The Serrano were a fairly numerous people when the Spanish arrived in 1769, but beginning about 1790, the westernmost of them began to be drawn into Mission San Gabriel. After an attempted Indian revolt in 1810, most of those in the San Bernardino Mountains and the western Mojave Desert were brought into the mission, some of them forcibly. Those in the easternmost deserts beyond the San Bernardino Mountains and Little San Bernardino Mountains were beyond the reach of the mission, but probably absorbed a number of those who fled the missions.
We have presented the oral history account that tells us that the Maringo Serrano were the original inhabitants of the village of Mara at the oasis of Twentynine Palms. It was probably early ethnographers who made the first written record that Mara near the headquarters of present-day Joshua Tree National Park was originally a Maringa Serrano village, but we have not learned from either written or oral literature how early this settlement may have been established-a question whose answer may lie in archaeological sites not yet examined. It is also not clear whether this was the main or "first" Maringa lineage settlement at one time, as the oral literature attests, or merely one of several places in a large area they used and occupied; however, the fact that it was near a major source of water with a valuable complex of biotic resources for food and manufactures argue for its use as a living place for Native Americans for a very long time.
It has been suggested that the Serrano left the area in the early 1860s when a smallpox epidemic struck the Indians of southern California, even though the isolation of the area should have protected them. Their fate may instead be described by Ramon, whose account derived from Serrano oral history tells a story that we have not found in any other published source:
Long ago the Serrano lived at Twentynine Palms. Long ago some white people killed them there. They (whites) got there. They hunted them. They did all kinds of things to them. They killed a great many of them. They were lost. There used to be a lot of Serrano living there. They (the survivors) were afraid. Some of them apparently moved somewhere else. Many of them apparently moved elsewhere to other tribes. They lived here (at Morongo), after being run off of their own land, I guess. Apparently there was no one living at Twentynine Palms long ago (after the massacre) because they were afraid to live there. They were afraid, they apparently did not want to live there. This is because they (the whites) had massacred them (the Serrano) like that. My grandfather (mother's father) was a ceremonial leader there. He concluded, "It looks like they are going to get rid of all of us here." That is what he thought. He came here (to Morongo) to ask (for permission to stay). He apparently asked if he could settle here (on the Morongo Reservation). And the people here, the Wanakik Pass Cahuilla, said, "Alright" (Ramon and Elliott 2000).
Inasmuch as Ramon was in her 80s when she told this story, her grandfather might well have been at Twentynine Palms in the early 1860s.
The Maringa Serrano were living at yumisevul in the Mission Creek area, presumably before the 1870s (Strong 1929:11). According to some Cahuilla traditions, they replaced Cahuillas who had been living there. They intermarried with the Gabriel family (the ceremonial leaders of the Wanikik Cahuilla), and had moved to the Potrero, or Malki, by the 1870s. Here John Morongo, a leader of the group, played a leading role in the affairs of the newly established Morongo Indian Reservation. It is logical to assume that the Serrano left Mara because of pressure from settlers and miners, and better economic opportunities elsewhere.
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