Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Coordinates: 33°47′02″N 116°31′57″W / 33.78389°N 116.53250°W / 33.78389; -116.53250
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Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
Flag of Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
Official seal of Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
CountryUnited States
 • ChairReid D. Milanovich
 • Vice ChairCandace Patencio Anderson
 • Secretary/TreasurerSavana R. Saubel
 • Tribal CouncilJohn R. Preckwinkle III
Virginia Siva-Gillespie
 • Land31.6102 sq mi (81.870 km2)
 • Total27,090
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Area code(s)760/442
Agua Caliente Band
of Cahuilla Indians
Total population
2010: 410 alone and in combination[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States (California)
English, Cahuilla language[2]
Traditional Tribal religion, Catholic and Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Cahuilla people

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation is a federally recognized tribe of the Cahuilla, located in Riverside County, California, United States.[3] The Cahuilla inhabited the Coachella Valley desert and surrounding mountains between 5000 BCE and 500 CE. With the establishment of the reservations, the Cahuilla were officially divided into 10 sovereign nations, including the Agua Caliente Band.[4]


Agua Caliente Reservation in 1928
Agua Caliente Band signage in downtown Palm Springs
Location of Agua Caliente Reservation

The Agua Caliente Indian Reservation was founded on May 15, 1876[5] through Executive Order signed by President Ulysses S. Grant covering 31,610 acres (12,790 ha). In 1877 and 1907 the Reservation was extended, to cover 32,000 acres (13,000 ha) of land.[6]

Since 6,700 acres (2,700 ha) of the reservation are in Palm Springs, California, the tribe is the city's largest collective landowner. The tribe owns Indian Canyons, located southwest of Palm Springs. The canyons are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3] They also own land in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.


The tribe's headquarters is located in Palm Springs, California. They ratified their constitution and bylaws in 1957,[5] gaining federal recognition. For many years the band was headed by Chairman Richard M. Milanovich until his death on March 11, 2012. Their current tribal council is as follows:[7]

  • Chair: Reid D. Milanovich (elected April 5, 2022)
  • Vice Chair: Candance Patencio Anderson
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Savana R. Saubel
  • Member: John R. Preckwinkle III
  • Member: Virginia Siva-Gillespie


Agua Caliente is one of three reservations where speakers of the "Pass" dialect of the Cahuilla were located, the other two being the Morongo Indian Reservation and Augustine Indian Reservation. Pass Cahuilla is a dialect of Cahuilla found within the Cupan branch of Takic languages, part of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Though revitalization efforts are underway, all dialects of Cahuilla are technically considered to be extinct as they are no longer spoken at home, and children are no longer learning them as a primary language.[8] The last native speaker of Pass Cahuilla died in 2008.

Programs and economic development[edit]

Tribal programs and family services[edit]

Tribal Family Services was established in 2003 to support social and educational programs for tribal members. Other services include cultural preservation, child development, and scholarships.[9]

The Jane Augustine Patencio Cemetery provides burial services. (Palm Springs artist Carl Eytel is one of the few non-Indians buried in the cemetery.)

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum[edit]

The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs was founded by the tribe in 1991. It houses permanent collections and archives, a research library, and changing exhibits, as well as hosting an annual film festival.[10]

Spa resort and casinos[edit]

Image of Agua Caliente Casino in downtown Palm Springs

The tribe owns three major casinos. The first two are the Spa Resort Casino (now Agua Caliente Palm Springs) in downtown Palm Springs, California at the original hot springs[11] and the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage, California. The resort at Rancho Mirage also includes a hotel, fitness center and spa, the Canyons Lounge, and seven different restaurants.[12] The Spa Resort Casino, opened in 2003, features gaming, the Cascade Lounge, and four restaurants.[13] The hotel in Downtown Palm Springs closed in 2014.[14]

Ground was broken on the third Agua Caliente casino on November 4, 2019.[15] It is located in Cathedral City, California and opened on November 25, 2020.[16] The tribe annexed 13 acres of land to build the casino.[17] The tribe is the only one in California to own more than one casino.[18]

Indian Canyons[edit]

Tahquitz Canyon southwest of downtown Palm Springs is accessible for hiking and guided tours.[19] The Indian Canyons (consisting of Palm Canyon, Murray Canyon, and Andreas Canyon) also accessible for hiking, horseback riding, and tours, are south of Palm Springs.[20]

Golf courses[edit]

The tribe also maintains two golf courses in Indian Canyon which are open to the public.[21]

Proposed downtown Palm Springs arena[edit]

In June 2019, it was announced that the tribe and entertainment company Oak View Group planned to build a privately funded arena on tribal land in downtown Palm Springs with the intent of the arena serving as the home ice for the expansion Seattle Kraken's American Hockey League affiliate.[22] The arena was planned to begin construction in February 2020, but was suspended in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. By September 2020, OVG's negotiations with the tribe had come to a halt and the agreement was ended. The Oak View Group chose to build their arena elsewhere.[23]

Notable tribal members[edit]

  • Tribal leaders who have been honored with "Golden Palm Stars" on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars include:[24]
    • Richard Milanovich - Chair of the Agua Caliente Band
    • Reid D. Milanovich – Chair & Vice Chair of the Agua Caliente Band
    • Flora Agnes Patencio – Cahuilla Indian elder
    • Ray Leonard Patencio – Cahuilla Indian leader
    • Peter Siva – Cahuilla Tribal Chair

See also[edit]

  • Mission Indians
  • Golden Checkerboard, a book about legal issues related to the checkerboard-patterned division of Palm Springs real estate, wherein the tribe retains ownership of alternating "squares" of the region, including Palm Springs and surrounding cities.


  • Bean, Lowell John; Schafer, Jerry; Vane, Sylvia Brakke (1995). Archaeological, Ethnographic and Enthnohistoric Investigations at Tahquitz Canyon, Palm Springs, California. Menlo Park, California: Cultural Systems Research. OCLC 35045166.
  • Eargle Jr., Dolan H. California Indian Country: The Land and the People. San Francisco: Tree Company Press, 1992. ISBN 0-937401-20-X.
  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.


  1. ^ "2010 Census CPH-T-6. American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2010" (PDF). Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  2. ^ Eargle, 111
  3. ^ a b California Indians and Their Reservations. Archived September 30, 2013, at the Wayback Machine San Diego State University Library and Information Access. 2009. Retrieved Nov 1, 2012.
  4. ^ "Cultural History". Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Pritzker, 120
  6. ^ Nuttall, Arewen (Summer 2019). "Section 14: The Agua Caliente Tribe's Struggle for Sovereignty in Palm Springs, California". American Indian. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Retrieved December 1, 2022.
  7. ^ "Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians". Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Retrieved October 10, 2022.
  8. ^ Hinton, 28, 32
  9. ^ "Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians". Archived from the original on October 16, 2011.
  10. ^ About the Museum Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. (retrieved May 10, 2010)
  11. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Agua Caliente Spring; at 33°49′24″N 116°32′43″W / 33.82333°N 116.54528°W / 33.82333; -116.54528
  12. ^ Agua Caliente Casino Rancho Mirage 500 Nations (retrieved May 10, 2010)
  13. ^ Spa Resort Casino Palm Springs 500 Nations. (retrieved May 10, 2010)
  14. ^ Descant, Skip. "Spa Resort Casino: Palm Springs hotel and spa to close". The Desert Sun. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  15. ^ "Agua Caliente Casino – Cathedral City Groundbreaking Ceremony Announcement". October 30, 2019.
  16. ^ "Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City opens quietly in time for Thanksgiving". KESQ. November 25, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  17. ^ "Cathedral City Casino Notice of Preparation of EIR" (PDF).
  18. ^ Johnson, Risa. "Agua Caliente's Cathedral City casino: Everything we know so far". The Desert Sun. Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  19. ^ Agua Caliente Band: Tahquitz Canyon Archived November 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Agua Caliente Band: The Indian Canyons Archived January 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, for information on each canyon.
  21. ^ "Indian Canyons Golf Resort".
  22. ^ "Seattle NHL franchise to have AHL affiliate in Palm Springs". USA TODAY. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  23. ^ "Seattle Kraken delays AHL franchise by 1 year". ESPN. September 16, 2020.
  24. ^ "The Brightest Stars from New-York to Los Angeles" (PDF). Archived from the original on December 8, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians (1952). The Story of the Palm Spring Reservation. Palm Springs, CA: Agua Caliente Band of Indians. OCLC 17733446.
  • Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians (1962). 1962 Progress Report. Long Beach, CA: Technicomm, Inc. : Imperial Press. p. 64. OCLC 14933990.
  • Agua Caliente Band of Mission Indians, Tribal Council (c. 1960). "All that glitters is not gold" : an interim report from the Agua Caliente Tribal Council. p. 23.
  • Berman, Burt. From squatter to conservator: effects of federal policy on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and their land, 1850-1974. p. 83. A senior thesis in the Social Sciences Division, Dept. of Interdisciplinary and General studies, University of California, Berkeley. [WorldCat note]. OCLC 810236228, 14691345.
  • Bowes, Ronald Wayne (1973). The Press-Enterprise Investigation of the Palm Springs Indians Land Affair in 1967-68: one newspaper's protection of minority rights. Fullerton, CA: California State University. p. 108. Masters Thesis. OCLC 9158475, 14156105.
  • James, Harry Clebourne (1968) [1960]. The Cahuilla Indians. Morongo Indian Reservation: Malki Museum Press (Westernlore Press). ASIN B0007HDH7E. LCCN 60010491. OCLC 254156323. LCC E99.K27 J3 ASIN B0007EJ4OM
  • Patencio, (Chief) Francisco; Hemerdinger, Bill (illustrations) (1971). Hudson, Roy F. (ed.). Desert Hours with Chief Patencio. Palm Springs, CA: Desert Museum. p. 38. LCC E99 C155 P3
  • Patencio, (Chief) Francisco; as told to Margaret Boynton (1943). Stories and Legends of the Palm Springs Indians. Los Angeles, CA: Times-Mirror. p. 132. LCCN 44018350.
  • Prather, Bonnie Gean; Schnarr, Jimmy; Schnarr, Dennis E. (1964). Palm Springs Cahuilla Indians. Bloomington, CA: San Bernardino County Museum. p. 20. OCLC 5896878. Notes on archaeological investigation of the Indio area.
  • Przeklasa Jr., Terence Robert (2011). The band, the bureau, and the business interests: the Mission Indian Federation and the fight for the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. Fullerton, CA: California State University (Masters thesis). p. 141. OCLC 767861063.
  • Wolfe Fischer, Virginia (1995). Footprints Through the Palms. p. 36. OCLC 40422476. The stories herein are legend, or lore, as such stories are often called. They have been gathered from talks with both older and younger citizens who store these wonderful memories of the 'way it was', to be shared with those who care. This is a tribute to what was, lest it be lost. [Author's note]

External links[edit]

33°47′02″N 116°31′57″W / 33.78389°N 116.53250°W / 33.78389; -116.53250