Public art in Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs: The Cahuilla Maiden

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Whenever I go where I have never been, or haven’t been recently, I tend to read through my travel book library and search the Internet for opportunities to see or visit something that I haven’t seen or visited before. Other times, especially when I wind up having more time than I budgeted for, I’ll simply drive around looking for interesting things. I call it getting lost on purpose.

On one of my trips to Palm Springs this year, I found public art that was really public, i.e., it was in the street median!

Public art in Palm Springs, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There was no indication of what those two Native American women represented or why they were there, but on the other side of the street was another Native American woman:

Public art in Palm Springs, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

As you can see, that one has a flat rock with some writing on it, writing which I think explains these three Native American women. The text in the picture is transcribed below the picture to make reading it easier.

Public art in Palm Springs, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos


Three Cahuilla sisters, fearful of the hot bubbling spring, saw a baby
in the water. This Cahuilla maiden tried to save the baby,
but they perished in a whirlwind down with the water of the spring.
Her two frightened sisters ran to their father, the Medicine Man.
He witched the spring with mosquitoes and they carried his power
to the spirits of the water below. The next morning the body of the girl
came up, but she was dead. Then our people/ancestors gathered,
prayed, and offered nourishment. With that, they gained strength to
no longer fear the spring, but respect it’s [sic] spiritual healing.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

According to Wikipedia, The Cahuilla people are Native Americans from the inland areas of southern California. Their original territory included an area of about 2,400 square miles near the geographic center of Southern California, bounded to the north by the San Bernardino Mountains, to the south by Borrego Springs and the Chocolate Mountains, to the east by the Colorado Desert, and to the west by the San Jacinto Plain and the eastern slopes of the Palomar Mountains.

Regretfully, the population of the Cahuilla is in decline, with only 1,276 counted in the 1990 census. The same census revealed that their language, Ivia, is nearly a dead language, with only 35 speakers counted in the census.

Legends suggest that the Cahuilla first moved into the Coachella Valley while a large body of water which geographers call Lake Cahuilla, fed by the Colorado River, was in existence. Lake Cahuilla dried up sometime before 1700 following one of the repeated shifts in the Colorado River’s course.

The Cahuilla first encountered Europeans in 1774 when Juan Bautista de Anza was looking for trade routes. Their first encounter with Anglo-Americans was in the 1840s. When the railroad arrived in Southern California, the U.S. government subdivided lands into one-mile-square sections, giving the Indians every other section. In 1877, the government established reservation boundaries, leaving the Cahuilla with only a small portion of their traditional territories.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Location of Palm Springs, California

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos


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