Indigenous language preservation
Native American cultures
Words in Native American
Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Cahuilla Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students
and teachers to visit our Cahuilla Indian homepage for more in-depth information
about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Cahuilla pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.
How do you pronounce the word "Cahuilla"? What does it mean?
Cahuilla is pronounced kah-wee-ah. This was the Spanish name for the tribe, and its origins aren't completely clear.
It may have been a Spanish corruption of the Cahuilla word for "chief," qawiya.
Although the Spanish used this name negatively to mean "heathens," the Cahuilla people use it positively today.
Where do the Cahuillas live?
The Cahuilla are a
California tribe, located in the center of Southern
California. Most Cahuilla people still live in this area today.
How is the Cahuilla Indian nation organized?
Like many California Indians, the Cahuillas were placed in reservations together with other Mission Indians from
different tribes. A reservation is land that belongs to an Indian tribe and is under their control.
However, since most Cahuilla people share reservations with people from other tribes, they have to share that control as
well. Each Mission Indian reservation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country.
In the past, Cahuilla people did not have a centralized government. Each clan had its own leader, and when a village or
band wanted to solve broader problems, the clan leaders needed to meet and come to an agreement, because none of
the clans had authority over each other.
Today, Cahuilla tribes are led by council members elected by all the people on the reservation
(both Cahuilla and non-Cahuilla.)
What language do the Cahuillas speak?
Cahuilla people all speak English today, but there are some people, especially elders, who also speak some of their native
Cahuilla language. If you'd like to know an easy Cahuilla word,
míyaxwe (pronounced similar to "mee-yakh-weh") is a friendly greeting.
What was Cahuilla culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
On their site you can find information about the Cahuilla people in the past and today.
How do Cahuilla Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house.
Many Cahuilla children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more
chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have
dolls, toys, and games to play.
Cahuilla kids enjoyed footraces. A Cahuilla mother traditionally carried a young child in a
on her back--a custom which many American parents have
What were Cahuilla men and women's roles?
Cahuilla men were hunters and fishermen, and sometimes went to war to defend their families.
Cahuilla women did most of the child care, cooking, and cleaning, and also made most of the clothing and household tools.
Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.
What were Cahuilla homes like in the past?
Most Cahuilla people lived in brush houses called kish. Kish are small round or cone-shaped houses
made of a wooden frame covered with reeds and brush. These are very simple houses and Cahuilla people really only
used them to sleep in. When they were resting, socializing, or working on crafts, Cahuilla people sat outside--
it was rarely cold or rainy in the climate where they lived.
Here are some pictures of brush houses.
Cahuilla people do not live in these old-fashioned dwellings today, any more than other Americans live in log cabins.
Cahuilla families live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.
What was Cahuilla clothing like? Did the Cahuillas wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Originally, Cahuilla people didn't wear much clothing-- men wore only
American Indian breechcloths,
and women wore knee-length skirts. Shirts were not necessary in Cahuilla culture, but
the Cahuillas sometimes wore rabbit-skin robes at night when the weather became cooler.
Unlike most Native American tribes, the Cahuillas rarely wore moccasins. They either went barefoot or wore sandals.
Here are some photos and links
about Indian dress in general.
The Cahuillas did not wear Plains Indian war bonnets
like the Sioux. Cahuilla women wore basket hats, and men went bare-headed.
Traditionally, Cahuilla men and women both wore their hair long.
The Cahuillas wore tattoo designs
that showed their clan affiliations, and they also painted their faces for special occasions.
They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.
Today, Cahuilla people wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths...
and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.
What was Cahuilla transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Cahuilla Indians weren't coastal people, and rarely traveled by river. Usually they just walked.
There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe. Once Europeans brought horses to America, the Cahuillas
could travel more quickly than before.
What was Cahuilla food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Cahuillas were hunter-gatherers, and moved from place to place frequently as they gathered food for their families.
Cahuilla men hunted deer, rabbits, and small game, and went fishing in the rivers.
Cahuilla women gathered acorns, nuts, beans, and fruits. They baked bread from specially prepared acorn flour, or
sometimes from corn they got in trade from the Mojaves.
Here is a website with more information
about traditional Indian food.
What were Cahuilla weapons and tools like in the past?
Cahuilla hunters used bows and arrows and snares. Fishermen usually used nets.
The Cahuillas did not often go to war, but when they did, warriors fired their arrows or used clubs.
Here is a website with pictures of Native weapons.
What other Native Americans did the Cahuilla tribe interact with?
The Cahuillas often traded with neighboring tribes, such as the
and Gabrielino tribes.
They were especially close friends with the Gabrielinos. These two tribes often
intermarried and invited each other to festivals.
What are Cahuilla arts and crafts like?
Cahuilla artists are known for their native baskets
and beaded jewelry.
Here is an article about Cahuilla basketry.
What kinds of stories do the Cahuillas tell?
There are lots of traditional Cahuilla legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the
Cahuilla Indian culture. Here is one story about a sacred blue lizard.
Here's a website where you can read more about Cahuilla mythology.
What about Cahuilla religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Cahuilla life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today.
It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Cahuilla people care about them deeply.
You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about
Cahuilla beliefs, or this site about
American Indian beliefs in general.
Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
The Heart Is Fire
is an interesting book of interviews with Cahuilla elders, with many photographs of Cahuilla life and artifacts.
Or Menill the Moon Maiden
is a picture book about a Cahuilla legend that would be good for younger kids.
If you'd like to learn more about Cahuilla culture and history, one great source for kids is
Cahuilla Native Americans.
You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American Indian books
Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links.
Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!
How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and
Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization
working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization
here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in
Thanks for your interest in the Cahuilla Indian people and their language!
Learn More About The Cahuillas
Cahuilla Indian Tribe
An overview of the Cahuilla people, their language and history.
Cahuilla Language Resources
Cahuilla language samples, articles, and indexed links.
Cahuilla Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Cahuilla tribe past and present.
Cahuilla Indian vocabulary lists.
Return to our Activities for Kids
Return to our maps of Native American reservations
Return to the list of languages
American Indian medicine
Native American flutes
Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?