After months of anticipation, the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza in Greater Palm Springs opened on November 3, 2023 and takes us on a fascinating tour of the local historic community that preserves its culture even today, sharing its rich heritage with the world. It is the second tourist and cultural center of its kind in the United States and a new must-see place in the region.
This momentous occasion represents a significant chapter in the modern history of the native Indians of the region.
Community-owned and managed, the cultural center spans 23,471 m² in the heart of Palm Springs, celebrating the rich history, culture and traditions of the Agua Caliente people. The complex houses the new museum, the Spa at Sèche – which pays homage to the ancestral mineral hot spring of the Cahuilla people -, an esplanade and the Oasis trail.
Tribal Chairman Reid D. Milanovich said:
“The Agua Caliente Cultural Center provides an incredible opportunity to share and celebrate our history, culture and traditions with our local community and visitors from around the world.
Each federally recognized tribe has a distinct culture that includes ancestral traditions, language, historical clothing, habitats, and food and medicinal preparations. We want to share our culture authentically. This is our story, told in our own words. We are here today, as we have been since the dawn of time”.
The project, designed by JCJ Architecture, drew on the traditions and values of the tribe
The inspiration for the design of the center draws its roots from basket weaving, pottery (ollas) and birdsong, as well as from elements specific to the Indian Reserve and notably the desert landscapes, the rock formations of the Indian Canyons, the Tahquitz Canyon waterfall and the Washingtonia filifera palms, the only palms native to the California desert.
The new museum covers approximately 4,500 m² …
…with a permanent exhibition space dedicated to the history and culture of the Agua Caliente people, a temporary exhibition hall, a classroom and an educational garden as well as a space for events and seminars. Five exhibit areas are dedicated to the history of the indigenous people, flora and fauna representing the biodiversity of Indian Canyons, and ancient artifacts, some of which were discovered during the construction of the museum. The art, traditions and way of life of the Agua Caliente are highlighted, providing visitors with an immersive experience to discover the tribe’s creation and migration stories over the years.
The museum shop features art, jewelry, and other products directly from Native American artists and Native American-owned businesses across the country. The Theater offers visitors a 12-minute 360-degree animation that tells the story of the creation and migration of the tribe.
The Center includes outdoor spacesincluding the esplanade, adjacent to the Agua Caliente mineral hot spring, initially known as Séche (Cahuilla term meaning the sound of boiling water – which gives its name to the eponymous Spa opened last April, as well as the Oasis Trail.
The latter offers an interactive cultural learning environment: it reproduces, on a reduced scale, the distinctive characteristics, geology, flora and beauty of the ancestral places of the Agua Caliente people.
The luxurious Spa at Sèche covers more than 6,690 m² with spa and treatment rooms, a relaxation garden, a lounge, a fitness center, outdoor swimming pools and health-focused catering. The water from the spring has survived the centuries and its age is estimated at more than 12,000 years. It is unique because its mineral composition does not exist anywhere else in the world. The tribe has shared this healing water with visitors for over 130 years, with the first spa operating in the late 1880s.
“The Agua Caliente Cultural Center is one of the most significant accomplishments in our tribe’s history,” said President Milanovich. “It allows us to share and celebrate our culture and educate guests about our history and who we are as a people.” For us, it’s a dream come true that has been 30 years in the making. When we share our culture, we preserve it. »
As an integral part of the tribe’s vision initiated many years ago, the Agua Caliente Cultural Center today serves as a pillar of the tribe’s long-term goals to share and celebrate its identity through a wide range of experiences and learning opportunities that convey the values and heritage of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.