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Did You Know? Archive

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During the late 50’s and early 60’s, both golf clubs and hotels became an important part of Indian Wells. (This was before cityhood, thus the city was called Palm Desert, also unincorporated). The first golf course was named Eldorado Country Club, followed by Indian Wells Country Club just to the east. The first hotel in Indian Wells was called, Desi Arnaz Western Hills Hotel (now the Indian Wells Resort Hotel) and just west came the Erawan Garden Hotel, named for a grand hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. Both hotels have gone ultimate remodeling and little can be imagined of what once stood on the two sites. However, to see photos of the “early days,” try SEARCH on the internet and/or check the walls of both hotels. The Erawan, presently, is called Miramonte Resort Hotel.

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GRAND LUXURY PROPERTIES – IW Post Office Did you Know? July 2017

By 1920, Indian Wells had its own post office (Hwy. 111 east), set up by a man named Dan O’Neal, who owned a store called Dan’s Market.  The post office was complete with pigeon holes for the mail, which was brought from Indio to Indian Wells.  From there the rural carrier covered all the surrounding area……..Palm Desert and La Quinta.  This first market/post office was finally abandoned; however, many years later and some blocks west, another post office was set up inside another store called Hopson’s Medical Supplies.  Mrs. Hopson was the owner and managed the store/post office for a number of years……………..until the US Postal Dept. closed it down and said, Indian Wells residents must find another facility, the closest being Palm Desert.  (Before the incorporation of Indian Wells (1967), resident’s addresses read Palm Desert – unincorporated at the time.  To this day, I still receive mail addressed to Palm Desert and am sent return labels reading Palm Desert.  Because of the now zip code attachment, one’s mail is readily received at either address!

Adele Ruxton

IW Historic Preservation Foundation

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Did You Know April 2017 GRAND LUXURY PROPERTIES – 50th Anniversary

………..and very soon the City of Indian Wells will be 50 YEARS OLD! We know, however, that the date of incorporation was confirmed on July 14, 1967, but WHO wants to plan a party when the temps could reach 120 degrees? Because of this, the 400th City in the State of California decided to celebrate early! The party was planned for Feb. 27, 2017, BUT the party (due to a predicted all day rain, which did happen) was cancelled at the last minute. What to do? Yes, start making phone calls and sending out e-mail “blasts!” Mission accomplished! Twenty four hours later the event was back on track and what an event it was! Music, entertainment, food/drink, historical photos/exhibits, photo options, fireworks, of course the CAKE and a beautiful, clear, star-lit sky for all to enjoy!

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Historically speaking , what’s been designated by monument/plaque in Indian Wells?

Let’s begin at City Hall: Take a look at the Eisenhower Walk of Honor and the adjacent walls of names of IW residents who’ve served in the military. Look to your right to find a rock and plaque depicting the first “Indian well.” Move along on Hwy. 111 east to the Carl Bray Monument where you may read on colorful panels the history of the city as well as the “life and times” of the city’s most famous artist. Look up too, the sign is a replica of what stood on site for more than 50 years. Turn back now and head west. You will see the Indian Wells Resort Hotel, once named Desi Arnaz Western Hills Hotel (1957). Walk into the lobby, the walls are lined with hotel history and No. 3 landmark plaque is on the wall. Heading west, turn south on Rancho Palmeras Dr., look for Purple Hills Road and find landmark No. 2, the Beck Adobe 1932. Back to Hwy. 111 to Cook St., a left turn will take you to landmark No. 1, the Cavanagh Adobe 1922. Please bear in mind, however, that the adobes are private residences and cannot be entered, so you must take a peek from the street. The original Carl Bray sign is inside City Hall, along with other historic photos. Ask to be directed to the “palette sign.” (Although not designated with signage, one may drive around Indian Wells to find a plethora of Modernism homes built in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Challenge yourself to see if you can pick them out, since many have been remodeled and yet some remain the same.)

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Historical Facts of Indian Wells, CA

The Cavanagh Adobe (1922) on Cook Street, was purchased in 1988 by Don Hutton and his wife Marge.  Even though the home had already built an historical significance of its own, the Huttons added a little more.  During Don’s time in the military during WWll (he had enlisted in the US Air Force following high school graduation), he served in the 92nd Squadron 8th Division Fighter Group, working as a Turret Gunner on a B17 Bomber.  Don flew more than thirty bombing raids over Germany, before being shot down in Austria in May 1943.  He was captured and became a POW in Stalag 17 for the remainder of the war.  Don was repatriated in 1945, left the military, returned to school (graduated USC), married in 1949, and went on to an illustrious career with the J. Paul Getty Oil Co. (Saudi Arabia) until his eventual retirement.  Don and Marge lived in the adobe until Marge’s death in 2009.  Don died in 2012.

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Historical Facts of Indian Wells, CA

The Carl Bray Smoke Tree Painter monument was completed and dedicated this past November 2015 in Indian Wells on south side of Highway 111 between Manitou Dr. and Mountain Cove Dr. You can visit the monument by walking, jogging, or by golf cart ride. Built in park- like setting by the city of Indian Wells at a cost of $84,617 it displays six big panels, five of which detail the city’s rich history, and one devoted to the artist. What a colorful tribute to internationally known artist Carl Bray located on the site of his previous home he built in early 1950’s and his art gallery, before it was demolished in 2010 for safety concerns! It had been a stagecoach stop in years past. Carl Bray was a part of Indian Wells history and Bray’s hat, easel and paint brushes are on display at the Historical Society and Museum of Palm Desert where some of his paintings are for sale. Those who knew Carl claim he was such a friendly and compassionate person. His detailed paintings are mostly of desert landscape and smoke trees, but he painted in a variety of genres. Indian Wells City Hall displays pieces of Bray’s artwork.

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Linda Beal, native Indian Wells local historian, continues her list from the Fall edition of the Indian Wells Real Estate Minute with these attractions in and around Coachella Valley not to be missed!

  • *General George S. Patton Memorial Museum, located 10 miles East of Indio, Chiriaco Summit, CA
  •  La Quinta Historical Museum, La Quinta, CA
  • Palm Desert Historical Museum, Palm Desert, CA
  • Palm Springs Historical Society Museum, South Palm Canyon Drive, which includes these Museums:
    • McCallum Adobe
    • Cornelia White House General Store Museum
    • Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, Palm Springs, CA
  • Tramway Gas Station Visitors Center, designed by Albert Frey, Swiss architect and one of the founders of Desert Modernism, Palm Springs, CA
  • Whitewater Preserve with Bighorn sheep, White Water, CA
  • Coachella Valley Preserve Museum, Thousand Palms, CA
  •  Big Morongo Canyon Preserve with 6 distinctive trails, Morongo Valley, CA
  •  Pioneertown, CA
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Linda Beal grew up on the Gee Ranch in Indian Wells during the 1950’s and 1960’s and served in the US Army. She returned to the desert and is a Coachella Valley historian. Linda, an Indian Wells native, has fond memories and great ideas for fun day trips and outings to see and learn more about our beautiful desert! Linda can be reached at 760-775-2928 and volunteers her knowledge and insight for those who want to adventure and explore museums, parks, and historical sites around the Valley.

Linda highlights the following which are free admission or minimal fee:
(Please google or call to learn more, such as hours, private or group tours)

  • International Banana Museum, North Shore, CA  by the Salton Sea
  • Salton Sea State Recreation Area, North Shore, CA
  • Ski Inn, Cocktails and Home Cooking, Bombay Beach, CA  by the Salton Sea
  • Sony Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge at the Salton Sea
  • Pioneers Museum of Imperial County Historical Society, discover the Rich History of the Imperial Valley and its Settlers, Imperial Valley, CA
  • Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, Desert Hot Springs, CA
  • Joshua Tree National Park, via Box Canyon Road and Cottonwood entry Joshua Tree, CA
  • Cabazon Cultural Museum at Fantasy Springs Resort Hotel and Casino Indio, CA
  • Coachella Valley History Museum   Indio, CA
  • Tahquitz Canyon and the Agua Caliente Reservation, self-guided or ranger-led hikes Palm Springs, CA

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Next to the Gee Ranch in Indian Wells in the 1950’s at Hwy 111 and present day Eldorado Drive was the Smead Ranch and store called the Farmer’s Date Garden. The store was owned and operated by Indian Wells Beal family and they sold only citrus fruit and Deglet Noor dates meaning “dates of light. “ The dates were graded and cost an average of $1 a pound. The shop was open during season with the best sales after the date harvest in late Autumn, and during the Riverside County annual Date Festival in February. Many well-known celebrities were around town and visited the shop. One day a man came in and said hello to the Beal’s kids. He asked if they knew who Shirley Temple was and then told them he was her Dad. They would often see William Boyd who lived in Palm Desert. Boyd was better known as actor portraying famous fictional cowboy, Hopalong Cassidy in television and movies. Boyd always wore black, would cruise around in his black Cadillac convertible, and his home was completely white and black. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie were often seen in Indian Wells where they owned a home in Eldorado Country Club. The Beal’s would often see the Eisenhower’s at Palm Desert Presbyterian Church located then on Portola……To be continued……Courtesy of Indian Wells Historic Preservation Foundation

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Mr. and Mrs. H L Gee owned a prosperous date, grape, and citrus farm in Indian Wells during the 1940’s? Mr. Hershel Gee invented one of the early lawn sprinkler systems and owned the company which manufactured them. Mrs. Gee was a children’s book author. Their main home was in Beverly Hills, but they bought the ranch as their hobby and retreat west of Smead Road, which is current day Eldorado Drive in Indian Wells. Mr. Gee bought the 20 acre ranch for $ 5000 in the 1940’s and sold it in mid 1960’s for $5000 per acre! Mr. Gee also built a home on the ranch for the Beal family from Iowa. Mr. Beal, was hired as foreman for the ranch. As the Beal family grew, Mr. Gee enlarged the Beal home as well.

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In the 1930’s Coachella Valley played a key role in the amazing undertaking to bring Colorado River water to the thirsty coastal plain of Southern California. Without supplementary water, the Los Angeles Basin and Orange County could never have grown to what they are today. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad a tide of new settlers lured to the West by mild climate and good soil, the underground water supplies were proved inadequate. Moving the Colorado River water required not only building an aqueduct, but the authorization by Congress to build the Boulder Dam to generate the power needed to pump the water through this aqueduct… it was the largest construction project in the world at the time.

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The latest news on The Carl Bray Gallery and Home in Indian Wells was in the Desert Sun this past month. Famous Bray sold the land around 2000 and moved to Banning. He died at 94 years old in 2011. The city of IW purchased the property in a foreclosure in 2009. The city decided to demolish the buildings because they were run down and deemed a safety hazard. Because of the lands historical significance and ties to Cahuilla Indians, an environmental impact report required an “interpretive exhibit” related to Bray as “artist, railroad man, builder and last resident of Old Indian Wells Village.” Development of the monument is expected to cost more than $30,000.

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Famous Indian Wells artist, Carl Bray moved here in 1936 from Oklahoma to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad like many othersdid during the terrible Dust Bowl era which hit Texas and the Midwest. Along with our country’s Great Depression of the 1930’s, difficult financial times struck the Midwest workforce and thousands of families headed West to find jobs. The Railroad flat cars at the Indio train station brought poor families with fathers and mothers looking for whatever work could be done on the ranches in the Valley. These migrant workers would chop wood or harvest crops, etc. and severalhard working men and women permanently moved to the Valley. Generous Coachella folks like the Rodarte family never turned away someone in need and gave generously……..

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In the Fall of 1939 there was a torrential rain storm hovering over the entire Coachella Valley. The double run off of the water from the mountains and the sky gave such torrential rains for 3 days that the prized dates of the Valley were lost.  The delicious Medjool and Deglet Noor dates which had been intricately harvested from the preceding August were destroyed.   The Owners and workers of the date farms suffered financially from such a devastation!  The whole Valley smelled of the fragrance of fermentation of the date crop. The roar of the water in the storm drains in Indian Wells were so rapidly flowing that it sounded like an Express train, and the land was ravaged!

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In 1956 over dinner at Ruby’s restaurant in Palm Springs several celebrities including Hollywood Celebrity, Desi Arnaz discussed the idea to build the Coachella Valley’s third golf and country club. The plan was to build a nine hole golf course surrounded by members’ homes which would be their home away from home. Within a week 50 acres was purchased at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains and Indian Wells Country Club was put on the map! The following year the infamous Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball built the Desi Arnaz hotel which is now the current location of the IW Resort Hotel, and the Movie Colony began to extend into Indian Wells. Nightlife was alive with ballroom dancing and Hollywood glitz, along with Latino dancing to great live band music!

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The average estate in the early 1920’s in Indian Wells was a homesteaded ranch/farm approximately 20 acres or more. You shared with your neighbors your crops and this simply transpired by your word. The transaction was simple, “here’s my corn for you, and thank you for sharing with me your tomatoes!” As for your stock to be sold, such as beef, it was your price negotiated, plus a handshake with your neighbor. For example, “I have a heifer here that I butchered, and this is your meat that I promised you!” The Indian Wells families had Christmas trees that were typically a smoke tree (which are all needles) taken down from the wash area or cut down from their own land. The tree decorations were small homemade paper ornaments and stringed popcorn. Recreation was the local softball game on Sunday afternoons in the Indio park not far from the community Church/School in Indio. Very few restaurants or cafes existed near Indian Wells, and these were Mexican cafes located in Indio which were open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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If you can imagine our Indian Wells ground floor being like a teacup, as it was the most desirable Coachella Valley real estate in the early 1900’s for early pioneers looking for easily accessible, free, and abundant fresh water! The mountain’s snow and rain runoff, along with natural water channels allowed early settlers to dig and pump out pure artesian water (which naturally gushes out) just 10-20 feet below the ground surface. Like other successful farmers in Indian Wells during early 1900’s, William P. Blair grew cantaloupe and onions as crops because it was less perishable and did not require refrigeration, as only railroad shipping existed . The trucking era came later when the Valley was in full swing with profitable agricultural production; yet water levels were becoming lower and lower due to all the irrigation, and water wells either dried up or dug much deeper.

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Indian Wells had a one room grammar school house for 18 children who lived on many ranches throughout this side of the valley which now incorporates  the cities of  Indian Wells, La Quinta, and Palm Desert.  The wood school house was built in 1917 on the sand dunes which is now Mountain Cove area of Indian Wells. The one teacher, Mrs. Graves, had a very active day, as besides teaching she would shovel sand out of the school house every morning with her snow shovel, pick up water at the water tank  ½ mile down the road, and burn the honey mesquite in the pot belly stove for necessary heat in the winter. For lunch it was well known the Hispanic children would happily share their tasty burritos and trade for other student’s sandwiches. One privileged student from La Quinta, Mary Granados, rode to and from school on her horse and buggy. One sad story is a young girl was killed by a rattlesnake walking home from school.  The school house closed in 1927 when Roosevelt Grammar School opened in Indio.

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Another early pioneer that homesteaded in 1889 in Indian Wells was Norman “Happy” Lund beck. Happy homesteaded 40 acres of land adjacent to a critical water stop along the Bradshaw Trail east side of Indian Wells.  In later years  ½  of the mountain on the west side became part of  Indian Wells and the other ½ of the mountain on the east side became La Quinta. This mountain was actually part of the landslide from the Santa Rosa.  This historic area now known as Point Happy includes the Vons Shopping Center which is at the corner of Hwy 111 and Washington Street. Point Happy rises only 50 or 60 feet above the sand but the piece of bedrock is significant. The valley filled with water 3 times in recorded history, each time the beachhead of Lake Cahuilla has stopped short of Point Happy!

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Arabian Horses were brought in directly from Saudi Arabia and ranched on the east side of Indian Wells in the early 1920’s by Mr. Chauncey Clarke who owned approximately 144 acres of land. Mr. Clarke felt the Arabian horses would thrive here due to the similar climate of our desert to Saudi Arabia. Many movies were filmed here especially for the uniqueness of the sand dunes and the storm drains. One of the most popular silent movies ever partially filmed in Indian Wells employed one of Mr. Clarke’s Arabian horses in the 1921 Turner Classic film, The Sheik, starring the famous heartthrob, Rudolph Valentino.

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The former Cavanagh Adobe home that you see on Cook Street south of Hwy 111 is currently undergoing restoration by owners Michael and Diane Burch, architects. They purchased the home a few years back from Don Hutton who lived there with his wife for over 20 years. There were several owners before this period of time. Two smaller homes behind the main home were also Mr. Cavanagh’s dwellings and they had fallen to disrepair and were demolished. The developers who bought this parcel eventually built the beautiful residential community which is now The Province. There are only a few of the original date trees on Cook Street. Anything left of the Cook family buildings were demolished many years ago for residential and commercial use…..

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In 1913, Caleb Cook staked his 160 acre claim in Indian Wells and surrounding areas and turned it into a productive Deglet Noor Date Ranch. While clearing land, ranchers encountered rattlesnakes living in the mesquite thickets. Ranchers used a common ratio of one rattler per acre. Date Groves are often compared to a harem since there are usually 48 females to one male tree per acre. Cook transported date palm offshoots from his Yuma, Arizona ranch to guarantee the required ratio of female and male palms. Most of the early ranches were located north of Highway 111. Many of the ranches had roadside shops to sell their products to both locals and travelers passing through the area via Highway 111. The valley climate was ideal for date production and continues to be one of the few areas in the world where this delicacy is cultivated…

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By 1917 Will Hayhurst, the muleskinner from Twentynine Palms began developing the Rancho Palm Springs (now Eldorado CC) and he also took it upon himself to string some wire on fences, posts and trees to have a 10 party phone line from Indian Wells to Indio. The end of the phone line was the Caleb E. Cook Ranch at Cook and Highway 111. Cook moved his family to Indian Wells and immediately started planting offshoots on his desert claim of date palms.  Cook leveled 10 acres, had the well drilled and the house almost completed when his family joined him.  Mr. Cook had run out of money so the second story was canvas and awnings. Cook went on to create a showplace ranch of Deglet Noor date palms. Bert Cavanaugh brought 20 acres close by in Indian Wells and also became a successful date rancher developing new techniques. Bert was later one of the first City Councilmen for Indian Wells. Date Palm newspaper reported in 1922 that no section in the Coachella Valley had undergone more rapid improvement than Indian Wells.

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By 1919 Indian Wells had several settlers. William P. Blair and his family homesteaded the mesquite forest south of what is now Palm Desert Country Club.  Ernie Chapin, Sr.’s family had moved to the area to be near Mr. and Mrs. James O’Neil.  The O’Neil’s had arrived in 1908 opened a store “Dan’s Market and by 1915 a post office opened in their store.  The Harmon’s also homesteaded in Indian Wells in 1910. Melvin Harmon brought his 3 children and ailing wife to the rural community. He raised turkeys, chickens and alfalfa.  Melvin’s father soon followed and exercised his civil war grant to homestead a section, now called Indian Wells Country Club. Close by, Will Hayhurst, a muleskinner from Twentynine Palms was beginning to develop Rancho Palm Springs in 1914 which is now the Eldorado Country Club.

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The Caleb Cook family came to the Coachella Valley in 1912. Caleb had been a professor at Whittier College but was told by his doctor he needed outdoor work. Thanks to the water, Indian Wells became the site of the first date farm in Riverside County when Caleb Cook planted his ranch on the corner of Cook Street and Highway 111. He lived on property south of Indio but owned and farmed considerable acreage in Indian Wells. Caleb met an untimely work related death in 1927, but his sons Robert and William continued to be involved. William became the president of the Coachella Valley Date Growers Association until 1950. The name Cook became well known and a main street named in Indian Wells. Indian Wells, CA was the real beginning of serious date growing in the Coachella Valley!

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The site of a once heavily populated Native American Village, Indian Wells was put on the map in the 1860’s after the discovery of gold in the Colorado River. It became a stop along the Jack Bradshaw stagecoach trail used by prospectors heading west to make their gold fortunes!  The future site of the City of Indian Wells found itself 10 years later along the new Southern Pacific Railroad line that traveled through the Coachella Valley.  As stage and rail traffic grew, a water well was constructed by the County in 1870.  It was located 100 feet south of the abandoned Native American Village.  Through the early 20th century, this well served thousands of travelers, plus the area’s first permanent residents.

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The site of a once heavily-populated Native American village, Indian Wells was put on the map in the 1860’s after the discovery of gold on January 12, 1862 at a place called La Paz, on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. Indian Wells became a stop along the stagecoach trail that was used by prospectors heading out west to make their fortunes. The stagecoach line was built my 36 year old William David Bradshaw. A good friend of Bradshaw, Horace Bell, called him a “most polished gentleman” and a ‘natural lunatic.” Whatever label fit Bradshaw, he knew opportunity when he saw it! He knew the inevitable stampede of Argonauts would need a new, more direct trail east from the Los Angeles area across the desert and the Bradshaw Trail was built.

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The earliest recollection of people living in Indian Wells, was in the mid 1800’s when the Pacific Railway Survey passed through the valley and recorded a thriving Cahuilla Village called Kavinish which had probably been inhabited for many centuries. Fifty years later, however, the site looked as if it had long been abandoned. By 1860 the many hand dug water wells were drying up, too many travelers on the road, so the first man made well was built by the County of San Bernardino. Unfortunately, all these early wells were destroyed in the huge storm of 1916, when flood waters not only washed out the wells but devastated much farm land by cutting the Whitewater River Channel.

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Indian Wells as we know it today was once the ancient village of Kavinish. It was considered a large village for California Native Americans and populated by the Cahuilla Indians. Why this site? Water, of course! The wells were all dug by hand and about 25 to 35 feet deep. The well at Indian Wells had the best water source, a good spring, water ran from the ground, and clumps of palm trees grew around it. The Cahuilla were very resourceful and hunter and gatherer group.

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