History & Culture

As part of the Great Basin Culture Area, the Chemehuevi a branch of the Southern Paiute, have been persistent occupants of the Mojave Desert. Known to themselves as Nuwu, (The People) they have been nomadic residents of the Mojave Desert’s mountains and canyons and the Colorado River shoreline for thousands of years.

In 1853, the people lost their traditional lands when the Federal government declared them public domain. Hostilities with the neighboring Mojave scattered the people now numbering no more than a few hundred people. By 1885 they had reunited in the Chemehuevi Valley. Elders  their first discovery of siwa’vaats as roadrunners racing down the valley to a forest of mesquite, their pods bursting with sweet beans.

Federal authorities established the Chemehuevi Valley Reservation in 1907. This protected some 36,000 acres of Chemehuevi homeland. But, the Tribal members were soon relocated to the Parker area, and their status as a tribe was taken away. With 1929 came the formation of the Metropolitan Water District, and, in 1935, Congress authorized the acquisition of as much of the reservation as necessary for the Parker Dam Project. In 1940, the flood gates closed and nearly 8000 acres of traditional Nuwuvi lands drowned.

From the early 1940’s, a persistent desire for recognition and self-determination fueled the struggle to achieve Federal recognition. Thirty years later, the Nüwü were formally reinstated as the Chemehuevi Tribe on June 5, 1970. Nuwuvi Days, the first Friday in June, recognizes the long struggle to return home and honor those who fought for it.

Today, the Reservation comprises approximately 32,000 acres of trust land that includes thirty miles of Colorado River frontage.