Cahuilla Indians Food

The native belief is that all food was once human and could talk just as we can. Mukat designated certain people in the beginning who were to become plants and be converted into food for our use.

The mesquite tree is the main reliance of the Desert Cahuilla for food. It is their staple. The mesquite tree grows to a height of from thirty to forty feet. The wood is very hard, and all of it, even the roots, is used as fuel. The leaves are small and abundant and the branches very spiny. On the desert, in the Coachella valley, these trees grow in clumps, their roots reaching down to the subsoil water.

The mesquite beans, which ripen in the late summer, and of which there are several varieties, are gathered in great quantities, dried, and packed away in basket granaries. These are not husked but are pounded in a stone mortar with a pestle. Many of the beans are worm-eaten in spots, but regardless of this they are all pounded together. A very fine meal is obtained in this way. It is then placed in an earthen dish and soaked. Then it is ready to be eaten and is very sweet and palatable.

I was told by several old men that the reason the Indians are dying so fast is that they are eating white man s food, canned goods and the like. They formerly used to eat their dogs when necessary, certain kinds of snakes, turtles, insects, in fact anything they happened to have around. They assert that from eating such food as this, the medicine men were much more powerful than they are now.

Mukat told Sokut (deer) that he must go to the mountains for he was to be food for the people. He told him he could hide in the bushes and high places for a while but that soon men would find him. Sokut felt very badly about this but he had to do as Mukat had told him to.


Hooper, Lucile. The Cahuilla Indians. Berkeley, California: University Of California Press. 1920.

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