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Palm Springs scenery. Photo via

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians plans to build a 5.8-acre cultural center in downtown Palm Springs.

The project will include a museum, spa and bathhouse, plaza and gardens, according to tribal officials. Construction is expected to begin early next year and take about two years to complete.

The announcement comes about six months after the tribe announced plans for a 12.5-acre development project in Cathedral City that includes a casino.

“This new cultural center provides an incredible opportunity to share and celebrate our history, culture and traditions with this community and visitors from around the world,” Tribal Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe said. “Each of the 566 federally recognized tribes throughout this country has a distinct culture that includes traditions, language, historic clothing and housing styles, as well as historical food and medicine preparations. We want to share that with others, as well as acknowledge the fact that we are alive and well today living in the modern world.”

The design of the cultural center, by Phoenix-based JCJ Architecture, will reflect Agua Caliente traditions of basket weaving and pottery, along with the surrounding desert landscape.

The museum will occupy about 48,000 square feet. Outdoor spaces will include a plaza adjacent to the tribe’s hot spring, where “tribal members and visitors can celebrate community, history and pay respect to the life-giving waters that helped shape the Palm Springs region,” and a trail snaking between the museum and spa will recreate “the distinctive character, geology, flora and beauty of the nearby Indian Canyons,” according to a statement released by the tribe.

“The new museum will be a state-of-the-art facility with a basket-starter shape incorporated in its architectural design and a dome element in the grand lobby,” Agua Caliente Cultural Museum Director Julia Bussinger said. “It will adhere to the best museum environmental standards to display and take care of our collections, and host world traveling exhibitions. This is an exciting time. My staff and I are ready for the opportunities ahead of us, and we will work diligently to convey the living culture continuum.”

Agua Caliente Cultural Museum Board Chairwoman Millie Browne said the new museum “will provide a resource not only to the Agua Caliente community but to native and indigenous people around the world.”

“A greater and more modern space will allow us to share our culture and the culture of all native peoples,” she said. “Their issues are our issues, and our issues theirs. Land and water rights, cultural heritage are only a couple of examples, but through education and collaboration, we can educate guests from around the globe right here in Palm Springs.

My hope for the future is that the museum will continue to grow in the new space, and that the museum will become a world-class destination and global resource for sharing knowledge and experience across not just indigenous people, but all people, to help understand their past, present and future,” Browne said. “Our elders could see that our history needed to be preserved for future generations as well as the public. This is our new Roundhouse, the place to share our history, knowledge and culture.”

–City News Service

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