We Are Still Here: Inspiration
We Are Still Here is inspired by Katherine Siva Saubel and the stories of her people, the Cahuilla Tribe of Southern California. We present some basic cultural and biographical information below.
Katherine Siva Saubel
Katherine Siva Saubel (born Katherine Siva, March 7, 1920) is a Native American scholar, educator, tribal leader, author, and activist committed to preserving her Cahuilla history, culture and language. Her efforts have focused on preserving the language of the Cahuilla people. Saubel is acknowledged nationally and internationally as one of California’s most respected Native American leaders. She received a PhD in philosophy from La Sierra University, Riverside, California, and was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the University of California at the University of California, Riverside.
Early Life and Education
Saubel grew up speaking the Cahuilla language. Her mother, Melana Sawaxell, could only speak Cahuilla. Her father, Juan C. Siva, eventually mastered four languages: Cahuilla, Spanish, Latin, and English. While in high school, Katherine grew alarmed when she found that as she spoke Cahuilla to her friends, they would respond back to her in English. She worried that her people were losing their language. She began writing down the names and uses of the plants and herbs she learned from her mother as she gathered with her.
This notebook later became Temalpakh: (From the Earth) Cahuilla Indian knowledge and usage of plants that she collaborated on with anthropologist Dr. Lowell John Bean for ten years and was published by the Malki press in 1972. Temalpakh demonstrates the depth of Saubel’s expertise in Cahuilla culture, and the second major focus of her scholarship: native ethnobotany, the study of the plant lore and agricultural customs of a people or specific ethnic group. Saubel is an expert on the unique Cahuilla uses of such plants as mesquite, screw bean, oak, acorn, datura, and others.
In 1962, Saubel worked with the professor of American linguistics, William Bright, on his studies of the Cahuilla language and as he prepared several publications. She also taught classes with Bright and with professor Pamela Munro of UCLA, and served as co-author with Munro on Chem’i’vullu: Let’s Speak Cahuilla, published by UCLA in 1981.
Starting in 1964, Saubel worked on Cahuilla language research with linguist Professor Hansjakob Seiler of the University of Cologne, Germany to do further work on providing an authentic written translation of the Cahuilla language that had previously existed only in spoken form. Their work together resulted in the publication of both a Cahuilla reference grammar and dictionary. Saubel also published her own dictionary, I’sniyatam Designs, a Cahuilla Word Book. Her work includes several authentic transcriptions and English translations of Cahuilla folklore.
Together with her husband, historian Mariano Saubel, and friend Jane Penn, she co-founded the Malki Museum on the Morongo Indian Reservation in Banning, California, the first nonprofit museum on a Native American reservation. The museum displays artifacts dating from prehistoric to recent times and also sponsors the publication of scholarly works on Native Americans from the region.
Saubel’s research has appeared internationally in government, academic and museum publications. Her knowledge of Cahuilla ethnobotany and tribal affairs has prompted US state and federal legislative committees to seek out her testimony. Past and current governors of California have honored her, and she has been appointed to numerous commissions and agencies.
For many years, she served on the Riverside County Historical Commission, which selected her County Historian of the Year in 1986. In 1987, she was recognized as “Elder of the Year” by the California State Indian Museum. Governor Jerry Brown appointed her to the California Native American Heritage Commission in 1982. In this capacity she has worked to preserve sacred sites and protect Indian remains.
Saubel has testified as an expert on Native American culture and history to the California legislature, the United States Congress, and various boards, commissions, and agencies.
Her writings have been published by government agencies, academic institutions, and museums, and she has taught Cahuilla history, literature, and culture at UC Riverside, UCLA, California State University, Hayward, the University of Cologne, and Hachinohe University in Japan.
Her awards include:
First Recipient of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian Art and Culture Award (1994)
The Desert Protective Council Award
YWCA Woman of Achievement Award (Riverside County, California)
Bridge To Peace Award
Latino and Native American Hall of Fame (Riverside, California)
First Recipient of the California Indian Heritage Preservation Award by the Society for California Archaeology (2000)
Indian of the Year – California Indian Conference (2000)
First Native American woman inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York (1993)
Saubel, Katherine Siva and John Lowell Bean. Temalpakh (From the Earth): Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants. Banning, California: Malki Museum Press, 1972.
Saubel, Katherine Siva and Eric Elliot. Isill Heqwas Waxizh: A Dried Coyote’s Tail. Banning, California: Malki Museum Press, 2004.
Cahuilla Indians of Southern California
“The Cahuilla are a group of Native Americans that have inhabited the U.S. state of California for more than 2,000 years, originally covering an area of about 2,400 square miles (6,200 km²). The traditional Cahuilla territory was near the geographic center of Southern California. It was 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.
Oral legends suggest that when the Cahuilla first moved into the Coachella Valley, a large body of water now called Lake Cahuilla was in existence. Fed by the Colorado River, it dried up sometime before 1700, following one of the repeated shifts in the river’s changed course. In 1905 a break in a levee created the much smaller Salton Sea in the same location.
The Cahuilla have been historically divided into “Mountain,” “Desert,” and “Pass” groups by anthropologists. Today there are nine Southern California reservations that are acknowledged homes to bands of Cahuilla people located in Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties: Agua Caliente, Augustine (the smallest federally recognized Native American tribe of 6 persons in the 2000s), Cabazon, Cahuilla, Los Coyotes, Morongo, Ramona, Santa Rosa, and Torres Martinez.
Their language is of the Uto-Aztecan family. A 1990 census revealed 35 speakers in an ethnic population of 800. It is nearly extinct, since most speakers are middle-aged or older.”
From: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Feb. 2008
Online Cultural Profiles:
Malki Museum is the oldest non-profit museum founded by Native Americans on a California Indian reservation, and has been the inspiration for several other Indian museums. It has a unique history and is committed to preserving the cultural traditions and history of the Cahuilla Indians and other southern California Indian tribes. Katherine Siva Saubel serves as President on the Board of Directors for the Malki Museum.
A group organized to preserve and protect native american cultural resources, grave goods, and remains in California. Governor George Deukmejian appointed Commissioner Saubel, of Banning, to the Native American Heritage Commission on December 17, 1987.
Bean, Lowell John. 1972. Mukat’s People: The Cahuilla Indians of Southern California. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Bean, Lowell John. 1978. “Cahuilla”. In California, edited by Robert F. Heizer, pp. 575-587. Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, vol. 8. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Bean, Lowell John, Sylvia Brakke Vane, and Jackson Young. 1991. The Cahuilla Landscape: The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. Ballena Press, Menlo Park, California.
Dozier, Deborah. The Heart is Fire. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, 1996.
Hicks, Frederic Noble. 1963. Ecological Aspects of Aboriginal Culture in the Western Yuman Area. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles.
Kroeber, A. L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.
James, Harry C. 1969. The Cahuilla Indians Malki Museum Press, Banning, California.