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Mojave Desert Indians - Historic Desert Indian Territories Map:


Indian agents, not understanding the important role of the ceremonial events that came to be known as fiestas, tried to bring them to an end. This was so serious a threat to their communities that School Superintendent William H. Stanley, whose policies had been particularly destructive to the fiesta tradition, was murdered on Cahuilla Reservation in 1912. Stanley's murderers were sent to prison for subsequent years in the encouragement of Indian participation in county fairs as a substitute for fiestas. Indian babies were entered in "best baby" contests; jams, jellies, and baked goods made by Indian women vied for prizes; and laces and embroideries made by Indian women were likewise entered in the competitions. Indian agents continued to make the rules for holding fiestas more stringent.

There was also, during the period following Stanley's murder, a decrease in the amount of self-government permitted the Indians. On some reservations, at least, such offices as Indian judges and Indian police disappeared, as Indian agents took upon themselves the right to make decisions for the reservation. Unbeknownst to them, the traditional tribal structure still held, and the nets, paxas, and other tribal officials still wielded considerable power, but without public display. Also "underground" were the beginnings of a new political force, the Mission Indian Federation (MIF), which first became public in 1918 when its leaders from most of the southern California Indian reservations participated in a well-publicized meeting at the home of a non-Indian sponsor, Jonathan Tibbets, in Riverside. For the next two decades, the MIF was a force in southern California Indian affairs westward from the Little San Bernardino Mountains. It attempted to have a shadow governing body at each reservation, working to get rid of the Office of Indian Affairs. It was instrumental in getting passed a law that permitted the Indians of California to sue the federal government for taking their lands without a treaty, and without payment. This law led in the end to the Claims Cases of the 1940s and 1950s. Cahuillas were very active in this organization, along with Luisenos, Serranos, Gabrielinos, and Kumeyaay (Bean and Vane 1995, 1997).

1920s & 30s
Cahuillas were very active in the 1920s and 1930s in the struggle to resist the allotment of reservation land to individual Indians, but eventually Morongo, Agua Caliente, and Tones-Martinez reservations were allotted. When some Agua Caliente lands became extremely valuable in the 1950s, the U.S. Congress mandated an equalization process that gave all band members as of 1957 allotments of as nearly equal value as could be arranged.

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