Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Former Los Coyotes Chairwoman Dies at Age 91; She Supported Barstow Casino Plans but Grew Intolerant of Detroiter Michael Malik

Los Coyotes Elder Katherine Siva Saubel
Keeper of Cahuilla Culture, Language
Katherine Siva Saubel, a former chairwoman of the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians has died at age 92.  She was one of the last fluent speakers of the Cahuilla (Kah-WEE'-yuh) Indian language, who helped document the lore of the Southern California tribe.

Her nephew, Kevin Siva, tells the Los Angeles Times she died Nov. 1 at her home on the Morongo reservation near Banning.

Saubel was born in 1920 on the Los Coyotes reservation in San Diego County and was the eighth of her parents’ eleven children.  When she was four, her family relocated to the Palm Springs area where it is believed she was the first Native American woman to graduate from Palm Springs High School.

She married Mariano Saubel, a resident of the Morongo Reservation, in 1940.  They were married 45 years and the parents of a son. 

Saubel worked with researchers to produce a Cahuilla dictionary and grammar book and preserved the songs and medicinal lore of the threatened culture. In 1964, she helped launch the Malki Museum near Banning, the first nonprofit museum found and managed by American Indians on a reservation.

The Cahuilla (pronounced ka-wee-yah), once one of the largest California Indian tribes, are concentrated in Riverside and San Diego counties. Among the more prominent Cahuilla bands are the Morongo and the Agua Caliente band in Palm Springs.

In 1998, as an activist, Saubel brought electricity to the Los Coyotes Reservation near Warner Springs in San Diego County. She would later be embroiled in a bitter fight to eject certain tribal members from the Reservation.

Then, for the better part of the first decade of the new millennium, Saubel served as Los Coyotes’ Chairwoman.  In partnership with Barwest LLC, a Detroit-based casino syndicate organized by Marian Ilitch and Michael Malik, she attempted to establish an off-reservation casino for the Los Coyotes Indians in Barstow (CA), midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

After experiencing a string of failed schemes and disappointing setbacks, Saubel grew increasingly frustrated with and skeptical of Mike Malik.  When she could no longer take his bullying and intimidation she simply terminated Los Coyotes’ exclusivity agreement with Barwest.  Malik was furious.  Saubel told reporters Malik was ‘The Devil’ and alleged he was responsible for ‘seducing’ younger members of the Los Coyotes tribe. 

Subsequently, Malik and his operatives had Saubel removed as Los Coyotes’ chairwoman.  As her replacement he recruited the young and inexperienced Shane Chapparosa, one of the younger members of the tribe whom Saubel had accused Malik of seducing.

Saubel received an honorary PhD in philosophy from La Sierra University, Riverside, California, and was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by theUniversity of California at the University of California, Riverside.

Funeral mass and burial for Dr. Saubel are scheduled for Nov. 8 at St. Mary’s Indian Mission and St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Banning.

Among the various tributes to Dr. Saubel:

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