Cahuilla Elder Remembered: 'Our Mentor, Our Teacher, Our Grandmother'

Katherine Siva Saubel, who died Tuesday at her home on the Morongo Reservation, is missed by many people, said a historian at the Malki Museum co-founded by Saubel.

Cahuilla elder and scholar Katherine Siva Saubel was remembered Thursday at the museum she co-founded as a caring, giving woman who understood history and cared deeply about passing tradition on to younger generations.

Saubel, who died Tuesday at her home on the Morongo Reservation at age 91, left a lasting impression on family, friends, and scholars who worked with her, including Nathalie Colin, historian at the non-profit Malki Museum.

"Katherine was living with Kevin, her nephew, and also Aaron Saubel, one of her grandsons," Colin said Thursday. "She loved him deeply and she taught him so much about her culture.

"Aaron Saubel was living with her since he was 4 years old," Colin said. "He considers her  like his mum. Today he is 44 years old, and he is the keeper of the family culture. . . . He learned from Katherine, Mariano Saubel, his grandfather, and also from Alvino Siva, Katherine's brother."

Katherine Siva Saubel grew up speaking 'Mountain Cahuilla' on the Los Coyotes Reservation in the 1920s before she moved to Agua Caliente Reservation and the San Gorgonio Pass, according to the museum.

She became a of Cahuilla language, culture and history, and her passion never wavered.

"Until the end Katherine wanted to share and teach her beloved Cahuilla culture," Colin said. "Every week, at her home, she was working on the Cahuilla language with Dr Eric Elliott, a fluent Cahuilla speaker, and myself, on the culture and her family history and her first village Pachawal."

She also continued teaching Bird songs in her final days, Colin said.

"Katherine's group of young bird singers, they were coming to her home, each Monday evening to learn in Cahuilla," Colin said. "These were so important because the bird songs carry the mythology. These are sacred songs.

"She was optimistic and a fabulous teacher until the last minute," Colin said. "Her mind was clear and full of priceless information and stories."

Katherine Siva Saubel was also close to other historians, linguists and anthropologists, including Lowell Bean, Daniel McCarthy, and Jim Toenjes, Colin said.

"We became her friend, and she was our mentor, our teacher, our grandmother," Colin said. "She loved us and we loved her so deeply."

Funeral arrangements were announced Thursday.

Visitation is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday Nov. 7 at Morongo Community Center, 13000 Fields Road, Morongo Reservation. Rosary begins at 7 p.m.

A mass of Christian Burial is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday Nov. 8 at St. Mary's Mission. Graveside service to follow at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery.

Wiefels & Son Mortuary of Banning is handling arrangements.

Editor's Note: The visitation venue was changed Friday afternoon to Morongo Community Center.


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