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Introduction

California's desert region stretches from the mountains inland of Los Angeles to the Arizona border in the east, to the Mexican border in the south, up to the bottom of the Sierras, and then around the eastern back of the Sierras to the Nevada border. If we look at a map of this region BEFORE the arrival of Europeans and Americans, we will see that the desert region of California is actually the westernmost edge of the Great Basin region that stretches east towards the Rocky Mountains. It includes desert canyons and broad valleys , desert mesas, buttes and tall mountain ranges, and some places that are actually lower than sea level.

The Cahuilla of early California lived in the Riverside and Borrego area covering 2,400 miles for over 2,000 years. But they were not the first resourceful desert dwellers. There is evidence of prehistoric life in the Joshua Tress National Park dating back 10,000 years. Archeological digs have found stone tools in the Pinto Basin that suggest there was time when a river ran through the area, and villages lined its banks. That would have been a time when the weather and plant and animal life was much different - wetter and cooler, as is true in other areas of California's Backcountry and channel Islands 10,000 years ago.

The Cahuilla included different tribal groups, and still today, their descendents live in tribal groups called the Agua Caliente, Morongo, Los Coyotes, Torres-Martinez, Cabazon, and the Santa Rosa. In early California, they all shared the same language base, but spoke different dialects, and they all shared the challenging desert environment and desert mountain ranges as the center of their world

The desert location of these early California backcountry dwellers gave them certain advantages, and presented specific challenges for survival. We will explore their common characteristics, their differences, and how they met their challenges.

Language
Environment
Desert and Mountain Life
Basketry and Pottery
Unique Skills
Tribal Groups
Food and Medicine
Time
Ceremonial Songs
Backcountry Survival
Cahuilla Today
Great Spirit Prayer