Katherine Siva Saubel dedicated her life to the preservation of the language and culture of her people. She was a nurturer, scholar, educator, museum founder, author, social activist and inspirational leader to all who knew her.
Saubel, an Indigenous person belonging to the Cahuilla tribe, grew up in poverty on reservations in Southern California. At school, speaking her native language was punished, as was opposing how her people were portrayed in history. The first Indigenous girl to graduate from Palm Springs High School, Saubel’s further education continued after marriage and child-rearing. Scholarships helped her learn anthropology.
In 1964, she and others founded the Malki Museum at the Morongo Reservation, the first Native American museum created and managed by
Native Americans. Saubel collaborated with scholars and produced books and articles on ethnobiology, Cahuilla grammar and other topics, beginning with Kunvachmal: A Cahuilla Tale in 1969. Saubel’s answer to pressure on Native Americans to abandon their language and beliefs to conform to society was to dedicate her life to preserving both – and with it, her people’s dignity.