The Cupeņo Removal of 1903
In the Name of the Law - The Cupeño Removal of 1903
(Read part one here)
The Crying Road
"I don't know who they are," Alessandro replied, his voice full of anger and scorn. "They're Americans.... They all got together and brought a suit... and it was decided in the court that they owned all our land.... It was the law... and nobody could go against the law." - Helen Hunt Jackson, 1884
Once the title to the land at Pala was clear, it was time for the preparations for the actual removal to begin.
On April 16, 1903, Lummis, Dr. L.A. Wright, the Mission Indian Agent, Special Agent Frank Conser, and William Collier arrived at Cupa to discuss the removal plans with the Cupeño. They "were received sullenly and almost defiantly" by the people. The arrival of Lummis in particular seems to have especially disturbed them. As for Dr. Wright, one newspaperman reported, "The Indians do not entirely like him, or trust him, but they feel that he is doing his best. They say that they prefer him a thousand times to Mr. Lummis [to] whom they have taken a strange, unreasoning dislike."
In fact, the Cupeño felt they had good reasons for disliking Lummis, whom they are said to have dubbed the "Thin Liar." Despite his sincere desire to try and help the Cupeño find a new home, his tendency to always try to thrust himself into the center of everything he was involved with made him an easy target for the Cupeño's wrath. Lummis also continued to claim credit for the selection of the reservation at Pala, where the Cupeño would soon be forced to move. It was no wonder they did not want him around.
Still, Lummis and his party had a job to do. They called a general meeting at the school house. It proved to be a contentious affair. The Cupeño decided to have their own meeting first to discuss the situation, and arrived an hour late to Lummis' meeting. Once they arrived, Dr. Wright tried to explain the government's position towards the removal: that while the government wanted it to be as painless as possible, nothing could stand in the way now.
Father B. Florian Hahn, the Catholic Priest from Banning who ministered at the village when he could, was also present at the meeting. He asked the Cupeño to go, and go peacefully to their new homes. Lummis also called on them go peacefully.
After listening to all this, Juan Maria Cibimoat, the newly elected captain of the Cupeño, replied that his people would never go, that the government should just leave them alone, and they would take care of themselves. He claimed his people had been told nothing about what was going on, until now the government agents came, insisting they must move. He and Lummis argued for a while before William Collier stepped in to try to calmly state the facts - that removal was at hand.
Captain Cibimoat asked again to simply be left alone, then he got up and left the meeting, and all of the villagers followed him.
Collier sensed that Capt. Cibimoat's resolve was not shared by all of his people. "One of the great difficulties we had to encounter," he explained a few days later, "was the fact that when the Indians have a chief he is their spokesman and nobody but he will say anything." Many of the other people, Collier noted, were not planting crops that spring and some were already pulling out their fences. This, he felt, was good evidence that no matter what Capt. Cibimoat said, they expected to move.
Juan Maria Cibimoat does seem to have been a contentious leader. The Riverside Daily Press claimed that "He is one of the most unstable and short sighted men, and is not respected even by the Indians." He was about 50 years old at the time, and rather unassuming in appearance. It was said that he had only been elected Captain for that year because no one else wanted the job in the face of the coming troubles. He could be an effective speaker, however, and his basic position - that the Cupeño should not have to leave their ancestral homes - was valid, even if it did not have the force of law behind it.
Lummis and the others left Cupa soon after the meeting, convinced that there was little hope for a peaceful removal. Lummis believed it would take the army to dislodge the Cupeño: "it will be the height of folly to attempt anything without troops," he wrote to Dr. Wright soon afterwards, and Wright agreed. Publicly, Lummis continued to reassure the papers that everything would be just fine, but privately, he continued to press for troops.
Some of the papers got wind of Lummis' threats, however. The San Francisco Chronicle (April 19, 1903) reported that Lummis had warned the Cupeño "that if they did not go they would be compelled to do so." Five days later, that same paper reported that Lummis had also told the Cupeño that if they tried to flee to other reservations, "he would issue orders to have every member of the tribe ejected from the other reservations if they did not immediately consent to go peacefully from Agua Caliente to Pala." The New York Times (June 14, 1903) reported that Lummis, Wright, and the others, had "wired to Washington, reporting that it would be impossible to evict the Indians without the presence of United States troops."
Even after the Cupeño had been peacefully removed, Lummis continued his refrain. In June he told President Roosevelt that "the Agent [Wright], Special Agent Conser, Special Attorney William Collier and I decided unanimously that the only safe way was to employ a detail of 20 soldiers from San Diego to remove the Indians to Pala and stay there during their establishment...." Yet he continued to publicly deny that he had threatened the Cupeño that they would be shot if they would not go to the reservation - and while perhaps he did not use those exact words, Lummis' meaning was always clear.
Cecilio Blacktooth, the previous year's Captain, was in San Bernardino a few days after the meeting with Lummis, and he told a reporter:
"We will never give in. Some of our people are scattered among the tribes in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, but the old men and women would not leave, and have begged to be taken above Warners Ranch in the mountains, where they can look down upon the graves of their ancestors."
Some newspapers portrayed Blacktooth as defiant, and ready to fight or flee. In fact, he was in San Bernardino to buy horses to help the Cupeño move their belongings to Pala. While in town, Blacktooth also visited with attorney John Brown, Jr., who had served as a sort of legal counsel to the Cupeño leaders for the past year. Brown continued to insist that a way might be found for the Cupeño to remain in their homes. This endeared him to the Cupeño, but only complicated matters for the government officials.
Another white man who came on the scene about this same time was George L. Lawson, an occasional newspaper correspondent for the Los Angeles papers, who had been writing some highly dramatic articles about the Cupeño situation. While expressing sympathy for the Cupeño, he also predicted violence if the government tried to move them.
The Cupeño (at least some of them) took to Lawson, probably because he said what they wanted to hear - that they should not have to move. By then, some people were ready to listen to anyone who offered that promise. On the other hand, none of the other Anglos involved with the removal seem to have cared much for Lawson. The Los Angeles Express eventually stopped publishing his dispatches, classing him as "mendacious and untrustworthy."
Lummis developed a special dislike for Lawson, an attitude Lawson returned in kind. He publicly called Lawson a "wanton and malicious liar," and claimed that he was only trying to stir up trouble at Cupa so that "he might have a sensation and [make] a dollar or two by space writing."
Lummis' attitude was perhaps predictable. He still viewed the protection of the Cupeño as his own private crusade. As for Lawson, he seems to have been sincerely concerned with the Cupeño's welfare - perhaps even enough to justify in his own mind the exaggerated articles he had been sending to the Los Angeles papers. But reading his diary, one cannot help but get the sense that he rather enjoyed the prominence he came to hold in the eyes of the Cupeño. Throughout the years leading up to the removal, there were those who worked with the Cupeño, and others who only worked for them. Lummis fell into this latter category. His concern was sincere, but he never developed any sort of a personal relationship with the Cupeño. On the other hand, most of the people who were close to the Cupeño, like Lawson, were never able to accomplish much for them.
So, as April of 1903 drew to a close, things looked bleak on all sides. There seemed little hope of moving the Cupeño peacefully, though just what sort of resistance would be mounted remained unclear. The government, however, was still determined that the removal should take place as soon as possible.
Grasping at his last straw, John Brown called upon President Roosevelt himself to intervene and stop the removal. Not coincidentally, Roosevelt was scheduled to visit Southern California early in May, 1903, so Brown sent for Capt. Cibimoat and several other leaders from the tribe to come to San Bernardino to try and lay their case directly before the president. It is difficult at this late date to judge just what Brown hoped to accomplish. Certainly his sympathy was sincere, but as even he had been forced to admit to Lummis a year before, his legal options were nil. Perhaps he hoped the president could arrange some extra-legal solution - which was highly unlikely.
Meanwhile, the Indian Office made one of its few good decisions in the whole matter. They ordered James E. Jenkins, one of eight Special Inspectors in the Indian Service, to head to San Diego County and take charge of the removal, superseding both Wright and Lummis, who had expected to supervise things personally. Earlier that spring, Lummis had written to R.C. Allen, "Sorry you cannot go [to the removal], for the fun of it and for the good company you would be." (Lummis may have been the only person who ever thought that participating in this tragedy might be "fun.")
After Jenkins was appointed, Lummis wisely decided to step back, perhaps finally recognizing how upsetting his presence was to the Cupeño. Jenkins proved to be the right man for the job ahead. He soon began making the necessary arrangements for the removal with the help of Dr. Wright. Instead of soldiers, he hired about 40 local ranchers and teamsters to transport the Cupeño and their belongings. The men were to be paid $5 a day for each wagon and team.
On May 7th, Agent Wright's clerk wrote to Special Agent Conser, "Dr. Wright left [San Jacinto] this morning for the battlefield, Warners Ranch, with forty teams. A few more days will tell the story. He received all sorts of warnings not to go, but Mr. Jenkins assured him over the phone that they [the Cupeño] were ready to move peacefully as we trust and that all will be well."
The teamsters began arriving on the ranch around the 8th or 9th, apparently expecting to set off again in just a day or two. They set up a temporary camp about half a mile from the village along the banks of Agua Caliente Creek, and settled in to wait for the word to go.
Jenkins had already been at Cupa for several days by then, doing his best to convince the Cupeño that their removal was not only inevitable, but was in fact the best thing for them. He enlisted whatever support he could get in this thankless task - Josephine Babbitt, the government schoolteacher at Cupa, Indian Policeman Domingo Moro, and even George Lawson.
Either the repeated threats of what would happen if they did not go, or the repeated promises of a better life at Cupa began to wear down the resistance of some of the Cupeño. Jenkins definitely had an element of fear on his side. Lawson noted in his diary that a few days before the removal, when Jenkins went down to the Warner Ranch store a few miles away, the Cupeño were afraid "that Jenkins was going to Mesa Grande to telephone the U.S. Marshal for troops and their excitement was intense." This fear of attack probably played a role in convincing the Cupeño to go peacefully.
Jenkins showed remarkable tact in his dealings with the Cupeño, but there was never any doubt in his mind what he had been sent to do. He could be patient, but ultimately, he expected to be obeyed. His diplomacy seems to have been helped along by the absence of Capt. Cibimoat and the other most vocal opponents of the removal, who had gone to San Bernardino as part of John Brown's futile scheme to try to secure a reprieve directly from President Roosevelt.
Brown was not without influence in San Bernardino, however, and on May 8th he did manage to have the Cupeño leaders meet the president outside his home as Roosevelt was touring the city. Capt. Cibimoat, Salvador Nolasquez, Ambrosio Ortega, Juan José Blacktooth, and José Antonio Cibimoat were all there. "I understand that my Warner Ranch Indians met the President," Lummis wrote to the president's secretary a day later. "Nothing passed between the Indians and the President," he was told in reply. "Mr. Atkinson simply brought them up to shake hands with the President."
The same day the men met the president, a runner arrived in San Bernardino from Cupa to announce that the removal was imminent. Jenkins, in fact, had planned to start the next day, Saturday, May 9, but then agreed to wait until the delegation in San Bernardino could return. Capt. Cibimoat, Ortega, and Blacktooth set off for Cupa as soon as they got the news. The other men followed soon after. The outcome seemed inevitable, but Cibimoat still had a few cards left to play.
Capt. Cibimoat and his two companions reached Cupa late Saturday night. According to Lawson, when they discovered how well Jenkins had done while they were away at convincing the people to move, "their anger knew no bounds." Told that the removal was now set to begin on Monday, the 11th, Capt. Cibimoat tried to stall. He called a meeting of the people and told them that he had talked with President Roosevelt, "and that he had promised to see that they were righted." He claimed that Salvador Nolasquez was coming soon with a paper that would let them keep their homes. Later (according to Lawson), he changed his story, and said that it was John Brown who had this all-important paper. Then Cibimoat and Ambrosio Ortega rode off to Mesa Grande to call Brown and beg him to come.
Inspector Jenkins immediately saw through Cibimoat's bluff. He called another meeting for 7:30 that same Sunday night, but only five Indians showed up - and they promptly left, saying they would not meet without Capt. Cibimoat present. Jenkins said fine, then they would meet again in the morning. Dr. Wright, who had been keeping a low profile for several days, left the ranch for Pala about this time to supervise arrangements there. Whatever moves were left to be played, there was no doubt in his mind what the final outcome would be.
Cibimoat and Ortega had to wait three hours at Mesa Grande to get a connection to San Bernardino, but around 9 p.m. they finally got through to John Brown, who promised to come at once. Returning to Cupa, the men held another late-night meeting with the people. Later still - Lawson claimed - Capt. Cibimoat crept over to the school house in the darkness, and sat up talking with Mrs. Babbitt on into the night.
The next morning, the 11th, Jenkins was ready to begin the removal. He roused the teamsters up early, and they hitched up their teams and got ready to finally move their wagons into the village. Before they set out, "Mr. Jenkins exhorted the teamsters to behave with good judgment."
All of the men had been sworn in as deputies for the duration. Many carried side arms or had rifles stowed under their wagon seats. Most were glad to be on their way. They had not planned on the delay, and some were running low on food for both man and beast. With Jenkins on the seat of lead wagon, the teams pulled into the village around 7:30 in the morning, and spread out up and down the one main street.
News reports of the Cupeño response to this "aggressive move" (as the Los Angeles Times termed it) vary considerably. Citing an eyewitness, the Times reported on May 12th, "when the Indians saw the white men and wagons coming they locked and barred the doors of their cabins and threatened to shoot anyone who should dare to disturb them." But Joseph Schirmer, the Riverside Daily Press correspondent (one of the few reporters actually on the scene), wrote that there was very little response, and noted that some of the adobes already had piles of furniture, boxes, and bedding in front on them, ready to go. Lawson, in his diary, relates that when Capt. Cibimoat came out of his house, a group of people rushed over to talk with him. Jenkins joined the group, and continued to press his reasons why they must move. Capt. Cibimoat replied that they would not go before John Brown arrived. Jenkins relented, and agreed to give them until noon - but then they would have to begin packing, Brown or no. According to Lawson, "an air of suspense" hung over the village for the rest of the morning.
Meanwhile, Brown was driving virtually non-stop over the 107 miles from San Bernardino to Cupa. Along the way he passed Dr. Wright on his way to Pala. "I wondered what he was up to," Wright later told a reporter. Brown finally reached Cupa around 2:00 p.m., and immediately sat down with Capt. Cibimoat and the other leaders. Of course he had no "paper" from President Roosevelt, and apparently he told the men that there was now nothing left to do but go peacefully. Schirmer reported that this brief meeting, "left a gloomy look on the dusky faces" of the village leaders.
Their business concluded, Brown, Capt. Cibimoat, Judge Pasqual Blacktooth, and Ambrosio Ortega went up to the school house to discuss matters with Inspector Jenkins. Jenkins and Brown seemed in good spirits. Lawson wrote that Brown began by making "a ceremonious display of examining Inspector Jenkins' credentials," and then the pair talked amicably.
Afterwards, Jenkins called one last meeting of the tribe at Francisco Chutnicut's house, to settle the matter once and for all. John Brown spoke first. He suggested that Jenkins should display his credentials to the Cupeño, and stress that he was charged by the president to carry out the removal. Brown told the people that he had done all that he could and advised them to go peacefully.
Capt. Cibimoat then made a "passionate speech," stressing that the springs at Cupa had always been their home, and claiming again that there was nothing for them at Pala and that they would all starve there. "All we ask is to be left alone," he declared. "Let us go away where we please." He kept returning to that theme, asking "not once, but a dozen times" not to be forced to go to Pala.
"The Captain maintained to the last that he would rather die than be moved," Schirmer reported in the Riverside Daily Press on May 14th. "But one could see the bottom had gone out of the opposition and his following had forsaken him."
Jenkins also saw this. He asked Cibimoat if he was no longer acting as captain, since he seemed to be speaking only for himself. Perhaps, Jenkins suggested, each man present should be allowed to speak for himself as well. Yes, Capt. Cibimoat shrewdly replied, ask them if they would rather stay here or go to Pala. But Jenkins ignored that suggestion, knowing full well what the answer would be. While many of the Cupeño were ready to move, certainly none of them truly wanted to move.
Instead, Jenkins kept his attention focused on Capt. Cibimoat, and reminded him that he had promised to do what was right if Jenkins would wait for John Brown to arrive. Cibimoat replied that he would break that promise. Now Jenkins had had enough; according to Lawson, he "rose and said he had been patient with them, now he expected them to obey the government and Juan Maria [Cibimoat] to keep his promise. This said, Jenkins made a dignified retreat."
During the course of the negotiations, Jenkins made a number of promises to the Cupeño. "[A]mong these promises were a better home with plenty of water and better houses to live in and farming tools and food until such houses were constructed, and pay for their crops, and pay for their work... at their new home," according to a memorandum drawn up at the time. Some years later, Carolina Nolasquez recalled that Jenkins "said that here [at Pala] they would give us houses, and then cattle, horses, he would give us something good upon bringing us here. Brown said that it would be all right for us to come down here. And we said ‘All right.'"
Laura Cornelius, a teacher at the new Sherman Institute in Riverside, was the last to speak. She was an Oneida Indian from Wisconsin, and her people, too, had been forced from their ancestral homes and placed on a reservation. She pleaded with the Cupeño to go, and promised them that they could trust the government to always look out for their best interests. In the newspapers of the day, her impassioned speech was said to have carried a great deal of weight with the Cupeño, but this was probably not the case. Lawson noted in his diary that her pleas fell largely on deaf ears, and years later Roscinda Nolasquez confirmed that view. The truth was, virtually everyone's mind had long since been made up before Cornelius ever got up to speak.
The meeting ended somewhat inconclusively, but later that evening Capt. Cibimoat and some of the other men came to see Jenkins to tell him that they would keep their promise and go peacefully to Pala. They did demand a few parting arrangements. The government would have to agree to pay for all their crops and trees at Cupa, and before they left they wanted to visit the graveyard one last time, and to take the church bell with them to Pala. Jenkins agreed to all these things, and question seemed finally settled. There was a continuing "hustle and bustle" all through the village that night as the Cupeño made final preparations to leave their old homes.
Tuesday, May 12, 1903 dawned bright and pleasant, but before long the temperature began to rise, and by mid-morning it was clear was going to be a hot day. All through the village of Cupa, the Cupeño were rushing to finish packing everything they owned for the move to Pala - furniture, clothing, kitchen items, pets, plants, chickens, even lumber and window frames.
Eleven-year-old Roscinda Nolasquez always remembered the confusion of that last morning at Cupa, with Jenkins giving orders in English, which most of the Cupeño could not understand. "We were so scared," she said. "We didn't know what he was saying. We didn't know what was going on. We saw old people running back and forth. We cried, too, because we were afraid." Roscinda struggled that morning to make sure her cats would not be left behind. They were finally rounded up and shut up in a box. Joseph Schirmer in fact mentioned "cats... mewing in boxes" as he described the scene that morning for the Riverside Daily Press (May 14, 1903).
In a 1962 interview Roscinda recalled:
"People came from La Mesa, from Santa Ysabel, from Wilakal, from San Ignacio they came to see their relatives. They cried a lot. And they just threw our belongings, our clothes, into carts, chairs, cups, plates. They piled everything on the carts."
There were many tears that morning, especially when the people made their last visit to the graveyard below the chapel. "They went to the cemetery," Roscinda recalled, "there they wept. Then it was time to move out. Still they did not move. They could not move outside [the cemetery], they stayed there by the gate."
But in the midst of death, there is life. On the very day of the removal, Celsa Apapas gave birth to a baby boy, whom she named James Edward Jenkins Apapas. A calf born that same day was named Lummis.
A few people put on a show of defiance - at least in words. Capt. Cibimoat and a few of the other men stood together on a brushy hillside above the village, looking down on their homes. "Old Salvador [Nolasquez] declared that the Pala lands which he had visited are poor and dry," the Los Angeles Times reported, "and that they would have to tie him to take him." Capt. Cibimoat still expressed the hope that the Cupeño would just be left alone. "We are not lame or blind," he said. "We can work. We don't want help." But with the removal going on before his very eyes, even Cibimoat's resolve was crumbling. "Driven into the last corner," the Times reported, "Cibimooat [sic] turned away and wept."
But the most blatant act of defiance that morning came from another Cibimoat, Manuella Cibimoat, one of the oldest women in the village. Rather than face removal, she fled to the hills, where the reporters all imagined her dying a slow death in some forgotten part of the mountain. But in fact, Manuella Cibimoat did not die on the mountain. According to Roscinda Nolasquez, shortly after the Cupeño arrived at Pala her father and her uncle "went after her, and they brought her back. She died [in 1907], and she's buried here [at Pala]."
For most of the Cupeño, though, there was only weeping or stunned silence. A writer for the New York Times described Francisco Chutnicut that morning, standing "in tall silk hat, and arrayed in finery that, no doubt, had seen previous service on other and broader shoulders" watching silently as the wagons were loaded.
Judd Tripp was one of the local ranchers hired as a teamster; sixty years later he recalled:
"[T]here were 30 or 40 teams went up there to get those Indians. I had a two-horse team... and you'd get $5 a day per wagon and team.... I picked up old Cayatan that used to be around there years ago - carried the mail - later he used to work for Bergman down there [at Aguanga], Henry Bergman. I got his outfit to haul. He had some great big old round rocks [mortars], you know, and other stuff... that was a heck of load! But most of... the Indians they didn't have enough to make a load....
"Most of the Indians had their own horses; some of them had rigs... a little old spring wagon or something, with a team of their own. But most all the stuff they had to move, we moved. Old George Thomas came along... and he had a balky team. He had fixed up a kind of a spring wagon with a top over it... fixed it all up so it would look like one of the old timers that'd come out [West]. There was one hill to pull out of that creek coming to Puerta la Cruz that he was afraid his team would balk. But he got over that, and then there wasn't any danger, ‘cause it wasn't a hard pull. But anyway, he was getting his $5 a day, that's what he was after."
Grant Wallace of the San Francisco Bulletin could not just stand by and cover the day's events, he tried to help out where he could. "While I helped lay-reader Ambrosio [Ortega]'s mother to round up and encoop a wary brood of chickens," he later wrote,
"I observed the wife [Jacinta] of her other son, Jesus, throwing an armful of books - spellers, arithmetics, poems - into the bonfire, along with bows and arrows, and superannuated aboriginal bric-a-brac. In reply to a surprised query, she explained that now they hated the white people and their religion and their books. Dogged and dejected, Captain Cibemoat [sic] with his wife, Ramona, and little girl, was the last to go. While I helped him to hitch a bony mustang to his top buggy, a tear or two coursed down his knife-scarred face; and as the teamsters tore down his little board cabin wherein he kept a restaurant, he muttered, ‘May they eat sand!'"
Wallace's description is reminiscent of the old tale that Cibimoat placed a "curse" on the hot springs before leaving. Roscinda spoke of the curse more than once. "They put a curse on it, that's why everything's going down," she told me in 1981. Once, on a visit to Cupa, she showed me the very spot at Cupa where she said it was done, saying that Cibimoat "kicked, kicked, kicked - three times - and spit." Some people have attributed the many financial problems of the Warner Hot Springs resort operators over the years to this curse, as well as the death of cattle baron Walter Vail in 1906, while he was leasing Warners Ranch (he was crushed between two street cars in Los Angeles). Others maintain that Capt. Cibimoat lifted the curse in 1917, when he attended the rededication of the Chapel of St. Francis at Warners.
But the real curse was about to be enacted "in the name of the law." By mid-morning, every wagon was loaded and ready to go. A number of the Cupeño had already set off in "their own light wagons and drove rapidly away ahead of the wagon train toward Pala, too proud and heartsick to witness the desecration of their ancient homes." Jenkins also set off for Pala ahead of the wagons, leaving the teamsters more or less in charge. A little after 10 a.m., John Brown climbed up onto the seat of the lead wagon next to Ambrosio Ortega, and shouted "Vamoose Pala!" and the journey began. Capt. Cibimoat was the last to leave. "We will go to Pala," he said, "but I cannot say that we will stay."
"INDIANS BUNDLED AWAY LIKE CATTLE TO PALA," read the banner headline in the Los Angeles Times the next day (much to Jenkins' disgust). "There was no trouble at all at leave-taking," Jenkins told a reporter. "We gave the Indians about all the time they asked, and when they decided to go with us, we were ready to take them.... All of the drivers are sworn in as officers. I have left the caravan in charge of them. But they do not need any one to watch out for them; they are as peaceable as lambs. While regretting to leave their old home, they are perfectly willing to go."
Mesa Grande pioneer Ed Davis, a friend to many of the local Indians, secured permission to visit Cupa two weeks later, to view the aftermath of the removal. He found everything in a "chaotic condition," with the village full of empty cans and boxes, rubbish, and other odds and ends. The ranch cowboys had already come through and shot all the stray dogs and cats that had been left behind.
When the wagons reached Puerta la Cruz, a few miles down the road, several other wagons were waiting there to join the sad procession. It was a different story at Mataguay and San José, however. When the teamsters arrived early that morning, they found the villages deserted. The inhabitants - two families at Mataguay and three at San José - had fled. Some of the Mataguay people were later gathered up. "Only one village," the Los Angeles Times reported, "San Jose, with its dozen unbleached American citizens, escaped. Its captain, on seeing the heavy farm wagons approaching to carry away his people's lares and penates, fled up the mountain said and his among the greasewood, and his people said they would go, but not to Pala, but would rather die in the cañons. They will be fetched later." La Puerta was removed even later still.
Stopping for lunch near the edge of the ranch, Grant Wallace noted that the Cupeño "lingered long on the last acre of Warner's Ranch, as though loath to go through the gates."
Roscinda Nolasquez rode in a buggy with some of her family. "It was a hard trip," she recalled, "...they wouldn't let up stop to drink water." Being thirsty was always one of Roscinda's strongest memories of the trip. "We were all crying," she said on another occasion, but "the drivers were all laughing and singing."
Trailing along behind the caravan, a group of young men on horseback (among them Jim Brittain) drove the Cupeño's herds of cattle and horses.
The Cupeño camped at Oak Grove that first night, beside the old Butterfield stage station which still stands today. They were offered food from the government, but many refused the rations out of self-respect. They were not beggars, they needed no charity. Others refused because of rumors that circulated through the camp. "Don't eat anything," Roscinda remembered hearing that night, "because they might poison you."
The next morning the Cupeño were roused up for an early breakfast, "by moonlight, in fact," Lawson noted in his diary. By 6 a.m. they were back on the road. "They kept going westward," Roscinda recalled. "They did not look back again." Lunch that day was at Dripping Springs, near what is now Vail Lake. That evening the caravan reached the lower end of the Pauba Valley, a few miles south of Temecula. As it often does, a low fog hung over the valley that night. Jenkins bought a cow from the Pauba ranch which was slaughtered and barbecued for dinner that night, and Luiseño from the nearby Pechanga Reservation (who had themselves been "removed" almost 30 years before) came with oranges and other small gifts. It must have been a poignant meeting.
On Thursday, May 14, the Cupeño started on the last leg of their journey, down the canyon where Pala Road now runs. "There was another road way [down] in the bottom [then]... the old road," Roscinda explained. "We came from Pechanga." The wagons were strung out along the steep, dusty grade, but around 9 a.m. they began slowly rolling into Pala.
"Why do we stop here?" some asked. Capt. Cibimoat finally came - the last to arrive. "Is this home?" he asked. "No muy bueno," he exclaimed, and broke down and cried. Seventy-five years later, Roscinda Nolasquez still remembered her first impression: "It was dirty," she said, "nothing but trees. We had no homes... we had nothing, we had nothing to eat."
The people huddled together, wondering what to do next. Grown men, including Domingo Moro and Cecilio Blacktooth were in tears. Then a red racer snake (paxa'a in Cupeño) darted through the crowd, breaking the tension. Hoping to further defuse the moment, Jenkins asked the Cupeño to help set up the 40-odd tents that would be their homes for the next six months. None of them had expected to go from living in solid adobe homes to temporary canvas tents. "They promised us good homes," Roscinda said, yet there they were, camping down by the river, "like gypsies." Over the coming weeks, she said, many of the people became sick. At Cupa, Roscinda said, "we were never sick, because we were bathing [in the hot springs] every day."
Water was another pressing matter. Before the afternoon was out, Capt. Cibimoat, "with Cecilio Blacktooth, the former chief, Domingo Moro, Amroso [sic] Ortega and Salvador Nolaquez [sic] went to the banks of the San Luis Rey River where a solemn pow wow was held. The river's waters were tested and its course was followed with particular care. The verdict was that it was good."
Still, it was not their beloved hot springs.
For his part, James Jenkins was very pleased with the removal. It was "indeed a most delicate task," he wrote soon afterwards, "and it gave me great pleasure to have them go to their new homes peacefully. To have been obliged to use force would have meant that they would forever be enemies of the government and many of them renegades."
Lummis, whom the San Diego Union (May 14, 1903) claimed was still "bitterly disappointed over his lack of success in bringing about the removal himself," maintained that Jenkins' apparent success was based as much on good luck as any talent he might possess, and continued to insist that soldiers should have been brought in. "[Y]our method of moving the Indians has bred a running sore with which the [Indian] Department will have to deal with for years to come," he wrote in an angry 18-page letter to Jenkins in September. Jenkins did the job "in a wrong and hazardous way," he wrote to President Roosevelt - a view no one else seemed to have shared.
Still, many well-meaning people heaved a collective sigh of relief once the removal was complete. A tragic situation, they felt, had been averted. It seems as if some of them simply could not see things from the Cupeño's point of view. Their former attorney, Frank Lewis, commented, "The loss to these Indians is a sentimental rather than a material one, for the land secured for them at Pala is better in every way than that which they were forced to leave...."
But sentiment is also real, as those who have been forced from their homes know. When the Cupeño arrived at Pala, there were at least a score of newspapermen and photographers present. Most left within a day or two, but Grant Wallace stayed on. "At the end of my two weeks stay among them," he later reported, "I found that many of the older people were still ‘muy triste' [very sad]. They had not yet ceased wasting fresh tears over old griefs, and still their ‘sorrows crown of sorrow is remembering happier things', for their love of home is stronger than ours."
San Felipe is Lost
"There is also another Indian village where the people are living with the sword of eviction suspended over their heads... even this poor refuge... has been coveted by the white man, with whom to covet is to acquire...." - Constance Du Bois, 1901
The owners of the Warner Ranch were not the only ones seeking the removal of the Indian ‘squatters' from their lands in the 1890s. On the desert slopes east of the ranch lay the Rancho Vallé de San Felipe, another old Mexican grant. Several Kumeyaay villages originally occupied the valley. One was at the lower end near what is now known as the Sentenac Cienega, where Highway 78 crosses the valley; it is mentioned by many early travelers on the Southern Emigrant Trail. Another was further up the valley, closer to Warner Pass (Teofulio Summit), down in a canyon beside another, smaller cienega; the Kumeyaay called it We-nelschi, but the outsiders simply called it the Cienega village.
Mesa Grande pioneer Ed Davis, a friend of the local Indians, described the Cienega village as "consisting of ten or a dozen adobe and grass huts with a little white-washed chapel, [it] is picturesquely situated on a small bench or mesa at the foot of Volcan Mountain and commands a fine view of the half-desert ranch of San Felipe, and the hot, barren mountains to the East. Immediately below the houses is a large willow thicket, and swamp from which the rancheria takes its name Cienega.... The people are very poor, and as the small fields cultivated are not nearly sufficient to afford a livelihood, most of the men secure work outside."
The Sentenac Cienega is still an important desert watering place, and was a valuable asset both to Kumeyaay and to the ranch owners - too valuable to leave in native hands. So sometime in the 1880s (perhaps before the Soboba suit was settled), the ranch owners evicted the larger, lower village the old-fashioned way - not by law, but by force, with a party of armed men. Some of the villagers probably moved to the upper village, others moved over the mountain to the Volcan Reservation, where the Santa Ysabel people had settled after being pushed off that rancho.
By the 1890s, times were changing, and so around October, 1891, a few months before the Warner Ranch lawsuits began, the ranch owners filed their own eviction suit in San Diego County Superior Court to remove the "Indian squatters" who "in fact claim it as their own."
With the final decision in Barker v Harvey in 1901, the San Felipe suit also went against the Indians, and the ranch owners began to push for their immediate removal. So the Indian Office decided that they too would be removed to Pala. How people from six different villages (plus the Luiseño already living at Pala), speaking three different languages were supposed to live together was left for them to figure out.
Mission Indian Agent L.A. Wright took charge of the removal with a few hired teamsters. He arrived in the village on September 4, 1903. Later he described the scene for Lummis:
"We arrived at the San Felipe reservation with the teams early in the morning and the Indians were all together or immediately assembled and I explained to them as fully and as carefully as I could how they had lost their land and my instructions to remove them to Pala and elaborated upon the subject of your Commission selecting land for the Warner's Ranch Indians and at the same time selecting land for the San Felipes so that they should be furnished lands and homes on an equal with the Warner's Ranch Indians. Every point was carefully explained to them but they still resisted removal and I gave them until noon to think it over.
"When I called them together in the afternoon they were fully determined and said they would never go to Pala. I was there, however, to carry out the orders of the Government to move them and I explained that it would be much better for them to assist in packing up their goods so that they would be packed carefully and nothing forgotten than to leave teamsters to attend to the matter."
Ed Davis, who followed the San Felipe removal closely, wrote: "After three hours of persuasion, with eighteen four-horse teams waiting outside, patience ceased to be a virtue, and the agent began operations by smashing in the locked door of the Capitan's house, with an axe, and ordering the contents to be loaded immediately onto the waiting wagons."
Continuing Agent Wright's account:
"It is true that two or three of the women at the other end of the rancheria ran out into the brush, likely from fear, but they were soon brought back and assisted in packing their effects. The removal was complete, the goods from every house being taken as well as the animals, including chickens, cats and dogs. The Indians were treated with every consideration and feeling of sympathy but with necessary firmness.... I will add that the San Felipe Indians are well behaved and did not show the rebellious spirit exhibited by the Agua Caliente Indians."
As at Cupa, the 35 or so villagers' possessions were loaded into the wagons, and the caravan set off for Pala late that same day. They spent three nights on the road, near the edge of the Warner Ranch, at Oak Grove, and on the Pauba Ranch before reaching Pala on September 7, 1903.
"A short time was given the Indians in which to select a camping site," Ed Davis wrote, "and then the unloading began. It was not long before all the pitiful possessions of the... Indians were scattered over half an acre of dusty ground and the work of erecting tents, provided by the government, began. Several tents were reared that night and the balance the following day. Their camp is a quarter mile west of the [Agua] Caliente Indians, along the bank of the river, San Luis Rey....
"The writer was at the camp the day succeeding their arrival and found some of them assisting with the tents, some fixing a goat corral and others sitting around, listlessly or preparing food, while trunks, boxes, ollas,... nets, morteros, metates, stoves, bedding, chairs, utensils, saddles and harnesses were scattered promiscuously over the ground. There people were sad and dejected and anything but resigned to their fate."
Among the new arrivals was Juanita Cuero. The next day, she wrote a letter to her brother, Ted Grand. His father, Fred, summarized it in his diary:
"...this land promised of Pala is nothing but a pure lie because they have seen nothing but a narrow valley between mountains without having arrived at any green field as they had promised them and that they had put [up] for them for the first night seven tents in place of ten but that probably tomorrow they were going to put ten [up] for them and that her mother [Florentina] wanted to come back right away and that the man who has charge of the Indians [Wright?], he had said that she could return from there but that it would gain more for her to wait to take her piece of land [in the allotment]... but [she felt] that San Felipe was where it was very much better for them...."
When Special Agent C.E. Kelsey visited Pala three years later, he cited bringing the San Felipes to join the Cupeño (and others) at Pala as typical of the insensitive mistakes made by the government. "Not a single word is alike in the two languages," he wrote, "...and... a great deal of the old animosity still survives. The San Felipe [people] removed to Pala number but thirty-four, a mere handful, surrounded by an overwhelming number of their hereditary enemies, and among whom they are unwelcome. The San Felipe are outraged in their feelings, or possibly in their prejudices, and will never be satisfied at Pala. They have said little on the subject, for they have all of a child's helplessness of making anyone understand. The government seems to learn very slowly that Indians are not all alike, and that different stocks or races of Indians ordinarily cannot be put together."
Nearly half the San Felipes had already left Pala by 1906, some for the Volcan Reservation, others for who knows where. Author J. Smeaton Chase found a few of them back near their old home when he passed through the area around 1915:
"A cluster of decaying adobes at the foot of the mountain marked the deserted village of the San Felipe Indians. This small ranchería shared the fate of the Agua Caliente village when the Warner Indians were evicted, fifteen years ago. One or two families, whose instinct for the old home was too strong to be defeated, still live about the locality. A few miles farther on I met a little procession of three wagons. On the seat of the first were two Indian women: one was driving, the other held upright a small wooden cross. In the bed of the wagon was a child's coffin, roughly made and unpainted. The other wagons held Indian men, women, and children, some of whom carried withered flowers and greenery. It was the funeral of a San Felipe boy on its way to the old burying-ground."
There are only about ten former villagers listed in the 1919 Pala Census. Most of the San Felipes who stayed eventually married into Cupeño families. Florencio Portillo, for example, married Roscinda Nolasquez's older sister, Regina, and had a number of children. Even on into the 1980s, Roscinda's nephew, Tommy Portillo, would sometimes tell family stories from San Felipe - another village lost to the white man's laws.
Life on the Reservation
At Cupa we lived well. And now, having lost our homes, we must live here at Pala today. I don't know if our homes are any good, but here we are. - Roscinda Nolasquez, 1962
Reservation life was a new experience for the Cupeño, and it would be years before they adjusted to their fate. They were strangers in a strange land, and it was a long time before they began to feel at home.
To understand why Pala was such an abhorrent place to the Cupeño, you first have to understand their feelings toward Cupa. Cupa was more than just their home; all of their life and livelihood, history and tradition, in fact all of their understanding of the world was tied directly to Cupa and its surrounding territory. Add to that the fact that they had been forced to abandon Cupa for a place with no familiarity, no associations, no traditions - and for that matter no homes - and the Cupeño's attitude towards Pala becomes clear.
Rather than issue rations to the "exiles," the government decided to pay the Cupeño to do the work needed to develop the reservation. The going rate was $1.50 a day, but payment was sometimes slow in coming. They harvested the crops already growing in the valley (hay, mostly), cleared areas for the village, and began digging irrigation ditches. In the fall, their pay was dropped to $1.25 a day, and the Cupeño staged a short strike. It was settled when the government agreed to provide them with tools and supplies from the Agency stores to make up for the loss of wages.
Frank Salmons, still the storekeeper and postmaster at Pala, reported in August, 1903 that the people "were inclined to be a little indifferent and sulky at first and the non-arrival of their tools probably added to their dissatisfaction. But now things are quite changed and there is never a grumble, unless it is a weak wail by one of the squaws. The Indians have done a lot of plowing, have built fences, dug ditches for irrigation and cut over 200 tons of hay."
That same month, Bishop Thomas J. Conaty visited Pala from Los Angeles, and re-consecrated the old mission chapel and a new cemetery east of the chapel that is still in use today (the old cemetery alongside the chapel was overcrowded even then). Fathers Edmund La Pointe and P.F. Grammen were sent as resident priests. Sadly, they decided to white-wash the interior of the chapel, covering over the original mission-era wall decorations. In the floods of 1916, the famous Pala campanile collapsed, but it was rebuilt a year later. By then, Fr. George Doyle had been stationed at Pala for several years, and also ministered to all the reservations grouped under the Pala Agency.
The Pala Agency was created along with reservation, and got its start in September, 1903, when Charles E. Shell was appointed the first agent. He was given charge of all the reservations in San Diego County (plus nearby Pechanga), while Agent Wright was left in charge of the Riverside County reservations. Shell was generally well-liked by the Cupeño during his three years at Pala. James Jenkins commented that Shell "seems to be the right man in the right place there, ...he is firm, practical and consistent and already has the fullest confidence of the people."
George Lawson kept a hand in Pala affairs on into 1904. Agent Wright complained soon after the removal that "When anything displeasing to the Indians comes up they immediately send for the despicable Brown - Lawson is living with the Indians and is constantly making trouble by his interferences."
The old Pala School was taken over as the reservation school, and a new school house for the local white children was built downstream, off the reservation. Mrs. Babbitt came with the Cupeño, and held classes in a tent until the old building was available, but she was soon re-assigned - perhaps because of her long-standing opposition to the removal - and Ora Salmons was hired in her place. She taught at Pala until her retirement in 1922, after teaching for 37 years on various San Diego County reservations.
Some of the children were also sent away to school, either to Father Hahn's St. Boniface School in Banning, or to the government's new Sherman Institute in Riverside, which had opened in 1901. Roscinda Nolasquez was sent to Sherman, and lived there for several years. When she arrived, she spoke no English, but was not allowed to speak her native language - could be whipped for doing so, in fact. At meals she would sometimes sit there hungry because see could not say in English something as simple as "Pass the bread." Eventually she learned English, though it was easier for the younger children than for Roscinda, who was heading into her teen years.
At first, she remembered, "all I did was just cry." Yet there were also good memories for Roscinda from her years at Sherman - playing basketball in the park, sneaking out to steal oranges from local orchards, and even learning to play the mandolin. "The first time [we played]," she recalled, "we were so proud of ourselves.... Mr. Wilder would be standing up with his stick [directing]." They played songs for the other students such as "Three Blind Mice" and "Over the Waves" (which they played "over and over," she said). Some of the boys in the audience would boo, but "we thought it was nice - we were so proud of ourselves."
In 1909, President Taft visited the Sherman Institute, and the students drilled for him. The girls were divided into four companies, "We had our uniforms on," Roscinda recalled. "We had to salute [and]... the girls had flags." Still, she admitted, they weren't very good at close order drill: "When they said, ‘Right about face!' we just bumped into one another."
At the time of the removal, Inspector Jenkins had agreed that the Cupeño and the other villagers would be reimbursed for any fruit trees, grape vines, or unharvested crops they were forced to leave behind when they were taken to the reservation. Agent Wright made the same promise to the San Felipes. The money was slow in coming, but seems to have eventually been paid.
The major concern at Pala in 1903 was how to house the Cupeño. The trouble started when the government rejected the idea that the Cupeño simply be allowed to build their own adobe houses, as they had done at Cupa. Then they also rejected the suggestion that the government provide lumber for the Cupeño to build wooden homes for themselves. Apparently the Indian Office wanted to give the Cupeño their new homes, to emphasize the fact that the government was now going to provide for their needs - and that they were now in charge. "[I]t is time they were taught that the Government has some voice in the affairs of the reservation," Agent Shell wrote.
But by trying to assert their dominance, the government made a massive blunder. Someone in Washington decided it would be best to purchase pre-fabricated buildings for use on the reservation - the Ducker Patent Portable House.
The Ducker Patent Portable House had been designed for vacation use at summer resorts in the East; they had thin board and batten walls, and a layer of tar paper over a wooden roof. Fully assembled, they were just 12 x 22 feet (264 square feet), and were meant to be divided into two or three rooms. Special Agent Kelsey bordered on the sarcastic in his 1906 report on the houses:
"[T]hings were rather at a standstill until the brilliant idea was evolved of getting temporary houses for the Indians to live in permanently. The Indians were inclined to be mutinous and openly threatened to return to Warner's Ranch. There was evident need for haste, so fifty portable houses were ordered by telegraph, - from New York. The order seems to have been filled in due course of business, and the delay in coming by freight, more than 4,000 miles, was no greater than usual with transcontinental freight, but as a time-saving device, it was hardly a success. It was nearly six months before the Indians got into the houses. The expense was double what wooden cabins built on the spot would have been, and about four times the cost of adobes. There would be less room to cavil at this purchase if the houses were fairly adapted to the purpose for which they were bought. The houses are well enough constructed for the purpose for which they are advertised and sold, that is for a temporary house, or wooden tent. As a permanent dwelling place for human beings they are far from satisfactory. Being composed of but a single thickness of board three-quarters of an inch thick, they are hot in summer and cold in winter. The California sun has sprung the narrow strips composing the panels and made cracks in about every panel. The sun has also warped the roof panels and injured the tarred paper which constitutes the rain-shedding part. The houses are neither dust-proof, nor water-proof, and are far inferior to the despised adobes."
The first 30 Ducker Patent Portable Houses began arriving in October, 1903, and it was immediately evident that this would not be enough, so 20 more were ordered. Even 50 was no where near enough. In the spring of 1904 Shell reported that there were still six families without any home at all. In 1906, the 49 houses still standing (one had already been destroyed in a wind storm) were home to 236 people - 156 of them over the age of 18! Most of the tiny homes had at least five residents; some had as many as nine.
Publicly, Shell was bland - "There was some grumbling about the size of these buildings and their airiness, but that has generally subsided." - but in his reports to the Indian Office, he was blunt:
"[T]hese houses are very unsatisfactory. I feel safe in saying that there is not a side section [of any] house that is not open admitting both light and wind when the wind blows which is most of the time here. People who visit do criticize them.... This openness is due to the material being poorly seasoned before [shipment]. During a recent dust storm the floors of these houses were covered with dust which blew through the cracks. This deficiency could not be seen until the houses were put together. If they have not yet been paid for I would suggest that an inspector be sent here to look at them.
"The Indian's houses are much too small for their needs and I recommend that I be allowed to expend $100 per house in building an addition 12' x 12' x 7½'. Estimate for materials and labor enclosed. I am compelled to allow them to use the government tents in addition to their houses as they have not sufficient room to store their household effects and [live] comfortably. These additions should be placed on each of the 50 houses."
The additions were never authorized, so to make do, many of the families removed the interior walls and lived in one large room. Others built brush ramadas adjoining the portable houses, and lived part of each day outdoors. Duncan McArthur, Agent Shell's successor at Pala, reported in 1907: "They are entirely too small to be divided into three rooms and they are used as two room houses by the Indians, as these houses are not ceiled they are very cold in winter. They are hot in summer. But this is not very material as the people live primarily out of doors during the summer season and use their homes mostly as places to cook, eat, dress and to store their supplies."
Katherine Mojado was attending school at St. Boniface in Banning at the time of the removal, but came to Pala soon after:
"We all lived in two room wooden houses," she recalled. "They were all numbered and I can remember that my mother's was number 12. We had a kitchen added on to ours, and a tent on the side of the house, which made it better for us, even though there was only my mother, myself, my sister and Joe Couro, my mother's god-child, living with us. How people with large families lived in those houses I still wonder about.
"At first there were no pipes for water. There was a well where Maxine Lugo now  lives and down there where the Portillos are. We all had outhouses in those days and the road behind where Vivian Banks and them live we used to call "toilet street," because all the outhouses were in a row back there. For a refrigerator my mother had a screened-in box covered with burlap that she kept wet to cool the food."
As late as 1944, 36 of the Ducker Patent Portable Houses still remained, and 26 were still in use. A few could still be found on the reservation in recent years.
Besides the infamous portable houses, the other buildings erected for the reservation were a school, office and storeroom, superintendent's cottage, teacher's cottage, a barn and a cement and stone jail.
The other key issue on the new Pala Reservation was water. Soon after the Cupeño's arrival, a shallow ditch was dug to irrigate some of the lands on the south side of the San Luis Rey River; but most of the reservation farm lands lay to the north. The south side ditch was improved in 1904-05, but was damaged by heavy rains in 1906. Special Agent Kelsey reported that this first ditch cost $18,000 and was greatly overbuilt - "a dozen times larger than there is land to irrigate, or water to irrigate with." Eventually the Indian Office appropriated the money to build a large cement-lined ditch north of the river (which essentially followed the course of an old mission-era irrigation ditch). The new ditch was completed in May, 1913, and the Cupeño celebrated with a fiesta, and the blessing of the work by the priests from San Luis Rey.
An abundance of water had been one of the key factors in selecting Pala for a reservation site, but as soon as the Warner Ranch was cleared of Indians (by moving them to Pala) plans could finally move ahead to dam the San Luis Rey River - thus depriving Pala of much of the water supply that had made it attractive in the first place. After more than 30 years of talk by various promoters, it was William G. Henshaw who finally got the dam built in 1922, and once the floodgates were closed, the flow of the San Luis Rey river has never been the same.
Even before the Cupeño had left Cupa, the Indian Office had sent a "government farmer" to help teach the Cupeño modern agricultural techniques. The first few men assigned to Cupa, and then Pala, seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot with the Cupeño, but A.T. Hammock (who arrived in 1914) was more practical than predecessors, and got on well. He was still there in 1916, when George Wharton James wrote:
"Almost every available foot of space is now under cultivation in that part of the valley near by, and further down, along the river, where the fields broaden out, many acres are yielding their rich and valuable crops.... As one now approaches Pala from either Oceanside or Agua Tibia he gazes upon a valley smiling in its dress of living green. Fields of alfalfa, corn, wheat, barley, beans, and chilis stretch out on every hand, relieved by fine orchards of apricots, peaches and olives.
"The[y]... are also successful stock raisers and have many head of cattle grazing on the wild lands of their reservation. They are also proud of their horses."
"The people worked very hard then," Katherine Mojado recalled. "The fields were all green and almost everybody had a garden to grow vegetables.... We would get up very early in the morning and go to the fields to work."
To help develop an economic base, reservation women were encouraged to weave baskets for sale to tourists. Various groups also worked on the reservations to teach the women "Spanish" lace making. At Pala, the Redlands Indian Society, a charitable organization, took on the task with help from the Sybil Carter Association of New York. In 1916 George Wharton James reported, "In the lace work-room, the last time I was there, thirty-nine weavers in all, varying from bright-eyed children of seven years, to aged grandmothers, were intently engaged upon the delicate work. The bobbins were being twisted and whirled with incredible rapidity and sureness, in the cases of the most expert, and all were as interested as could possibly be."
The lace-making experiment was short-lived, but baskets remained a popular sale item for decades.
Allotment began on the Pala Reservation in 1913. Every resident - man, woman, and child - was supposed to be given 1¾ acres of irrigated land plus six acres of dry land. In addition, the head of each family was to be given two lots for a home. The deeds stipulated that none of the property could be sold for 25 years. As on other reservations, allotment was a hot issue. Agent Shell had been ordered to carry out allotments in 1903, but was delayed by the lack of an accurate survey map and Cupeño opposition. The whole issue was a "live wire," he wrote to his superiors. "In my opinion this [allotment] should have been done by some man who could immediately leave the reservation and never return."
In 1907, former Warner's Ranch Indian Commission member Charles Partridge was asked to do the job. He met a few times with the Cupeño, who debated over the relative values of irrigated versus dry farms lands. He, too, finally gave up. As late as 1980, only 1,400 of the 7,722 acres on the Pala Reservation had been allotted
While some of the people soon left Pala for other reservations, others continued to arrive, and by the end of 1903 there were more than 220 people living at Pala. In all, some 285 people were "removed" to Pala in 1903, according to the Indian Office's calculations, but not all of them settled there. The 1919 Agency census lists only ten people from San Felipe still at Pala, along with three from Puerta la Cruz, one from San José (a woman who had married a Cupeño man), and none from either Mataguay or La Puerta.
Originally, the Cupeño were not allowed to leave the reservation for any reason without permission from the agent, but eventually they were allowed to travel, and some began to revisit their old home at Warner Hot Springs. A tourist resort had opened there in September, 1903, with the old Cupeño adobes were converted into tourist cabins. According to the San Diego Union (January 1, 1916), the Cupeño "make a sort of pilgrimage to the old graveyard across the mountains once a year and look with tear-dimmed eyes at the old adobe chapel built by their hands."
Resort manager F.S. Sandford tried to make them feel welcome. In 1911 he provided them a dinner in the dining room during their visit, and allowed them free use of the baths. In later years, the owners of the resort made quite a point of hiring Indian help at the resort, but the Cupeño who worked there - like Roscinda Nolasquez in the 1920s - were under strict orders not to discuss the removal with the guests. "I worked there," she recalled, "but I was never happy." She felt especially bad seeing the Indian "artifacts" locked up in display cases.
As the years went by, reservation life took its toll. On the last night of a holiday fiesta in January, 1920, as the clan leaders stood behind him, Domingo Moro rose to address the people:
"Women and men, hear me a little.... This is the last night that this fiesta is permitted to us. And tomorrow it ends in the morning. And you have to go to work.... I am not the only own who says, women and men, that we have wanted to have a good day, to pass the time just as the first people passed the time.... [T]oday we merely imitate what they used to do. And now the customs that they used to have are going. A few of the old people still remain here and there. And when they are gone, then no one will remember how it used to be. It will be finished, because you young people like me, my friends, you know that a government school is established where they can teach us to know how to take care of ourselves... you are all educated, and you want to take care of yourselves, to dress well. You do not want to see yourselves living according to the old ways. Now we all imitate the ways of the white man. And we must keep looking ahead, because the government says that these ways, the customs of the whites, we are to imitate. They spend much money on us to give us the white man's language and his customs. We should give thanks, we young adults, because upon us there is much money spent, so that we lean the customs, the customs of the white men. I say nothing more to these old ones, because they have passed on too far. And anyway, more than enough, they know what they have. That is all."
Was there a hint of irony in his voice that night? Or was it despair? We cannot know for sure. Moro was almost 60 by then, and had lived through many changes. Like his people, he had adapted, made changes, done what had to be done - and he had survived.
For the people of Domingo Moro's generation - the generation of Roscinda's parents, the generation who were the leaders of the Cupeño when they were driven from their homes - the removal of 1903 was the defining moment in their lives. They seldom spoke of it, Roscinda said, the memories were just too painful. Even more than 80 years later, the memories of the removal were old wounds for Roscinda that she hated to reopen. But she did, so that her people - so that all of us - would not forget.
It was a warm fall day in October, 1986, and I was back at Pala. I had been asked to give a talk on the Cupeño removal, and before I did, I wanted Roscinda to hear what I had to say. I read through my whole talk, which concluded:
"There are several hundred people living there at Pala now - and the number is growing, I'm told. Their removal is long behind them. Roscinda Nolasquez, now 94, is the last of those who made the trip in 1903. The memories are painful to her, but she still talks about it, trying to keep the facts straight and deny some of the ridiculous accounts that sometimes surface....
"I talk about this not to incriminate, but to remind people. It helps us to understand today when we know the background of things. I talk about the removal to keep the facts straight, and I also talk about it to keep the story alive. It's a bit of Southern California's history that should not be allowed to be lost with the deaths of the old people who made the trip from Cupa to Pala in 1903."
I finished reading, and looked up at Roscinda. "That's good," she said. "It's good."
"Well I hope they'll be interested to hear it," I said.
"Well they should," she replied.
I asked her if my talk all sounded right to her. Yes, she said, it was all true.
We were in the backyard at her grandson's home. It was the first time she had been outside in weeks. At 94, Roscinda was fading fast. She was confined to a wheelchair, and had survived two emergency surgeries that summer, but we had a pleasant visit, and she even helped me one last time to identify the people in some of the historical photographs I had recently acquired.
As I was leaving, I asked her to "think good thoughts for me" as I gave my talk. "I will," she promised.
That was the last time I ever saw her. Four months later, Roscinda Nolasquez was dead. With her died a part of Southern California's history that will never come again. Not just the removal, but her whole life. I attended her two-day funeral, a fascinating mix of Catholic and Cupeño customs. She is buried near her mother in the old graveyard at Cupa.
This article is not just a history, it is also my memorial to a remarkable woman. It is my way of saying thank you to Roscinda for her help, her encouragement, and most of all, her trust. I do not know if she would have endorsed all of my views of the people and events surrounding the removal, but I hope she would not have found any grave errors. It would be worth a great deal just to hear her say again, "That's good."
My home over there,
Now I remember it;
And when I see that mountain far away,
Why then I weep,
Why then I weep,
Remembering my home.
- Song of the Zia people of New Mexico
© Phil Brigandi