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Cahuilla

The Cahuilla are an American Indian group who live in south-central California in a region bordered roughly by the San Bernardino Mountains on the north and Borrego Springs and the Chocolate Mountains on the south. The Cahuilla once dominated the area encompassed today by Joshua Tree National Park. The Cahuilla language is classified in the Cupan subgroup of the Takic family of Uto-Aztecan languages. Because of their inland location, the Cahuilla were directly influenced by Europeans later than other more western groups. First contact with the Spanish was indirect through other Indian groups where missions were established and probably mostly involved the spread of European diseases to the Cahuilla. Regular contact began in about 1819 and led to the Cahuilla's adopting farming and cattle raising, working for the Spanish, and converting to Roman Catholicism. In 1863 the Cahuilla were Seriously depopulated by a smallpox epidemic. Pre-contact, the Cahuilla lived in permanent villages in sheltered valleys near water sources, with seasonal excursions to gather acorns. Because they occupied an ecologically diverse region, major food sources varied from one area to another. The Cahuilla, were, however, basically hunter-gatherers with rabbits, deer, mountain sheep, and small rodents hunted and acorns, cacti roots, mesquite, berries, and numerous other plant foods gathered. Basketry was highly developed, notably with four types of coiled baskets.