Harold Matzner Among Platinum Sponsors at Agua Caliente Cultural Center’s Annual Dinner At the Canyons

by Robin Montgomery

What signals the beginning of the gala season in the Coachella Valley?

Dinner in the Canyons. This event is the major fundraiser of the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum and is the only major event of its kind allowed to be held in Andreas Canyon, a sacred ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Indians.

This is a place of great contrasts, towering rock formations, lush vegetation, the ever-present sound of running water, and twinkling stars. Never been there? By all means go!

The hallmarks of a great event are meticulous planning, tight timeline, plenty of seating during the reception, incredible hors d’ oeuvres and unique entertainment like the fascinating music of the Native bird song singers. This venue is well worth the $300 ticket price. To top it off there was complimentary parking and cushy Cardiff shuttle service to and from the event site.

“There is a major announcement tonight,” teased Michael Hammond Ph.D., executive director of the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, as he opened the program. He then went on to single out the evening’s major underwriters, among the crowd of 440:

Eagle Sponsor, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Platinum Sponsor the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians. Gold Sponsors, Helen Beamer, Debbie Purnel & Craig Dean, Harold Matzner, Millie and Dave Browne, etc. Silver Sponsors was an endless array including, J ames R . Houston, Annette and Devin Guzman, Diana, Blake, Ciara and Kyle Richards, Connie Sharp, Michael J. Prieto, chairman Agua Caliente gaming commission and just about every Native American Association and local tribe.

Hammond also announced the presence of W. Richard West, Jr. of the Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho Nation of Oklahoma and a Peace Chief of the Southern Cheyenne, who was the Founding Director of the National Museum of the American Indians, current CEO of the Autry Center of the American West.

Mildred Browne, chairwoman, Museum board of directors, took the stage to remind guests, the event supports the many programs offered by the enterprising institution. She then brought Hammond back for more information and his big announcement about “the little museum that could.”


Hammond explained that the museum’s most successful exhibition to date has been “Section 14– The Other Palm Springs.” This exhibition tells the harrowing story in photos, art and words, of the abuses that took place in the 1960’s, when homes were leveled without consent or knowledge of the many races living in these abodes. Their actions were described in a California Department of Justice report as “a city-engineered holocaust.”

Then, it was announced that the current Section 14 exhibition has been selected by the Smithsonian to be shown in the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.! Quite a feat for a little 1600 sq. foot institution.

The opening date in Washington has not been set but Allison Hicks of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation and Co-Chair of the National Advisory Council of the National Museum of the American Indian, said a date would be announced shortly. WOW!

Tribal Council Chairman, Jeff Grubbe, there with his entire family, was jubilant on stage, congratulating the museum and its staff and putting the cherry on top by announcing that the museum made close to $170,000 net for the evening.

The evening’s honoree was renowned sculpture Doug Hyde, who completed his larger than life Young Basket-maker which was recently installed on Tachquitz Canyon Road.

The dinner was novel, tasty and uniquely presented, with kudos to Savoury’s. Tables were festooned with classy centerpieces that incorporated wood, rocks, native cactus and flowers. Enjoying all the ambiance, Patty Delgado Service, emeritus museum board member, Melissa Milanovich, with daughter Tristan, museum board member and son Reid Milanovich, Vincent Gonzales III, Anthony J. Andreas III all tribal council members, supervisor John Benoit and wife Cheryl. Andreas celebrated his birthday at the event and by all appearances every person running for Mayor of Palm Springs attended.

Hammond also served as a master live auctioneer, sprinting through the offerings of delectable art and native jewelry.

The entertainment was by “Twice as Good” (aka 2XG) featuring Paul and Richard Steward, Native Americans of the Pomo Indians of the Elem Indian Colony in Northern California. Backed by their band they played an amazing assortment of blues, soul, R&B, rock n’ roll and Jazz. The dance floor came alive with everyone enjoying a perfect evening with the ancient spirits in the Andreas Canyon.

Millie Browne, Michael Hammond, the board of directors, Steve Sharp, director of development and the entire Museum staff should revel in the fact that this was an exceptional occasion. The Section 14 exhibition currently on display at the Museum has been extended through January 2016.

Information: phone 760-833-8167 or e-mail SSharp@ACCMuseum. org. The museum is located at 219 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Admission is free.

As posted in the The Desert Sun, October 25, 2015