Published on January 4, 2013 by Amy
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The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is a federally recognized tribe. The main tribal groups are Cahuilla and Serrano. Other lineages include Cupeño and Luiseño Indians. Although many tribes in California are known as Mission Indians, some, like those at Morongo, were never a part of the Spanish Missions in California. The Morongo Reservation is located in Riverside County, California.
The Morongo Reservation is located at the base of the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Mountains. It is over 35,000 acres (140 km2) in size. On May 15, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant established this and eight other reservations in the area by executive order. Approximately 954 of the 996 enrolled tribal members live on the reservation.
The name Morongo comes from the Serrano clan Maarrenga’. The first official “Captain” of Potrero Ajenio (aka San Gorgonio Agency) recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs was the hereditary leader of the Maarrenga’, known to Americans by his English name, John Morongo. As time went on the Bureau referred to the tribe as the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is headquartered in Banning, California. They are governed by a democratically elected tribal council. Their current administration is as follows:
Cahuilla and Serrano are Takic languages, part of the Uto-Aztecan language family. The main aboriginal group of the San Gorgonio Pass are Pass Cahuilla, who call the area Maalki. The Serrano, who had traditionally intermarried with the Pass Cahuilla, and who have lived in the area since well before the inception of the reservation, call the area Maarrkinga’. Cahuilla and Serrano are technically considered to be extinct as they are no longer spoken at home, and children are no longer learning them as primary languages. Joe Saubel, a Morongo tribal member and the last pure speaker of Pass Cahuilla, died in 2008. The last pure speaker of Serrano was also enrolled at Morongo, Ms. Dorothy Ramon, who died in 2002. Recent generations have found a renewed interest in their native languages however, and many families are now reclaiming Pass Cahuilla and Serrano for their children.
The tribe opened a small bingo hall in 1983, which became the foundation of what is now one of the oldest Native gaming enterprises in California. The government of Riverside County, California attempted to shut down the bingo hall, so the tribe joined together with the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians to fight the county all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On February 25, 1987, the Court upheld the right of sovereign Indian tribes to operate gaming enterprises on their reservations.
The Morongo Casino, Resort, and Spa was opened in 2004 in Cabazon, California. It is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The hotel has 310 rooms. Several restaurants and bars are part of the complex, Desert Orchid: Contemporary Asian Cuisine, Potrero Canyon Buffet, Cielo: Pacific Coast Steak and Seafood Restaurant, Serrano, Sunset Bar and Grill, a food court, Mystique Lounge, and the Pit Bar. The club, 360, is open on weekends.
The Malki Museum on the Morongo Reservation is open to the public. It maintains the Malki Museum Press, which publishes the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology and scholarly books on Indian culture. The reservation is also home to the Limu Project, a tribal community based nonprofit that helps families preserve knowledge of their indigenous languages, history, and cultural traditions.