A Chemehuevi Song: The Resilience of a Southern Paiute Tribe

Hardcover | May 15, 2015

byClifford E. TrafzerForeword byLarry Myers

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The Chemehuevi of the Twenty-Nine Palms tribe of Southern California stands as a testament to the power of perseverance. This small, nomadic band of Southern Paiute Indians has been repeatedly marginalized by European settlers, other Native groups, and, until now, historical narratives that have all too often overlooked them.

Having survived much of the past two centuries without rights to their homeland or any self-governing abilities, the Chemehuevi were a mostly "forgotten" people until the creation of the Twenty-Nine Palms Reservation in 1974. Since then, they have formed a tribal government that addresses many of the same challenges faced by other tribes, including preserving cultural identity and managing a thriving gaming industry.

A dedicated historian who worked closely with the Chemehuevi for more than a decade, Clifford Trafzer shows how this once-splintered tribe persevered using sacred songs and other cultural practices to maintain tribal identity during the long period when it lacked both a homeland and autonomy. The Chemehuevi believe that their history and their ancestors are always present, and Trafzer honors that belief through his emphasis on individual and family stories. In doing so, he not only sheds light on an overlooked tribe but also presents an important new model for tribal history scholarship.

A Chemehuevi Song strikes the difficult balance of placing a community-driven research agenda within the latest currents of indigenous studies scholarship. Chemehuevi voices, both past and present, are used to narrate the story of the tribe's tireless efforts to gain recognition and autonomy. The end result is a song of resilience.

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The Chemehuevi of the Twenty-Nine Palms tribe of Southern California stands as a testament to the power of perseverance. This small, nomadic band of Southern Paiute Indians has been repeatedly marginalized by European settlers, other Native groups, and, until now, historical narratives that have all too often overlooked them. Having su...

Clifford E. Trafzer is Distinguished Professor of History and Costo Chair of American Indian Affairs at University of California, Riverside. He is the author of several books, including Renegade Tribe: The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Inland Pacific Northwest and Death Stalks the Yakama: Epidemiological Transitions and Death...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:328 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:May 15, 2015Publisher:University of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295994584

ISBN - 13:9780295994581

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From the Author

A Chemehuevi Song provides the first analysis of Southern Paiute people known as Chemehuevi and that group of Chemehuevi from the Twenty-Nine Palms Oasis of California. The book examines change over time and the manner in which the distant past contributes to contemporary Chemehuevi people. Using several Native American voices and a plethora of original documents from the National Archives, libraries, museums, and tribal sources, A Chemehuevi Song illuminates the development of racialized views of Southern Paiute. The volume offers an account of the Chemehuevi-Mojave War and the exile of a band of Chemehuevi from the Colorado River in the 1860s. This group of Chemehuevi moved to the Oasis of Mara where they settled and farmed in a Serrano Indian village, living peacefully until Willie Boy and Carlota Mike broke tribal incest laws, leading to the death and removal of Chemehuevi from Twenty-Nine Palms to the Cabazon Reservation in the Coachella Valley. On Cabazon, Chemehuevi learned cultural ways of Cahuilla, continuing an ancient process of learning from and intermarrying with other Native Americans. During the twentieth century, Chemehuevi leaders joined the Mission Indian Federation in fighting the Wheeler-Howard Act, and only one Chemehuevi took an allotment. Chemehuevi refused to remain on the Cabazon Reservation, residing in nearby towns. In 1974, an act of congress and signature of President Gerald Ford created the Twenty-Nine Palms Reservation east of Palm Springs. The Chemehuevi reorganized a formal tribal government that has survived and thrived as a result of gaming. The people have used revenues from Spotlight 29 Casino to support land acquisition and the Native American Land Conservancy that buys and protects cultural lands. A Chemehuevi Song is an account of survival, sovereignty, and solemn obligations to care for their community while living within an ever-changing and challenging world, emerging as a modern tribal nation through adaptation and adherence to spiritual beliefs about the place of man within the natural world of California and the greater Southwest.

Table of Contents

ForewordPreface and Acknowledgments

Introduction1. The Chemehuevi Way2. Invading and Defaming the Chemehuevi3. War, Resistance, and Survival4. The Chemehuevi at Twenty-Nine Palms5. Unvanished Americans6. Willie, Williams, and Carlota7. Cultural Preservations, Ethnogenesis, and Revitalization

GlossaryNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

The Chemehuevi of the Twenty-Nine Palms tribe of Southern California stands as a testament to the power of perseverance. This small, nomadic band of Southern Paiute Indians has been repeatedly marginalized by European settlers, other Native groups, and, until now, historical narratives that have all too often overlooked them. Having survived much of the past two centuries without rights to their homeland or any self-governing abilities, the Chemehuevi were a mostly "forgotten" people until the creation of the Twenty-Nine Palms Reservation in 1974. Since then, they have formed a tribal government that addresses many of the same challenges faced by other tribes, including preserving cultural identity and managing a thriving gaming industry. A dedicated historian who worked closely with the Chemehuevi for more than a decade, Clifford Trafzer shows how this once-splintered tribe persevered using sacred songs and other cultural practices to maintain tribal identity during the long period when it lacked both a homeland and autonomy. The Chemehuevi believe that their history and their ancestors are always present, and Trafzer honors that belief through his emphasis on individual and family stories. In doing so, he not only sheds light on an overlooked tribe but also presents an important new model for tribal history scholarship. A Chemehuevi Song strikes the difficult balance of placing a community-driven research agenda within the latest currents of indigenous studies scholarship. Chemehuevi voices, both past and present, are used to narrate the story of the tribe's tireless efforts to gain recognition and autonomy. The end result is a song of resilience.Like the versatile healing properties of Salt Songs themselves, this book remembers, honors, cures and I hope will foster a new generation of too-long-ignored culture histories from the panoply of southern California's first nations. A stunning, exciting and intimate portrait orchestrated by a sensitive and wise scholar who lets the people and their places speak for themselves. - Peter Nabokov, World Arts and Cultures and American Indian Studies, UCLA