Gay Desert Hot Springs

‘This is our story’: Tribe plans Nov. 3 unveiling of massive project in heart of city five years in the making

Posted on September 9, 2023

The site of the museum, spa, and cultural center is one of the tribe’s most sacred spots. It’s there that a hot mineral spring containing water believed to be more than 12,000 years old bubbles to the surface.


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A rendering of the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza which is set to open in early November.

Five years after breaking ground on one of the most important and ambitious projects in its history, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians plans to open its cultural plaza and museum in early November.

Driving the news: Tribal officials said Friday they will hold a ground opening of the plaza and museum on Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., taking the wraps off a facility that has been hidden behind fencing in the heart of Downtown Palm Springs for years. When open, it will feature the museum, a public plaza, and an “Oasis Trail” that mimics nearby Indian Canyons.

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Looking back: Construction at the site kicked off in 2018, but like many other projects it was impacted by the pandemic starting in 2020. In March 2022, a tribal spokesperson said supply chain issues had been overcome and the build-out of the interior was underway with a hopeful opening in 2023. 

  • An adjacent spa opened in April. It’s the fifth iteration of a spa on the property and was built at the former site of the Spa Resort Casino, which was torn down starting in 2014.

Why it matters: The site of the museum, spa, and cultural center — at the intersection of East Tahquitz Canyon Way and Indian Canyon Drive — is one of the tribe’s most sacred spots. It’s there that a hot mineral spring, known as Séc-he, bubbles to the surface. It contains water believed to be more than 12,000 years old.

Zoom in: Included in the nearly six-acre facility will be an outdoor gathering plaza adjacent to the hot mineral spring, and the Oasis Trail, designed to mimic the distinctive character, geology, flora, and beauty of the nearby Tahquitz Canyon and Indian Canyons, ancestral homes of the Agua Caliente people. 

Ground was broken in May of 2018 on one of the most significant projects ever for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. 
  • The museum will span approximately 48,000 square feet and features permanent exhibition space dedicated to the history and culture of the tribe. It also includes an educational classroom, a teaching garden, and meeting-event space.

What they’re saying: “The Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza provides an incredible opportunity for us to share and celebrate our history, culture, and traditions with this community and visitors from around the world,” Tribal Chairman Reid D. Milanovich said Friday. “… We want to share our culture with visitors through our authentic voice. This is our story, in our own voice. We are here today just like we have been since time immemorial.”



Mark first moved to the Coachella Valley in 1994 and is currently a Palm Springs resident. After a long career in newspapers (including The Desert Sun) and major digital news websites, he founded The Palm Springs Post in 2021.