Explore Palm Springs: Katherine Siva Saubel

She became the dominant interpreter of Cahuilla history and culture


Cahuilla elder Katherine Siva Saubel, self-described as the “voice in the wilderness,” died of natural causes Nov. 1, 2011, at her home on the Morongo Reservation.

Saubel was one of the few people remaining who were able to speak in the language of the Cahuilla people as well as sing the songs that conveyed her peoples’ ancient stories.

In 1958, she met Lowell Bean, a UCLA graduate student in ethnology and anthropology who was on a mission to uncover whether there was any viable Native American culture left in the tribes that lived in Riverside and San Diego counties.

Saubel became the dominant interpreter of Cahuilla history and culture in the area.  Upon her husband’s death in 1985, she said there was no one left for her to speak her language with. “When you lose your language, you lose everything,” she said. “You can’t interpret your songs, your stories - it is all gone.”

She co-wrote a Cahuilla dictionary with Jans Jacob Seiler, and lectured on Cahuilla culture at universities in the United States, Japan and Germany.

In recognition of her efforts to perpetuate the Cahuilla culture, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca, NY, in 1993. She also received the Chancellor’s Medal from the University of California-Riverside, and an honorary doctorate from La Sierra University in Riverside.

As the city celebrates its 75th anniversary, there is a multitude of ways to learn more about this desert treasure. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring the city’s history.

The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place corresponds with today.

The Palm Springs Historical is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. For more information, visit www.pshistoricalsociety.org

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Desert Guide
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Explore Palm Springs: Little League Baseball

Palm Springs Mayor Florian Boyd tossed out the first baseball of the opening game of the 1956 Palm Springs Little League Series on June 7, 1956.

Explore Palm Springs: Oliver S. McKinney

Oliver S. McKinney found a way to tap into the water source that helped the Greater Palm Springs area flourish.

Explore Palm Springs: Harry's Café

The graduation class from Nellie Coffman Junior High in Palm Springs celebrated its promotion to Palm Springs High School at Harry’s Cafe, which later became a Frank Sinatra hangout called Ruby's Dunes.

Explore Palm Springs: Memorial Day

American Legion Owen Coffman Post 519 in Palm Springs has historically honored local servicemen and women who were killed in action. This year they will honor 27 local residents from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Explore Palm Springs: The Desert Turf Club

Seventy-five Coachella Valley officials gathered on May 3, 1957, to watch as bulldozers began to break up the sand dunes in an attempt to transform the barren desert into The Desert Turf Club, a luxury horseracing track.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

2014/15 Best of the Best

2014/15 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

Romantic Palm Springs Getaway

Romantic Palm Springs Getaway

Experience the beauty, romance and excitement of the Palm Springs area when you enter to be the lucky winner of this romantic couples getaway
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Edit ModuleShow Tags