Washingtonia filifera:

Nevada's rejected ancient Palm.

-Spencer, Winton
© 1995-2011
mail to:isat405oak (a) yahoo

-A 10 page Introduction to the problem of Palms in Moapa Nevada:

[ - For an EXTREMELY short version of this info as 11 quick facts - CLICK HERE - ]
[ - For a 7 page updated Version Please CLICK HERE - ]
[ - For the FULL 100 page report with citations/footnotes/bibliography and photos in six parts Please CLICK HERE - ]

People traveling to Las Vegas for the first time are often surprised to see the number of Palm trees in the landscape there. Most people would probably speculate that those palms are just another artificial illusion; an exotic experiment flirting with climatic limitations. Since Palms were not known historically in Las Vegas one could say that such assumptions partially apply. However, just one-hundred Kilometers north-east in a small series of valleys collectively known as Moapa there is now ample evidence that one particular palm is not exotic at all. As a matter of fact, it is actually an ancient native species there. It was also native for over 50 million years to areas as far north as Colorado and Oregon and possibly even Canada. IT is now reduced to small pockets of oases scattered through the warmer deserts of the Southwest in the United states and a couple of locales south of the border in Mexico. In fact, It is the ONLY palm native to the Western United states. That's right. This is NOT a tropical plant at all... but a temperate one that has been Native to the Southwestern Deserts of North America for longer than almost any other plant around.

In no less than 10 warm springs along both the Muddy and Virgin Rivers, Palm Oases or groves flourish- harboring from 4 and 4,000 wild palm specimens. The recent evidence indicates that, in fact, these groves most certainly greeted the first Europeans to the area even though currently official references claim that California's Turtle Mountains ( 211 kilometers to the south, to be the northernmost natural reach for identical groves of this type of Palm which is known as the Desert Fan Palm or Washingtonia filifera, -(the Palm's proper name.)

In Moapa something most do not expect occurs: -A small finger of the Colorado life zone (A warmer winter climate zone) extends northward enabling support for a biotic community which often appears out of place even to many less informed researchers. The climate in Moapa has been repeatedly under-represented even in some well regarded reference works. Some lay publications have drastically misrepresented Moapa's climate as well for many years. -(Such as Sunset's Western Garden Encyclopedia.)

Furthermore, -For 90 years a single errant White tradition has dominated all official references to Moapa's palms, incorrectly maintaining that a White man, Mendis Cooper, introduced them. This idea was promoted by some Locals involved (unprofessionally) in early local Archaeology, and effectively intercepted all flora surveys to the exclusion of important but conflicting White testimony and all local Native American testimony.

Ethnographer's local reports have thus also missed the Native American Moapa connection to the local palms. This article's publication on the World Wide Web, comes just as the last memories of these things border on extinction with the few Elders of the Moapa tribe who still recall eye-witness accounts of the very last Palm fruit ever harvested by Moapa people.

This information is also very urgent because the official but under-substantiated conclusions about these groves wherein government researchers are attempting to insist that Moapa's palms are recent introductions has spawned some very destructive official policies. Since most groves exist on various government properties around Moapa, -Tax-payer paid caretakers are now planning on removing those Palms based on ideas that may actually be faulty while they ignore long standing available but unheard Local Native American testimony.

This article examines previously ignored but existing White testimonials and Native Moapa testimonials none of which has been officially investigated. These testimonials along with other documentation and rebuttal to existing unfounded claims demonstrate that the removal of these palms clearly may actually represent a serious final insult to the local Native Moapa Americans and certainly represents serious permanent threat to a very very ancient plant 50 times older than humans. I advocate restraint which is infinitely more reasonable until more objective and prudent official investigations into the Palm's aboriginal anthropological and botanical legacy are conducted. This is vital to Moapa Indian history and it is vital to botany in these natural areas of Nevada. The overly relied upon 'Cooper anecdote' is simply far too under-substantiated, simplistic and provably anachronistic and inadequate justification for the current planned Tax funded destruction.

Though the testimonials I offer here are also anecdotal ( like the Cooper story, ) -they actually provide far greater detail, MORE specifics and are all in agreement. Furthermore they effectively predate the Cooper anecdote while outnumbering it seven to one ! -If agencies insist on basing their official positions on testimonials rather than on science, then why have they so far appeared so blank-faced and so opposed to investigating these VERY relevant testimonials before making their PERMANENT and destructive decisions? WE CANNOT UNDO THIS ONCE IT IS DONE. Please note: -NONE possess any provable scientific factual basis for their current claim that this plant is a recent HUMAN introduction (excepting the Cooper story,) -and yet they have so far effectively avoided contacting the relevant Moapa Paiutes regarding what they may know about the Palms. More unbelievable still, since such time as I have obtained actual signed Paiute affidavits, (which testimony many locals have been hearing for over a century,) ...The only Official responses so far have been - 'no response'.

Also ignored are the following extremely important and more 'scientific' observations while supplying no opposing 'scientific' observations in support of their own indefensible official policies and positions:

At least a 90% positive associated riparian plant community comparison found between Moapa and other known or recognized native groves; (a technique botanists have usee in other grove native status findings but completely ignored in Moapa until this documentation.)

Definite positive Ethnobotanical, Linguistic and artifact associations (such as deep bedrock mortars within Palm groves themselves ) and other such parallels between Moapa groves and other recognized native groves - this evidence ALSO exists and we have statements as well as photographic evidence.

Highly comparable Climatological, hydrological and topographical considerations indicative of a likely endemic status for Palm Grove incidence in Moapa. This has also been collected over a period of 25 years.

Living Elderly White Mormons have testified that Palms were routinely destroyed for many years as nuisances. Yet the official stance is to continue to base their policy on a failure to locate any early written or photographic local palm documentation, and on some very tenuous assumptions surrounding the Cooper story. However I strongly reiterate: the agencies in Clark County currently offer no strong supporting scientific evidence or documentation upon which they may soundly base their current removal and non-native policy.

It is re-evaluation time for such strategies which carelessly destroy without proof of necessity, while apparently avoiding any clear effort to investigate relevant conflicting testimony.


Moapa has been historically occupied +/-1000 years by several southern Paiute bands. Culturally somewhat different from other Paiutes, (See ethnographical books by Lowell John Bean and others) - the Moapa were described as more agrarian, subsisting partially on small family plots. Additionally, various widely practiced northern traditions such as 'rabbit drives' were unknown. (see footnotes in main 100 page document.)

They had especially close trading associations with lower Colorado peoples sharing definite linguistic and some cultural ties. The local rivers are Colorado tributaries (indicating the area is not Great Basin) and one can travel the entire Moapa trade routes to Mexico never lacking water in the most hostile of deserts. On these main trade routes one encounters the ToHono O'odham, Pima, Cahuilla, and Wahirio. All of these Aboriginal groups not only share Uto-Aztecan heritage with the Moapa but are additionally the only cultures in our Southwest known to traditionally and anciently use Palms. Identical mortars used for palm fruit remain permanently associated with natural Palm groves found among all these groups -including the Moapa. Note: closely neighboring non-Uto-Aztecan cultures apparently never used Palms. This alone may be revealing.

By the 1700's the Spanish had blazed a trail through Moapa. However, They missed all the main valleys and probably missed possible historic palms by at least 25 kilometers. No Spanish settlements or references to Palms are known save for one letter purportedly to be in Texas. Since it has never been located, this letter is considered little more than interesting but unsubstantiated hearsay.

The normally descriptive explorer Fremont followed in the 1840's. His unusually terse logs were limited mainly to his direction of travel suggesting he never viewed areas possibly supporting any Washingtonia filifera palms. (Note, Throughout it's habitat Washingtonia persists in isolated pockets.)

In the 1860's several Mormon families were sent by Brigham Young to claim the area. However redundant hostilities associated with the Upper Moapa Valley, (which was and is the main native Moapa home-lands, location of their sacred Warm Springs as well as the entire areas most extensive Palm groves,) apparently dictated that all early Whites settled in the Meadow Valley wash about 10 kilometers to the east or most predominantly in the Lower Valley - (near present day Logandale and Overton). Government surveys later revealed they had settled in Nevada and not Utah as they had believed. This was the excuse they needed to abandon the much 'hated' Moapa and return to Utah. In the 1870's Brigham sent more brave souls to re-claim the area.

Then in 1893 a Mormon named Cooper arrived in Overton at the Southern end of the three valleys exactly 62 kilometers from the still sparsely settled Upper Valley. Hailing from Phoenix, he fathered nine children before dying 10 years later in 1903. He planted nine Palms on his property in a typical Mormon settler fashion -a straight line- and declared to his children to be the first to plant Palms in Overton. Beyond this simple claim, Mendis Cooper never revealed where he obtained his seeds nor did he imply that he meant he brought palms to the entire Moapa region.

His children passed down his simple statement as part of a published work. Later elaboration by outsiders was that he brought seed from Phoenix in 1893. This unsubstantiated speculation is most likely an impossibility. Early researchers logically consulted the local Archaeology museum (established early in the 1900's) which was later headed by Cooper in-laws and Cooper truths along with these presumptions regarding the alleged Phoenix seed source quickly gained acceptance as a local fact. The story incorrectly presumed however, that Washingtonia seed was available in Phoenix in 1893. The fact is that Washingtonia filifera Palms did not even exist in Phoenix until well after Mendis had died in Overton ! Moreover... the currently still extant original Cooper Palms are about 6 meters equidistant from each other in a straight line along the front of the property. Not likely he planted seeds after all! In fact he most likely planted plants, not seeds. Few people plant seeds so far apart and then wait for them to sprout! He most likely plant plants and it is VERY dubious he would have kept watered plants on the long journey from Mesa where NO PALMS EXISTED in 1893! (see next paragraph!)

Unfortunately for Local palms however, Researchers never bothered to investigate this irony. Only years later in an article entitled: 'A Second Locality for Native Desert Fan Palms', (Washingtonia filifera) in Arizona', did researchers Brown, Carmony, Lowe and Turner for the Arizona academy of Sciences demonstrate that there were no Washingtonia palms in Phoenix before Cooper's death. So if he planted PLANTS and not seeds... where did he get them? Most likely from a decidedly MORE local source!

Investigating the seed question further, Although Mendis is purported to have planted seeds rather than transplants, a seed source is not forthcoming along any known route to Moapa. Castle Creek's groves in Central Arizona -(the only possible seed source en route,)- were virtually unknown in 1893 (except to the local JL-Bar Ranch ) -and were furthermore at least 50 miles round-trip out of Cooper's way from Cooper's, -(the normal route). However all this time, a small hidden grove apparently existed outside Overton only 2 miles from Cooper's homestead. Old timers have indicated that this grove was old in the early 1900's. Extant bedrock mortars also demonstrate a longtime aboriginal presence there. This grove, while most likely Cooper's seed source would firstly allow him honest credit as the First to Plant Palms in Overton and secondly -(but ironically )- indicate that Palms already existed locally nearby, safely above Overton's flood plain.

Most people living in the Lower valley until after 1920 were initially familiarized with Cooper's planted palms. When botanists arrived in 1914 and queried the locals about wild palms, locals speculated that Cooper had planted them and passed this speculation on to Researchers. Ostensibly researchers thereafter dutifully ignored palms since it is clear that they included exotics like Tamarix alongside existing typically riparian species, while W. filifera remained utterly ignored. Meanwhile anecdotal dates indicate surveyors were surely surrounded at times by dozens or hundreds of Palms. This profoundly demonstrates that Palms were systematically and deliberately disregarded ...-certainly this was due to the unfounded speculation regarding Phoenix as being Cooper�s original source of seed .

James Cornett curator of the Palm Springs Desert Museum and author of many articles about this palm, is considered to be an expert on this plant. Anyone possessing publications on Washingtonia will likely find Cornett's name associated with them. Cornett spent three days in 1986 interviewing Cooper descendants and conducting surveys of some Moapa area groves. His published conclusions appear to be the only professionally collected 'proof' and perhaps were considered final and that may have dealt a destructive blow to this palm in Moapa's natural areas.

In Desert Plants Cornett states that: (Vol 8, Number 4 page 169)
Although desert fan palms are obviously well established today at Warm Springs, ... palms were introduced around 1880 when Mendis Cooper planted palm seeds he had obtained in [Phoenix] (Truman Cooper, pers. comm.). ... the existence of palms appears the result of human introduction.'

It should be noted that like previous inquiries, Cornett conducted his research into the area's palms collecting only anecdotes from limited sources or from those whose first experience was with Cooper's planted palms in the Lower Valley. He did not question the Moapa Indians nor any Whites who lived in the Upper valley before 1920. Had he done so, he should have concluded differently. Furthermore, Cornett inaccurately reports very key dates as well as some Palm counts at certain area springs. Photographs in my possession having stamped dates from Kodak upon them demonstrate the latter at Blue point springs while it is established fact that Cooper arrived in 1893, not 1880 as Cornett reported. Other key facets of Cornett's reports are also challenged as insufficient, or even misleading. These objections are taken up elsewhere but are all related to these palms in some important way. (See the articles called 'Washingtonia filifera: Evidence supports a Relict status -a rebuttal and Population Dynamics of the Palm -W. filifera, and Global Warming - a Rebuttal' in the index.) One should note that Cornett at no time based his conclusions on supportable hard scientific evidence. Yet interestingly, those who continue quoting Cornett ignore any and all opposing testimony even though it is may indeed be more valid than the testimony they have offered.

The nearest the article actually approached science seemed to me to be some observations made that there 'cursorily' appeared to be no evidence of the insect called: -Dinapate wrightii -(Palm Borer beetle) in Moapa. These observations seem to mirror a hypothesis that Dinapate presence in Palm groves 'is somehow an grove-age indicator'. This hypothesis appears on closer examination however, to be a much better indicator of longtime human presence commerce in Oases environments and is unlikely to indicate a grove's age due to very important overlooked considerations argued elsewhere. (If anyone is interested -this hypothesis and some very clear arguments contradicting those observations and the hypothesis is available by reading the two articles listed above which are linked in the main index.)

Following is relevant testimony that 'official' researchers have not publicly acknowledged to my satisfaction:

1) -Unheard testimony of other old timers.

It appears that a great number of early whites never visited the extreme Upper Valley (Warm Springs) until sometime after the turn of the century after being sparsely settled by a handful of White ranches and after Indians resided safely on their reservation several miles south east of Warm Springs. It should be noted that there have never been any palms on the reservation until recently.

Harold Doty lived his entire life in the Upper Valley near the Oases. His family's ranch was across from the Home Ranch, a noted place to relax, dip in the rare pool and enjoy the Oasis of Warm Springs. This was true from the beginning of settlement in the upper valley which began in the very late 1800's. From all local historical accounts there appears no reason to believe that the shade around these pools was ever supplied by anything but Palms- just as it is today.

Given the life span of Cottonwoods as well as the affinity the Mormons showed for this taxa there arises a strong argument that had the springs originally been planted with Cottonwoods it is highly unlikely they would have replaced them with palms so early in the 1900's . . . (Yet this is patently argued by the official position.) Although it is partly through this improbability that we should consider that Cottonwoods were not the trees which made the Oases at Warm Springs so inviting early on, it is mostly through the following testimonials that we see that Palms in fact were already extant and abundant when Whites arrived. Note: As we speak, area Agencies are posed to 'replace' Palms with Cottonwoods which are repeatedly documented to have been brought in by early Mormons!

Harold Doty has known since before 1918 that the palms have always existed in the Upper Valley. Always emphatic about this he tells the following anecdote emphasizing this point. [Doty is one of the only surviving witnesses to the actual upper Muddy Valley in the early 1900's and he was not interviewed by Cornett to my knowledge. Those who were interviewed by Cornett moved to the Upper Valley from the Lower Valley as much as 30 years after Cooper�s Palms were firmly established as a landmark near Overton, hence it is Cooper's Palms with which they understandably identify.]

'We moved to our ranch (The Doty Ranch) near the Home Ranch in 1913. I was born in 1912. When I was around six years old (1918), I was at the Home Ranch (Where the Warm Springs resort is today ) At that time there were wild bunches of tall Palms scattered everywhere like now pretty much only with less trees. A man named Ross worked there. He told me then that the Palms had been there since before the ranch. He said no one knew how long they had been there but that they were considered very old. At that time there were large palms at Big Springs, The Baldwin Ranch, The Home Ranch, and the Blodale place. Later in 1920's sometime workers removed hundreds to make a diversion channel for downstream flood protection so they cleared big areas and left maybe twenty trees. They piled dead Palms over the hill and left them for many years. Most people considered Palms a nuisance.' (Doty, 1994 pers. comm.)

Ross insisted Palms predated the original upper valley ranch. It is doubtful any confusion would have existed in 1918 as to whether or not the plants were seedlings produced by Mendis Cooper's nine Overton palms some 60 kilometers away. At no time during Cooper's short time in Overton was the Home Ranch in the Upper Valley unoccupied. Furthermore, 2nd generation Palms would never have passed as either old or tall in 1918. In fact had Cooper indeed been responsible they would have appeared 'young' and 'short' in 1918 ! It stretches all reasonable conjecture that the Home Ranch would furthermore have allowed Cooper (who was unrelated to them) to set aside important areas of their private land near the entire valley's main water source to plant Palms. It is more unbelievable still, to speculate that even if they had allowed such plantings to take place, that those could have grown large by anyone's definition by this early date.

It is interesting that all documented historical plantings of Palms including those at Blue Point Springs (planted around 1903 by a man named Syphus) equal about ~13 meters in height while the tallest Palms at warm Springs reach heights of ~24 meters. Cooper�s trees were regularly irrigated and Blue point's are right next to a warm stream. All historic plantings are furthermore in straight lines unlike early Warm Spring�s Palms are described.

The preserve at Warm Springs has also feebly suggested the idea that perhaps Spaniards introduced the palms. This unlikely event is even less likely than the Cooper story since there was never any Spanish settlement in the area at any time. They have yet to give a single valid reason why they would consider such ideas firstly before asking the local native Americans. It would be much easier to simply listen for once to the Moapa ...whose story is relevant, consistent and believable. Some appear to me to go out of their way to believe the least plausible notions when the another explanation is easier.

Those owning the Home Ranch over the years have apparently never doubted that these palms were very old. This information probably originated with it's original owners in the late 1800's. The most recent resort owner, Mr. Plumber said that the Indians themselves told him the palms had always been there. According to Native Moapa testimonies, Paiutes still used Palms culturally until the early 1920's. The removal of many palms in the 1920's for flood control as related by Doty clearly must have precipitated the demise of Moapa traditional uses of palms and surely contributed to the widespread loss of local memories of such things.

Certainly those settlers who later changed residence from the lower valleys to the upper valleys in the late twenties (as are most of the families who now live in the Upper Moapa) were likely to conclude that any palms extant by that late date were progeny of Cooper's original palms with which they were familiar from the lower Valley. In all the writings however it should be pointed out that recording baptisms and exactly who attended meetings took precedence over reporting about plants which is to be expected. Such things seemed quite obvious and unimportant at the time. This more than any other fact may explain any lack of mention in historic journals.

Moapa is not alone a victim of this type of inadequate under-reporting. There are instances of otherwise thorough reports regarding the springs near Palm Springs which not only fail to mention the Palms there, but even fail to mention the Cahuilla people themselves. Today of course, no educated person would deny that both clearly occupied the area since pre-history, yet if one were to ascribe to those deficient early official reports they would discount any presence of either. Dr. Lowell Bean and Dr. Euler both famous Ethnographers with the Cahuilla and the Paiute have suggested that low opinions common among early reporters regarding aboriginal cultures may have left us this tragic dowry of under-reported history.

It appears some are condemned to continue this bad tradition in Moapa...

I'll break with such bad traditions now to give you some important historically interesting ALTERNATE information about Moapa's Palms.

2)-Native Moapa Testimony

Kaye Herron of the Moapa telephone company spoke to me and related that one of the Moapa Indians (Juanita Kinlichinie) had mentioned the Palms at Warm Springs. Since Kaye was aware that I had been trying to get elderly Moapas to respond to Palm questions she agreed to try to help me out.

White old timers in the area have long heard about the Moapa tradition that the Palms predate Whites, Fortunately the usually very reticent appeared more easily inclined to speak with Kaye since she had been dealing with them in person for many years. Kaye recorded the following statements which were signed by each of the women: For socially polite and private reasons the responses and questions were kept short.

Evelyn Samalar

age: 76 years (1996)-Moapa Paiute
I remember Palm parts being used to make baskets. The baskets made in this way (from palms) were not the really fine sort which were made from other materials. I never learned to make baskets. I remember my grandmother making them. I have also seen my grandparents making shelters out of palm leaves from the springs. My grandfather had a place that he took a sweat bath in. It wasn't right by the springs but near where he lived. But he would go to the headwater of the Muddy river at the Warm springs because there was something sacred in the water. He would then talk to the water and bring it back to his sweat hut.
No one lived in the springs themselves... We drank water out of the ditch and there were many Palms over there. Over at the springs was a very sacred place and as children we had to act a certain way whenever we went over there.
I also know where the deep stone holes are were grandma used to work the Palm seeds. I was very little.
The stones they used to grind the screwbeans and the mesquite were called Maddah and were different than the deep holes they used for Palm seeds.
My Elders used to say that the whole area of the springs west of here was a designated spiritual area and very sacred. We know that the Palms have always been there. We Moapas have always known this.
Question: Can you remember specifically how old you were when you first heard your parents, grandparents or elders mention anything about the palms? Evelyn: Very Young. I was as young as a person has a memory of their surroundings. Maybe three or four.
Question: How old was the oldest person which spoke to you about the Palms? Evelyn: My Grandfather. He was very Old. I don't know my grandfather's age but he was very old and there were other old ones too. They all said the Palms had always been there.
Question: Do you recall if there were a lot of palms at the headwaters when you were very young?
Evelyn: YES.
Question: Did they appear Large or small?
Evelyn: Large. There were large and small ones.

(Author's note: This would have been about 1924.)
Backing up this date is the following photograph which shows a MATURE palm on Moapa Valley Blvd. in 1926. Palms were considered NEW comers and NOT typical in Overton. The date of the photo is verified as 1926, the man on the horse died two years after the photo was taken. The MOST interesting thing about the Photo is this: There are unmistakeable Flower Spadices from a previous year hanging down the skirt of this Palm which indicates the palm is a minimum of 16 years old [it is most likely much older - see the photos below which are of 100 year old Palms planted by Syphus at Blue Point spring. NOTE they are actually SHORTER than this palm ] - we know from this that it existed in this spot by 1910 but most likely much earlier. Mendis Died in 1903 the year Syphus planted his palms.

mature filifera palm on Moapa Valley Blvd 1926

mature filifera palm on Moapa Valley Blvd 1926

[ All 5 of the Palms Pictured above were 100 years of age when this photo was taken they were planted by Syphus in 1903. Compare to the very large mature palm behind the man on horseback. ]

Irene Benn

age: 73 years. -(1996)-Moapa Paiute -(June 27,1923)

Kaye: Do you recall your elders ever using Palms for anything such as food, weaving baskets or for shelter?
Irene Benn: Yes ...they used Palms for small huts. I remember my grandparents using Palm leaves for shelters and small huts. I don't remember any other uses, I was very young.
Kaye Herron: Have you ever heard your elders say anything about the Palms at Warm Springs?
Irene Benn: Yes. My grandfather said that the Palms are always here.

Maureen Frank

age 63 years -(1996)-Moapa Paiute

I remember seeing shelter built with Palm thatching and I remember my grandparents using Palms to build small huts and such. I also remember seeing my grandmother crush the black seeds from the Palms in a deep stone hole in the ground but I was very young and I don't remember how it was used.
My father used to say that the Palms were always here. My grandparents always used to say that too...that the Palms have always been here. There are deep grinding holes in the rocks near my house. About four of them,...I'll show you. (spoken to Kaye Herron) ...where my grandmother used to grind the seeds of the Palms.

Juanita Kinlichinie

age: 64 years -(1996)-Moapa Paiute

I remember my grandmother use to take and soak the long things that hang down from the Palm trees. She would soak these in water until they were real white, then she made baskets out of them. The baskets made this way didn't make the good baskets. The good baskets were made from the reeds which came from the river. I never learned basketry skills.
My grandparents said that the palms have always been here. I also saw my grandmother grind the seeds from the palms using a some special holes in the rocks by my house I think they made a gravy. She used to crush them in the deep stone holes by my house. There used to be a Paiute word for the gravy they made with the seeds but I don't remember what it was. Irene might remember.
We have always known that white men did not bring the palms with them. Among ourselves we've always known that the palms were here before any white man came.

These Moapa statements strongly indicate with great reliability that mature fruit bearing Palms [at least 15 years of age ] were both extant by 1924 at Warm springs and that Palms were something recalled by the elders of that time as having always been there. The inference is that Moapa tradition apparently held that palms were extant at the springs when their forefathers arrived perhaps 900 years or more previously. It is also commonly told among the older Paiutes (who have always lived near the upper Valley), that the palms were already extant when whites arrived.

This is consistent with similar Cahuilla traditions which hold that a palm was their first ancestor and that Palms had always been present. Although Cornett has suggested in writings that all Washingtonia groves (most of which are around the Salton Sea in California ) are the result of human propagation and not simply naturally isolated from one another due to shrinking hospitable ecosystems, (sometimes an indicator for relict populations), his suggestion doesn't appear consistent with the observation that only perhaps one band of several related bands of Cahuilla ever used the palm even though they all must have known about it. Additionally even though all of Cahuilla traditional lands are capable of supporting palms with regards to climate the only areas where groves are known to have been historically extant have followed a sort of pattern which appears more geologically and geographically than culturally biased. Namely generally: Their incidence in isolated sheltered canyons or small valleys with some warm surface water mostly associated with the Colorado drainage and desert. These observations are true of the Moapa groves as well. Clearly the fact that this plant is over 50 million years old - coupled with the fact that it is almost ONLY exclusively found in the NorthAmerican southwest speaks to the truth that no group that has only been around for about 14,000 years could be responsible for it's existence. The southwest is the ONLY place this palm is found naturally. It evolved here. It is very very old.

Either way, it is clear that the Palms in Moapa predated the White arrival according to the Moapa grandparents. White arrival was certainly within their grandparent's life spans. It is unthinkable that these grandparents would say such things about their sacred areas and the plants associated with them to their grandchildren if it were not fact. If the palms were not important to the early Moapa why would they would have said anything at all to their grandchildren about them? Of COURSE NOT! How Ludicrous! Especially when the nearest palms were 12 kilometers from the reservation on private land!

It is also ludicrous to suggest that Moapas adapted the palm culturally around 1920 only after introduction to it by Mormons who clearly regarded the Palm as having little more than some tenuous value as a landscaping oddity. All reasonable conjecture becomes ridiculously stretched when it is suggested that they subsequently just accidentally happened to stumble upon using palm products in the same identical fashion as other ancient palm cultures used it, (ie: soaking it in deep mortars then making a sort of gruel or adding it to bean meal to help sweeten it). What a coincidence that all those other known ancient palm cultures just happened to process the palm fruit using the same method! And what a bigger coincidence that they also just happened to be linguistically related! Even more incredibly, official conclusions demand that we believe that the Moapa must have only first begun using palm fruit the very first year it became available! (This is because Cooper's trees could only first begin to produce seeds by about 1908. If collected and planted immediately in the upper Muddy, the first palm fruit harvest would be available in the Upper Valley by 1923. In other words, the Moapa must have failed to learn about this Palm during over nine hundred years of trade with related groups of ancient Palm cultures to the south, - but in the very decline of their culture in 1923 learned it immediately the very first year seed from those same palms became available on private White property 12 kilometers away from where they had been re-located! Is there anyone else besides myself who views this idea as outrageous and perhaps even blasphemous? )

Who could possibly believe that the grandparents of these Moapa women would have deliberately misled their grandchildren about the origins of the Palm and its presence in their very own sacred areas? This is not a tradition which would have sprung up in 1923. People intimately know their sacred places and along with their high regard for such places comes the intimate knowledge of what the environment consists of. With aboriginal peoples this always includes plants. If this had been an exotic plant introduced into their SACRED SPRINGS they would have surely been deeply aware of it's intrusion into their sacred areas just as they were aware of the White man's similar trespassing! In any case they certainly would not have deemed it worthwhile to pass on any mention of White-man's plants to their children (Plants which only existed several miles away outside of the reservation on White man property!)

It is the firm conclusion of this article that the Palms which grace Moapa were already extant upon the arrival of White settlers and Spaniards. It is also my firm conclusion that these palms were not only extant but that they have been systematically inexcusably ignored and missed by all other researchers in the area since the very beginning!

Those Named agencies must now begin to admit their mistakes and take immediate remedial measures to reinstate this palm into it's true place in local history. Obstinance and ignorance has historically decimated all aboriginal cultures. Moapa is clearly no differnt. Integrity in the modern world demands that anyone involved with this immediately respond to this article as significant based on the sheer fact that it is clearly somehow historically involved in original inhabitants sacred and already mostly lost legacy. Dare we damage this further? Shouldn't we err on the side of caution and prudence? Oh yes, and what about the fact that it is older than nearly every other living plant alive in the southwest U.S.A.? Does that matter? I think it does. Read on!

-October 1995

Below are Links to All the Other Moapa Palms Reports

The FULL 100 page report - in 6 parts

[ - For an EXTREMELY short version of this info as 11 quick facts - CLICK HERE - ]
[ - For a 7 page updated Version Please CLICK HERE - ]

Washingtonia -a Relict Genus ? | Petroglyphs & Moapa's Palms | Plants & Climate in Oases
The Moapa People | The Cahuilla of Palm Springs | Global Warming: Palm Rebuttal
Moapa Indian Memories of Palms |

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