The Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave Cahuilla and Mojave

Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding area is home to many different indigenous tribes including the Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave Cahuilla, and Mojave. Joshua Tree National Park was originally set aside as Joshua Tree National Monument, taking its name from the Joshua Tree, a tree Yucca (Yucca brevifolia) that grows in forests in widespread parts of the Mojave Desert.


The Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave, and Cahuilla Peoples had territories that extended into the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree Park as its boundaries show today.

  • The Chemehuevi, part of the Southern Paiute, have been inhabitants of the area from the Mojave Desert to the Colorado River shoreline for thousands of years and in the past few hundred years traveled to the eastern parts of Joshua Tree National Park.
  • The Cahuilla tribe have been inhabitants of the San Bernardino basin, the San Jacinto Mountains, Coachella Valley and some of the southern Mojave Desert, their territory on the most southern and western part of Joshua Tree National Park.
  • The Serrano originally inhabited the area near the oasis of Mara and the northern parts of Joshua Tree National Park.
  • The Mojave people have been inhabitants of the Colorado river shoreline, on the border of California and Arizona and sometimes into the Eastern side of Joshua Tree National Park.
Indigenous Land Territories, Serrano, Cahuilla, Mojave, and Chemehuevi, Joshua Tree National Park


  • 1853 – the people lost their traditional lands when the Federal government declared them public domain.
  • 1876 – The Morongo Indian Reservation was one of nine small reservations created by President Ulysses S. Grant.
  • 1907 – Federal authorities established the Chemehuevi Valley Reservation.
  • 1913- The indigenous of the area surrounding had been pushed out of the Oasis of Mara any died from European brought diseases like smallpox.
  • 1935 – Congress authorized the acquisition of the Chemehuevi Valley Reservation for the Parker Dam Project. In 1940, the flood gates closed and nearly 8000 acres of traditional Nuwuvi lands drowned.
  • 1970 – The Nüwü were formally reinstated as the Chemehuevi Tribe.
  • 2004 – The Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa opened and is one of the largest tribal gaming facilities in the nation.

The Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave Cahuilla and Mojave Way of Life

The Cahuilla and Serrano lived near reliable water sources most notably, hot springs. The Chemehuevi moved seasonally to hunt and gather and stayed for longer periods during the cold months. The plants and animals from the Joshua Tree/ Mojave Desert area were plentiful and heavily relied on. Many plants and trees were used to make bows and arrows, baskets, and other tools while food varied from small and large mammals to reptiles in drier years.

The Cahuilla, Serrano and Chemehuevi were more non-political, ethnic nationalities while the Mojave called themselves by their name, claimed territory, and went to war as one group.


The Serrano, Chemehuevi, Mojave and Cahuilla today

The Cahuilla tribe is currently located near Anza, California. As a sovereign nation they have a Tribal library, cultural classes, scholarships, environmental protection work, and sport activities.

The Morongo Band, comprised of the Serrano and Cahuilla people, currently employ 3,000 people in the area and have an established economic role in the Coachella Valley.

The Chemehuevi Tribe, by Havasu Lake, has infrastructure and education to fully support members living on the reservation.

The Mojave people are currently on the Fort Mojave which encompasses land in Arizona, Nevada and California. They have an annual Pow Wow every February that welcomes tribes from all over North America to celebrate.