The Native American
Ethnography and Ethnohistory of Joshua Tree National Park
THE NATIVE AMERICANS OF
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
AN ETHNOGRAPHIC OVERVIEW AND ASSESSMENT STUDY
by Cultural Systems Research, Inc.
August 22, 2002
SUGGESTED FURTHER RESEARCH
This overview has been drawn from CSRI field notes on over twenty
years of research on the desert peoples of southeastern California,
several field experiences with Mojave, Chemhuevi, Serrano, and Cahuilla
individuals in the park and nearby area, documents in CSRI files, and
secondary resources such as books and articles. The field work included
one meeting in the park with individuals from the Fort Mojave
Reservation, the Chemehuevi Reservation, the Colorado River Indian
Reservation, Morongo Reservation, and Torres-Martinez Reservation for
the purpose of evaluating Native American use of plants in the area.
This trip was taken as part of the research for CSRI's ethnobotanical
report for the Park Service. Other field work was done in the course of
research on privately funded projects involving respectively the Eagle
Mountain Area, the Marine Air Force Base, and the Mojave and/or Colorado
deserts as a whole.
CSRI's documentary resources have likewise been acquired in the
course of previous contracted research. We have a sizeable archive of
John Peabody Harrington materials, copied at the National
Anthropological Archives in Washington, D.C., before the Harrington
materials were microfilmed. We also have copies of pertinent materials
from the National Archives and Record Center at Laguna Niguel,
California and the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Our library
resources include many volumes cited in the References of this report,
and photocopies of pertinent parts of others.
A great deal of further research could be done on the subject of the
Native Americans who once occupied Joshua National Park, not all of
which can be completed within the scopes of this project. This
A search of the records of the San Gabriel, San Fernando, and
other missions in which Serrano people, especially those whose home was
at Mara, were involved during the Spanish-Mexican period of
California history in order to locate individuals from the Twentynine
Palms area who may have been brought into the missions or have served as
laborers in urban areas associated with the missions. These include
birth, marriage, and death records, and the journals and correspondence
of the mission administrators. John Johnson at the Santa Barbara Museum
of Natural History, David Earle, and others who are experienced in the
interpretation of mission records should be consulted. Data derived from
these searches may indicate the various groups with whom people from
Mara intermarried, and were consequently politically,
economically, and ritually involved.
A search of the archives at the Colorado River Indian
Reservation for historic data on the Chemehuevis, Mojave, and Serrano
peoples, especially with regard to the Chemehuevi people who lived at
Twentynine Palms from the mid-nineteenth century to approximately the
A review of the microfilmed version of the J. P. Harrington's
Serrano, Chemehuevi, and Mojave notes for pertinent data not previously
found, and a similar review of the C. Hart Merriam materials.
A search of the National Archives for further information about
the establishment of the Twentynine Palms Reservation and its history,
government involvement with Indians, and the effects of the policies of
the Office/Bureau of Indian Affairs on Indian people in and near the
park area. Information directly pertaining to the Twentynine Palms
Reservation is available at various branches of the National Archives,
especially those at Laguna Niguel, Washington, D.C., and ???.
A review of unpublished interviews conducted in the 1960s by
various scholars should be searched for and reviewed, and copies made of
pertinent portions of them. These include taped interviews with the late
Sarah Martin, who was a leading Serrano elder at Morongo Indian
Reservation, where many of the members of the Mariña clan now live.
Linguist Eric Elliot, the leading authority on southern
California Indian languages, should be engaged to conduct linguistic
studies of the Chemehuevi language, focusing on the linguistic and
social history of the Chemehuevi, as related to the park and its
Motion picture archives, newspaper accounts, and local history
traditions should be consulted in order to learn whether and how the
motion picture industry has used the park area. This might be the basis
for museum exhibits.
The story of Willie Boy should be revisited, with special
attention paid to whether the park area was involved.
Pioneer non-Indian people in the area should be consulted about
Indians involved in the park area's history, and Indian-White relations
in the park area, and asked to review any family archives about the
Photographs of Indians of the area and their descendants should
be collected,scanned, and descendants should be collected, copies placed
in park archives for use as needed in exhibits and publications. Sources
for the photographs might include private collections, and public
collections such as those at the Twentynine Palms Historical Society,
the Historical Society of Southern California, the J. P. Harrington
files, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the Colorado
River Indian Tribes Library at Parker, Arizona, and the Southwest
Chemehuevis, Mojaves, Serranos, and Cahuillas should be
consulted about the use of the artifacts in the park's museum
collections. They should also be consulted about the artifacts from the
park area now held by the Southwest Museum and the Natural History
Museum of Los Angeles County. If necessary, grants should be secured to
conduct such studies while there are still elders alive who are
knowledgeable about such usage.
The place of the area in the American art movements of the late
nineteenth and the twentieth century, including the work of such desert
artists as the late Carl Eytel and John Hilton should be reviewed.
Dennis Casebier should be consulted with respect to newspaper
accounts about the area, and other historical resources.
The work of such desert authors as G. W. James, Charles F.
Saunders, and J. H. Chase should be reviewed for material on the park
area. A search should be made for any archival materials left by these
The rock art in Joshua Tree National Park should be surveyed,
recorded, analyzed and compared with rock art in southern California and
the southwest. When possible, appropriate archaeological excavations and
analysis should be done. Whenever possible, the rock art should be
cleaned, protected, and restored to its original condition.
Publications of the National Park Service and the U.S.
Geological Survey should be consulted to learn the extent and nature of
mineral resources, so that comments can be made on Native American use
of these resources, as known from the archaeological and ethnographic
A history of the Mariña (Morongo) peoples after the arrival of
the Spanish, where and when they moved to various places, should be
reconstructed from available data.
Last Updated: 02-Aug-2004