Blue Heron in flight

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bitter water

Warner Springs Ranch has been sold. It has a quite interesting and rather sordid history. The Ranch was originally a village inhabited by local Cupeño indians who lost control of their holdings when forced to work for the Spanish missionaries who had conquered their land. They were supposed to keep ownership under Mexican law but their rights were somehow disregarded. For the Cupeño's own historical recount, read this.
"The word Cupeño is of Spanish derivation, adopting the native place-name Kupa and appending Spanish — "eño" to mean a person who lives in or hails from Kupa. The Cupeños, however, called themselves Kuupangaxwichem, or "people who slept here." The Cupans were one of the smallest native American tribes in Southern California. It is unlikely that they ever numbered more than 1000 in size. They once occupied a territory 10 square miles in diameter in a mountainous region at the headwaters of the San Luis Rey River in the valley of San Jose de Valle. Many of the Pala Indians trace their heritage back to Cupa. Today, more than 90 years after having been expelled from their native homeland, the Cupeños call Pala, California home and live as one among the Luiseño tribe. Before 1810, the Cupans had very little contact with outsiders — Spanish or otherwise. The land they had lived on for countless generations, including the medicinal hot springs and the village called Cupa now is controlled and used to the exclusion of the Cupans by Americans who displaced them. As the Spanish, Mexicans and, later, the American trailblazers grew in number in the region, the Cupans began to work in serf-like relations to the newcomers.Discontent quickly spread among the Cupans. The pioneers who trekked west through the southern route did so on a trail that ran directly through the Cupan territory. To add insult to injury, American officials in San Diego concluded that a reasonable source of revenue would be a taxation upon the Indians of the backcountry. The Cupans were assessed a $600 tax that with great resentment was finally paid by the villagers.Tensions mounted and shortly after California was made a state in 1848, a Cupeno named Antonio Garra attempted to unite Southern California Indians against all foreigners by organizing a revolt. Garra, his son and a renegade American sailor were able to unify many of the Indian tribes of the region. But just moments before a grand attack was to commence, a pro-American chief leading the Cahuilla tribe opted out of the coalition to sue for peace. This dissolution of unity was Garra’s undoing and within days, Garra was executed and the village of Cupa was burned."
In 1830 a fur trader from Connecticut named John Warner left Connecticut and headed to California, passing through this valley. By 1844, he had become a naturalized Mexican citizen and changed his name to Juan Jose Warner. He received the Rancho San Jose del Valle Mexican land grant, establishing a successful cattle ranch comprising over 47,000 square miles.

From 1849-1861, the ranch served travelers on the Gila River Emigrant Trail which was part of the Southern Trail. This was the only trading post between New Mexico and Los Angeles on a wagon road developed after the Mexican–American War. Many newcomers arrived on this trail, further decimating historic indian land and holdings. This trail later was also used by the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line, from 1857-1861.

When California became part of the United States, the Cupeño, many of whom worked at Warner Ranch, were heavily taxed. The Warner Ranch had a very negative reputation for severe mistreatment of Indians. The natives revolted but were ultimately put down.

Cupa Basketweavers
I remember being picked up hitchhiking in the early seventies and meeting an old cupeño man at his squalid home. He spent over two hours telling me how his tribe had been wronged and about the curse that the Indians laid on John Warner, something that has been quietly talked about in the area for many years. The pain of the forced removal has never left the tribe.

In 1880, John Downey, a former governor of California, took possession of the ranch and became the sole owner. He started proceedings to evict the Cupeño, the rightful owners, in 1892. The tribe challenged his actions but lost in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1901, who were sympathetic to their claims but said that the Cupa took too long to file.

Warner Ranch House, circa 1894
The Cupeño then tried to raise money to buy the property but unable to, were forcibly removed in 1903 and sent to the reservation at Pala.

Removal from Cupa

I am not sure about the efficacy of the curse but the history of the area and the hot springs has been pretty turbulent. Many people have tried to make a go of the place and it always ends up seriously screwed up. I remember sneaking in to the hot springs one night many years ago as a kid. Warner Springs Ranch has been mired in litigation and squabbles seemingly forever.

Cupeño tribe at Cupa
The Pala Indians, who took in the Cupeños, historic owners of the land, put a recent $13 million dollar bid in to buy the homeland back. Yesterday a bankruptcy judge chose to accept a lesser bid of $11.75 million dollars from the Pacific Hospitality Group. The Cupeños are shit out of luck. White man screwed you once again.


Anonymous said...

Pacific hospitality group? Holy fuck they did get screwed!! So I suppose they will reopen as some slick spa for pasty white fucks...


Anonymous said...

It wouldn't surprise me if the spa is themed for "weekend Indians" and has all the plasticized/commercialized authenticity of Old Town Temecula.

Anonymous said...

Luisenos disenrolled the cupas, see what happens? Ain't karma a bitch?

johanna said...

my husbands grandfather Arthur (Sam Taylor family) was born at Warners Ranch, infact Sams wife; Mary's great grandmoher Ysabel Garra's father was Antonio Garra...if i understand it right...We always go by Warners Ranch when visiting and last time it was made into a museum, with several of our family's belongings kept and restored. We thought it was beuatifully made. Has it sold since this? or was the sale prior to this? Also, if anyone knows of the Taylor families, i am looking for information about Arthur's wife Teresa born woods and her side of the family tree. We live abroad now but our daughter is named Ysabel after Santa Ysabel and her great great great grandmother, Antonios daughter :)

Blue Heron said...
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