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Katherine Siva Saubel's Views on Land and Language—Autobiography

An autobiography is the story of a person's life written by that person. Autobiographies can provide details about a specific community, time period, or location. Sometimes, these writings also show us the author's point of view about a certain issue. The paragraphs below are from Katherine Siva Saubel's autobiography, ‘Isill Héqwas Wáxish / A Dried Coyote's Tail. Saubel, a member of the Cahuilla people, wrote her book in both Cahuilla and English.


Primary Source

Né’iy níyik ‘ét héspen pengíñanqa ‘ív’i’ chém pá’ chemqálive’‘í’ témal . . . .
To me, the land upon which we live is a very precious resource . . . .

Pén kíiyalawi’chi’ pichem’áyawwe chém ‘éxenuk písh ‘íyaxwenap, kíll písh pem’elélkwenipi’ múchi’ika’.
We believe . . . that our environment should be preserved as is for future generations, and should not be destroyed.

Pé’ish pé’ níyaqa’ pen’áyawqa ‘ív’iy ‘éxenuk písh kíiyalawap ‘áchakwe’ mú’ chémemi’ ‘áyxanuk.
That is why I say that things should be preserved properly, the way that we (Indians) have always done it.

Pén chemháwaway’a’ tésa’ pengíñanqa héspen chémemi’ hishTáxliswetmi’ chémiyik . . . .
And our language is also a precious resource to us Indians . . . .

Wíhkwa’ táxwika’ híchiqa. Táxwika’ námiqa ‘ét háwawayill pén chemtém’a’.
The two go together. The two, the language and our land, overlap.

Híchamivi’ pichemkúktashwe chémem hishTáxliswetem ‘ív’iy téma’li’, píyik héspen chémem chémsun péma’ míyaxwe.
When we Indians speak of the land, the words come from our hearts.

Péish pé’ né’ nekúktashqalive’ pennánalqa ‘ív’iy chemeynúki’chi’ chemeytávi’chi’ qaméxenuk múchi’ika’ písh chemetéwap, qaháx’i’ písh chememámaywap, qaméxenuk ‘í’ písh kíiyalawap chemtém’a’ pén chemháwaway’a’.
That is why when I pray I ask the one who created us and placed us here to look after us in the future, in hopes that someone might help us in our effort to preserve our land and our language.

Excerpted from ‘Isill Héqwas Wáxish / A Dried Coyote's Tail, a two-volume set by Katherine Siva Saubel and Eric Elliot, Banning, California: Malki Museum Press, 2004, Book 1, pp. 454–455.


Background

The Cahuilla have lived in the southeastern deserts of California for thousands of years. Long ago, the Cahuilla language was spoken in and around what is now San Diego County and Riverside County. There were three different dialects, or ways of speaking, Cahuilla. Today, only a few people still speak the language. Katherine Siva Saubel was raised on the Palm Springs Reservation near San Diego, and learned to speak Cahuilla from her parents. For many years now, she has been working to preserve the language. Aside from her autobiography, she has also written a Cahuilla dictionary called, “I'Isniyatam (Designs): A Cahuilla Word Book.“