of the desert Tribes, the Cabazon share a common ancestry to the Uto-Aztecan family, Cahuilla linguistic group.

Cahuilla is a member of the Takic branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Within Takic, it is most closely related to Cupeño, Juaneño, and Luiseño, and more distantly to Gabrielino, Kitanemuk, Serrano, and Tataviam. The other Uto-Aztecan languages of California are Tubatulabal and the Numic languages (Chemehuevi-Southern Paiute-Ute, Comanche, Kawaiisu, Mono, Northern Paiute, Panamint, and Shoshone). 

Language Dialects:

Three Cahuilla dialects are known to have existed, referred to as Desert Cahuilla, Mountain Cahuilla, and Pass Cahuilla. The Cabazon Band spoke the Desert Cahuilla dialect.

Number of fluent Speakers:

A 1990 census revealed 35 speakers in an ethnic population of 800. Cahuilla is nearly extinct, since most speakers are middle-aged or older. 

The Cahuilla language was traditionally spoken in the San Gorgonio Pass (around Banning), to the east in the Coachella Valley to the vicinity of the Salton Sea, and to the south on the western slopes of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains. In pre-contact times, there were around 2500 speakers of Cahuilla (Kroeber 1925). Today, there are half a dozen first-language speakers (Golla 2011).



Bands, Gens, and Clans

The Cahuilla can be generally divided into three groups based on the geographical region in which they lived: Desert Cahuilla, Mountain Cahuilla and Western (San Gorgonio Pass) Cahuilla. All three spoke the Cahuilla language, had similar lifestyles and practiced the same traditions. There are nine Cahuilla Indian nations living on ten indian reservations.

The Cahuilla People were divided into two moieties: Wildcat and Coyote.

Related Tribes:

Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians, Ramona Band of Cahuilla Indians, Santa Rosa Band of Mission Indians and Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla Indians. There are also some Los Coyotes in the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians.

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

Ceremonies / Dances:

Since 1981, the tribe has hosted the annual Indio Powwow, with dancing, Cahuilla bird singing, drum competitions, and peon games. 

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

The Cabazon Cultural Museum is open to the public, free of admission, Mondays to Saturdays.

Legends / Oral Stories:

Art & Crafts:






Economy Today:

Unlike most Indian tribes,  the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians does not have a high unemployment rate. In fact, it has zero unemployment.

The Cabazon Band owns Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, a 250 room hotel, POM Restaurant, Pizza Kitchen, The Bistro, Fresh Grill Buffet, JOY Asian Cuisine, a Starbucks, and several casual dining areas, located in Indio, California The resort also includes the Eagle Falls Golf Course.

Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Burial Customs:

Wedding Customs

Cahuilla People of Note


Famous Cahuilla Chiefs &  Leaders

Catastrophic Events:

 1863 – Smallpox epidemic from infected blankets given to them by Whites.

Tribe History:

In the News:

The tribe first came to public attention in 1987 when they won California v. Cabazon Band; however prior to the U.S.Supreme Court’s decision 480 U.S. 202 (1987), the tribe had developed a questionable background, a mysterious involvement with John Philip Nichols, The Wackenhut Corporation, and with the June 29, 1981 triple homicides of Alfred “Fred” Alvarez, Patricia Castro, and Ralph Boger. 

Further Reading:

The Supreme Court and Tribal Gaming: California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians
Pressing Issues of Inequality and American Indian Communities
Handbook of the Indians of California, with 419 Illustrations and 40 Maps
Survival Skills of Native California
Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873  

US Tribes C to D
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