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TRADITIONAL CULTURAL LANDSCAPE:
AREAS WHICH ARE SACRED,
NATURAL AND SHARED
  • Native American Land Conservancy, University of Riverside, Palm Desert Campus, California October 31, 2009

There are over 100 ethnographic sites recorded in the Mountain Cahuilla and Lake Cahuilla area. The Cahuilla interaction sphere extended down into the Borrego Valley Wash; the wash itself was shared territory with the Kumeyaay. The sites can be grouped into at least eight categories, as shown below, and were discussed in this presentation. Archaeologists normally view the habitation site as the center of an individual’s world with special use areas surrounding the habitation site. The indigenous populations throughout Southern California and elsewhere in the world, however, definitely viewed their surroundings differently, as depicted by the solid circle coding. The superheroes created the world, and places where they were born, rested, lived, and died became sacred sites or natural spots transformed into sacred beings. These are the core areas of the cultural world around which everything else revolves. Ceremonial alliances, including religious unions, occurred at sacred sites. Trade alliances were formed most commonly over sharing natural resources, some of the resources used by the local people in hunting, and material and food gathering. Marriage alliances not infrequently were chosen to enhance both ceremonial and trade alliances. Through these connections, special use areas became, at one time or another, shared territory, between those both within and outside the local group. Not all of a group’s special areas were shared, but many were, especially those related to subsistence activities where there were water reserves, abundant plant growth, plentiful animal habitats, and available mineral resources. Collectively, the elements within the Traditional Cultural Landscape create a broad perception of ‘territory.’ They define who a person is and give him a sense of belonging. All are important because they are rooted in the community’s history and all are important in maintaining the continuing cultural identity of the community; the criteria necessary for an area to be nominated as a Traditional Cultural Property, or in this case, Traditional Cultural Property District.