The Flag of Morongo

To better understand the meaning of our flag, we need a better understanding of what is on it.

Firstly, we will start with the name “Morongo Band of Mission Indians”. What does that mean? What does that truly stand for? The name Morongo originates from one of our historic leaders in the late 1800s to the early 1900s, John Morongo who set forth the path of government and tribal relations. Originally the Morongo Reservation was established under a different name in 1876, Potrero. The Band of Mission Indians originates from the Mission Indian Federation (MIF) that was Southern California’s most popular and long-lived grass-roots political organization. Between 1919 and 1965, its membership wrestled with some of the most difficult political and legal questions of the 20th century. The MIF asserted rights to internal Sovereignty.

This leads to the phrase A Sovereignty Nation, meaning that our reservation Morongo is a self-governing nation with a government to government relationship with the state and federal government.

Lastly, but not least this brings us to our Symbol of Morongo. This symbol originates from one of our beautiful baskets currently on display at the Malki Museum. When Morongo won their gaming rights they needed a symbol of representation for their business going forward. When the tribe was looking for a symbol to represent the reservation they turned to an elder for advice on the matter, the design on this basket that was appointed fit the task at hand. This basket design represented Thunder and Lightning and to our people, the thunder and lightning represents a change in our environment and we felt that gaming brought upon a change in our tribal environment. 

Morongo’s Baseball Team (Circa 1940)

The Importance of Sage

This is what we believe as Native People:

When we gather sage, we must be mindful of our surroundings. We must pay attention to the ground as the living creatures that may be around. We are mindful of what the plants look like. Are they healthy? Are they damaged? Are there endangered species around? Are there dangerous plants around? We are mindful of the time of the year because some plants still might be making seeds, thus it is the wrong time to harvest. It’s always best to be with an adult that knows about these plants before hand.

When are out in the field and have an intention to harvest, it’s a good idea to bring tobacco and water. This is to give as an offering, we offer these things because we are taking. If we want to pick sage, we offer it tobacco in return for the sage that we are taking. We do our best to not just take from this word, but we try to give back as well. This is also why we bring water with us, we pour water on the plant we are taking from as well as the surrounding plants. Speak your intentions to the plant as you’re pouring out the water. Tell it why you need it as you give your pinch of tobacco and thank it.

Always be mindful not to just pick a lot of one plant, try to spread it to other plants if you need it. We do our best not to over harvest one plant or in one area. What we are eating, so are the animals of the area. If we take the seeds of the sage before they are ready, we are taking the food of the birds. 

Elder Katherine Siva Saubel said “The plants are alive. They might not communicate the way we do, but they do communicate. They feel us. This is why you talk to the plant before you pick it. Tell it why you need it, praise it, tell it how beautiful it is, and how much it is going to help you. Then as you are picking it, tell it thank you. After each piece, thank you.”

Frequently Asked Questions

What language(s) do we speak?

Morongo recognizes three languages: Serrano, (Wanakik) Cahuilla, and Cupeño. Although the Wanakik dialect of Cahuilla is not spoken anymore, we currently teach the Mountain dialect of the Cahuilla language.

Was the tribe’s religion always Catholic?

During the period after colonization, the first official religion was Catholicism. Later in 1892, the Moravian Church established a branch on the reservation. 

What foods did the tribe eat? What type of houses did they live in?

The People of the area ate many different foods that are easily found in the area, these included: acorns, yucca, agave, mesquite, rabbits, deer, and various types of cacti. The people would gather food during different times of the year (seasons). The men hunted deer, rabbit, and small game. The women would gather acorns from black oak trees. This was usually gathered in the fall. The acorns were then cracked, cleaned, and smashed with a mortar and a pestle. They were then leached several tiems through baskets. They were cooked into this mush, which was called wéwish (Cahuilla) and wiich (Serrano). This food was a great source of protein. The type of house was called kísh (Cahuilla, Cupeño) and kiich (Serrano). They were made from palm fronds, willow, and yucca fibers. The mulefat willow was used for the structure while the palm fronds were utilized as walls and the yucca fibers to weave the items together. 

What type of clothes did they wear?

According to an elder, Salvador Lopez, he said that “They would wear their hair long and some of the women would wear beaded bands to hold their hair back. They would make rabbit skin dresses, make jackets out of deer skin, and men’s shoes were made from deer skin.” But, by the time the Morongo Indian Reservation was formed the common clothes worn by the people was similar to the Mexican style of traditional clothing. 

Who was in charge of the tribe or band?

In the beginning, each group had a leader and a helper each of which were males. They would lead up to 50 to 100 people. In Cahuilla, these people were called the nét and pahá’. In Serrano, these people were called the kiika’ and paxa’. There was two leaders of Morongo, William Pablo who was the ceremonial leader of the Cahuilla people and John Morongo who was the leader of the Serrano people. John Morongo later became the official leader of Morongo.

What were some of the rules they had in the tribe?

The main rules were to treat your neighbors with kindness and to respect nature.

What type of technology did they have?

The main tools used were mano and metates which were large flat stones used to grind food into flour, digging sticks to dig up roots, throwing sticks for hunting small game such as rabbits, bows, and arrows.

Was the tribe’s name always the same as now, or was it different?

The Cahuilla people called the area Málki’, but when the U.S. government first established a reservation it was known as Potrero Reservation. The name Morongo came from one of the early leaders, namely Captain John Morongo.

Can you tell me about one important person from the tribe’s history?

John Morongo was a tribal leader that helped push Morongo in the right direction without him trying to find a way to peacefully negotiate the new and changing world, Morongo would not be where it is at today.

Where are they today? Are they a federally recognized tribe?

Morongo is currently a thriving community, which is also federally recognized.

Can you tell me 3 interesting facts about the tribe?

  1. The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is not a tribe of one group of people, but a tribe of three different groups that were forced to cohabitate because of the United State government.
  2. The Morongo Reservation contains one of the only inland peat bogs in the United States.
  3. The Arrowhead Bottling Company gets their water straight from a spring on the Morongo Reservation.