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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 4 , 2002 - Issue 60


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Cahuilla Tribal Elder Honored for Her Work

by Michelle Dearmond The Press-Enterprise
credits:William Wilson Lewis III The Press-Enterprise
Katherine Siva Saubel, chairwoman of the Los Coyotes tribe in northern San Diego County, receives the Chancellor's Medal on from David Warren, acting chancellor of UC Riverside. The medal is the University of California system's highest honor.
RIVERSIDE - Family members credit her with improving life dramatically on their rugged, mountainous reservation through the introduction of electricity and phone service just a few years ago.

Tribal leaders praise her for working to preserve the heritage of tribes across Southern California, and scholars praise her tireless efforts to teach others the history of her people and to record it.

On Saturday, dozens of fans of Katherine Siva Saubel gathered to honor the 82-year-old Cahuilla Indian woman as she received the Chancellor's Medal at UC Riverside.

Saubel said she was in shock over the award and was surprised to learn her admirers had written so many letters on her behalf to get the medal.

"I'm really rich in family and poor in money," she said after David Warren, the university's acting chancellor, hung the medal and its wide ribbon around her neck.

Saubel, chairwoman of the impoverished Los Coyotes tribe in northern San Diego County, has traveled around the world teaching about the culture of her people and their ancient language, Cahuilla. She co-founded the Malki Museum of Indian history at the Morongo Indian reservation near Banning, founded a press that has produced extensive scholarly works on tribal culture, and has testified in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. as an expert on Indian culture and history.

"She is a unique, one-of-a-kind, fantastic kind of person," Warren said before giving Saubel the medal. "I hope (the medal) will draw attention to her work and the importance of her work being carried on by future generations."

University officials chose to dedicate an entire day to honoring Saubel after Warren decided to bestow the medal on her based on letters from multiple faculty members and supporters.

Indians from across Southern California traveled to see the tribal elder receive the University of California system's highest honor, which was awarded to former President Gerald Ford, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Scholars and speakers with ties to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs and the Pechanga Band of LuiseÄno Indians lectured for three hours about the need to revitalize Indian heritage, and praised Saubel's contributions to that end.

An invitation-only lunch, complete with Indian breads and other traditional foods, took place outdoors as a musician played a wind instrument before about 200 admirers, including community members and UCR faculty.

Saubel was elected in December 1997 as her tribe's leader and has overseen the installation of phone service and electricity on her reservation thanks to the donations of three San Diego County tribes.

Katherine Siva Saubel
Katherine Siva Saubel is an internationally known Cahuilla scholar whose work on the history, literature, and culture of her people has appeared in numerous publications. In addition to making significant contributions in such varied fields as ethnobotany and linguistics, she helped to found the Malki Museum, the first non-profit tribal museum on a Native American reservation in California.

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