Morongo Reservation (Cahuilla Nation)
Set at the foot of the beautiful San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Mountains, the Morongo Indian Reservation spans more than 35,000 acres and overlooks the vistas of the Banning Pass. Resilient and resourceful, the Morongo tribe has had to overcome many adversities.
Established in 1865, the Morongo Indian Reservation was one of nine small reservations created by President Ulysses S. Grant by executive order in 1876. In 1983, the path of Morongo's future changed when tribal members started a modest bingo hall. From this building evolved one of the oldest and most successful Indian gaming facilities in California. The present $250 million destination which opened in late 2004, the Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa, is one of the largest tribal gaming facilities in the nation.
With its diversification into non-gaming businesses, the tribe has become the largest private sector employer in the Banning-Beaumont region and is a major contributor to the Coachella Valley economy. The tribe now employs more than 3,000 people. An independent study reported that the tribe's gaming and non-gaming businesses would generate more than $2.8 billion into the regional economy by 2008. The tribe pays payroll taxes, unemployment benefits, employee benefits and provides health programs. More than two thirds of the Morongo workforce is composed of residents from the Banning Pass and desert cities.
On both community outreach and social education fronts, Morongo has taken a leadership role. The tribe gives generously on an annual basis to hundreds of local community groups. Today, the region's governments, businesses, community leaders and groups regard Morongo as a friend and partner. The Morongo tribe's progress is a case history that illustrates how combining a pro-active tribal government with sound economic development can enable tribes to turn their lives and communities around and dramatically impact the surrounding economic region.
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is actively working with government and community leaders to explore the best paths of future development and planning that will yield a better quality of life for this generation and for generations to come.
Whitewater, which is near the center of the valley, where the mountain ranges begin their gradual divergence, one from another, and the San Gorgonio Pass is lost in the Colorado desert, is only about 1,100 feet in elevation. The place takes its name from the river which flows across the valley from the San Bernardino mountains at a point east of the Whitewater ranch, and the river originally received the appellation from the fact that the water carries with it an immense quantity of fine sand, causing it to have almost a milky appearance. Previous to 1860, when the Smiths located a station for the stage line, there was nothing whatever to mark the site of the present ranch. With the discontinuance of the stage traffic, Whitewater was the headquarters for a cattle ranch, and at present is used in that capacity, serving as central point for a winter cattle range. Although the present adobe house at the ranch is not the original one, some of the bricks which form its thick walls were used in the first adobe, built about 1862. The first residents of the place diverted water from the river by means of a ditch to the ranch, and this method is still in use. The huge cottonwood trees, which were planted by the Smiths to furnish shade to the barren spot, are still standing, and these, with the green alfalfa patches near the house make a welcome oasis for desert travelers. About a mile southeast from the ranch the railroad maintains a small depot, water tank (which is supplied from the Snow creek, flowing down the steeps of San Jacinto) and a section house.