Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians

Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians

84-481 Avenue 54 , Coachella, CA
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The namesake for the Augustine Tribe and Reservation was Captain Vee-Vee Augustine who was born in the year 1820. Notes from early explorers indicated that the Cahuilla People were flourishing in the area at this time with 22 villages. In 1856 surveyors with the United States Land Office noted on their maps an important Cahuilla Village that would later be designated as the Augustine Reservation. At the time this village-site was known as “Temal Wakhish.” In the Cahuilla language “temal” means “earth,” and “wakhish” means “dry.” The name Temal Wakhish, or “dry earth,” described the harsh desert landscape in which the Cahuilla People lived. Later Temal Wakhish was commonly referred to by the Spanish name “La Mesa.”

In the 1890’s and early 1900’s historians and field researchers who visited Temal Wakhish recorded the site as being an area surrounded with dense mesquite trees, with flourishing water wells, and nearby Indian trails leading to and from the village. They also noted that it had its own ceremonial house and ceremonial leader, in the Cahuilla language referred to as a “kishumnawat” and “net,” respectively.

The Cahuilla People were divided into two moieties: Wildcat and Coyote. The majority of the lineages that lived in Temal Wakhish were of the Wildcat moiety. Cahuilla elders recall calling people who lived on the Augustine Reservation the “Wildcat Bunch.”

The Augustine Reservation was formally established by Congress on December 29, 1891. Diseases introduced by the Europeans took their toll on the Cahuilla People. Many died. By the year 1951 the Augustine Tribe had only 11 surviving members. One such member was a thirteen year old girl by the name of Roberta Augustine, the great-granddaughter of Captain Vee-Vee Augustine. She was born in the year 1937. By 1972 Roberta Augustine was the last surviving adult member of the Augustine Tribe. Roberta had three children, Mary Ann, Herbert and Gregory. Roberta passed away in 1987.

The children of Roberta Augustine went on to form the Tribal Government of the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians. Today the Tribal Council is made up of the great-great-great-grandchildren of Captain Vee-Vee Augustine. The former chairperson of the Augustine Tribe Mary Ann and her descendants, as well as the children of her two brothers comprise the official members of the Tribe. Over the past several years the Tribe has welcomed a new generation of Tribal members and looks forward to seeing the Tribe continue to grow.