PALM SPRINGS – The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has a dynamic presence in the desert, particularly in Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage. But how much do students really know about Native American history, culture, and lifestyle, especially that of the Agua Caliente’s, and the Tribe’s undeniable commitment to education? They are about to find out.

The Palm Springs Unified School District and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians have been collaborating on the creation of an elementary and middle school Native American Studies curriculum to launch within the District this school year.

“It is the only project we know of where a Tribe has worked hand-in-hand in collaboration with a school’s Foundation and school district to develop a mutually approved curriculum that meets state educational standards,” Kate Anderson, director of public relations for the Tribe.

Following a yearlong series of planning sessions, the Tribe, the PSUSD Foundation and PSUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding and curriculum plan.


Jeff L. Grubbe

“We expect the curriculum’s content to touch on a wide range of aspects of Native American and Agua Caliente history, culture, traditions, lifestyles, and modern-day government and economics,” said Tribal Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe. “With this project, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians will continue to build on our legacy of a strong commitment to education in the region. We’re very excited to be working with the district.”


The new curriculum will be geared to both elementary (Grades 3-5) and middle-school (Grades 6-8) students in the Palm Springs Unified School District. The third grade curriculum will launch within the district during the 2018-19 school year with subsequent curriculum for higher grades following.

Agua Caliente History, Traditions Join Classrooms

James Williamson

“Native Americans have an important and historic presence in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley — yet many of our students are unaware of the rich cultural history of the region’s indigenous people or that they are thriving in the world today,” said Foundation Director Ellen Goodman. “This new curriculum will help establish a real groundwork of familiarity on students’ parts with the importance and impact of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.”

According to the signed MOU, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians will underwrite the costs involved in creating and implementing the curriculum within existing social studies, civics, human geography, and other teaching units. Total cost is not yet known, Anderson said.

The Foundation for PSUSD will act as fiduciary agent and project liaison. All curriculum content will be jointly developed with the participation of relevant Tribal government representatives.

“The District believes strongly in the value of community partnerships,” James Williamson, president of  the PSUSD Board of Education, told Uken Report. “We have a long relationship with the Tribe and are excited that our next joint endeavor is to develop this curriculum.  In doing this, both the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and PSUSD are leading the way.”

The California Education Department is also developing Native American curriculum but Palm Springs is ahead of the curve.

During the coming school year, crucial tasks will include engaging an expert elementary/middle-school curriculum specialist for the project; writing of all classroom materials and messaging to ensure learning and retention; and careful training of PSUSD teachers, aides, and coordinators.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is a federally recognized Indian Tribe located in Palm Springs, California, with 31,500 acres of reservation lands that spread across Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and into the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains. The Tribe currently owns and operates two 18-hole championship golf courses, the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs and the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage. For more information about the Tribe, visit here.


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  • Jeff-L.-Grubbe: Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians