Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
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Monday, April 23, 2012

More California Indians

The Cahuilla

Iviatim in their own language, are Indians (Native Americans) with a common culture whose ancestors inhabited inland areas of southern California 2,000 years ago. Their original territory included an area of about 2,400 square miles (6,200 km²). The traditional Cahuilla territory was near the geographic center of Southern California. It was bounded to the north by the San Bernardino Mountains, to the south by Borrego Springs and the Chocolate Mountains, to the east by the Colorado Desert, and to the west by the San Jacinto Plain and the eastern slopes of the Palomar Mountains.

(Baskets typical of Cahuilla palm fiber construction earlier in this century.) 

The Cahuilla lived from the land by using native plants. A notable tree whose fruits they harvested is the California fan palm. The Cahuilla people also used palm leaves for basketry of many shapes, sizes and purposes; sandals, and roofing thatch for dwellings. The Cahuilla lived in smaller groups than some other tribes.


The Cahuilla did not encounter Anglo-Americans until the 1840s. Chief Juan Antonio, leader of the Cahuilla Mountain Band, gave traveler Daniel Sexton access to areas near the San Gorgonio Pass in 1842. The Mountain Band also lent support to a U.S. Army expedition led by Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale, defending the party against attacks by Wakara and his band of Ute warriors.

During the Mexican-American War, Chief Juan Antonio led his warriors to join Californios led by Jose Carmen del Lugo in attacking their traditional enemy, the Luiseño. Lugo led this action in retaliation for the Pauma Massacre, in which the Luiseño had killed 11 Californios. The combined forces staged an ambush and killed 33-40 of the Luiseño warriors, an event that became known as the Temecula Massacre of 1847. (Academic historians disagree on the exact number of deaths; Luiseño oral tradition holds that more than 100 warriors were killed.) In the treaty ending the war with Mexico, the US promised to honor Mexican land grants and policies. These included recognition of Native American rights to inhabit certain lands, but European-American encroachment on Indian lands became an increasing problem after the US annexed California.

During the 1850s, the Cahuilla came under increasing pressure from waves of European-American migrants because of the California Gold Rush. In addition to the influx of Anglo-American miners, ranchers and outlaws, and groups of Mormon colonists, the Cahuilla came into conflict with the neighboring Cupeño tribe to the west. When the California Senate refused to ratify an 1852 treaty granting the Cahuilla control of their lands, tribal leaders, including Juan Antonio, resorted to attacks on approaching settlers and soldiers.

The  Cupeño

Several different groups combined to form Cupeño culture around 1000 to 1200 CE. They were closely related to Cahuilla culture. The Cupeño people traditionally lived in the mountains in the San Jose Valley at the headwaters of the San Luis Rey River. They lived in two autonomous villages, Wilákalpa and Kúpa, also spelled Cupa, which north of Warner Springs, California. They also lived at Agua Caliente, located east of Lake Henshaw on State Highway 79 near Warner Springs, California. The 200-acre (0.81 km2) Cupeño Indian village site is now abandoned but evidence of its historical importance remains.

At first, the Cupeño had little direct contact with the coastal missions; it was not until 1795 that first recorded missionary entered their valley, and he did not even visit the hot springs. In 1798, the Mission San Luis Rey was established in what is now Oceanside. To support the mission on the coast, a string of inland ranchos were established for stock raising and farming. Around 1830, the missionaries established an outpost near the hot springs, which they called Agua Caliente. Grapes and other crops were planted, and cattle and sheep grazed in the valley. Unlike many other Indians, most of the Cupeño who agreed to be baptized and work for the support of the mission were allowed to remain in their village, and did not go to live at San Luis Rey.

Shortly thereafter, the missions were stripped of their lands by the Mexican Government, and the Indians were left to fend for themselves. Some stayed at the declining missions. Some found work on the cattle ranches, or in towns. Others returned to their villages, but they took with the new skills they had learned at the missions.

Change was happening all around the Cupeño. California became a part of the United States in 1848. Under Spain and Mexico, the California Indians had been counted as citizens, and their lands protected (at least in theory). But to the new American rulers of California, the Indians were a stumbling block, to be pushed aside, even killed, in the name of progress.


The Kawaiisu (also Nuwa or Nuooah) are a Native American group who lived in the southern California Tehachapi Valley and across the Tehachapi Pass in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains to the north, toward Lake Isabella and Walker Pass. They also traveled eastward on food-gathering trips to areas in the northern Mojave Desert, to the north and northeast of the Antelope Valley, as far east as the Panamint Valley, the Panamint Mountains, and the western edge of Death Valley. [north and east of the Los Angeles Basin]

The Kawaiisu lived in permanent winter villages of 60 to 100 people. They often divided into smaller groups during the warmer months of the year and harvested California native plants in the mountains and deserts, and animals, for food and raw materials.

The Kawaiisu were related by language and culture to the Southern Paiute of southwestern Nevada and the Chemehuevi of the eastern Mojave Desert of California. They may have originally lived in the desert before coming to the Tehachapi Mountains region, perhaps as early as 2000 years ago or before.

The Kawaiisu have been known by several other names, including the Caliente, Paiute, and Tehachapi Indians, but they called themselves Nuwu or "people." The Kawaiisu maintained friendly relations with the neighboring Kitanemuk and also participated in cooperative antelope drives (driving herds of antelope into traps so they could be more easily slaughtered) with the Yokuts, another group living in the San Joaquin Valley.

Another related tribe was the Kitanemuk.

The Kumeyaay

These were the first California native encountered by the Spanish in 1769 when two ships anchored in San Miguel Bay. The crews were wracked by scurvy and diarrhea, totally unprepared to deal with this warlike branch of the natives known to them as Ipai and Tipai.

They almost immediately fell into conflict with the Spanish as they would wander through the camps, picking up and taking anything lying around loose. They had no sense of ownership. On the night of November 4, 1775, two Kumeyaay disciples fearing public punishment for stealing, led a band of between 600 and 800 warriors against the Mission San Diego. After plundering the chapel, they set the other buildings ablaze. Father Jayme left the mission and approached the attackers with open arms and his usual greeting, “Love God, my children.” The Kumeyaay stripped him of his clothing, beat him and riddled his body with arrows. This, Father Jayme became the only friar to die in an Indian attack at all of the 21 missions.

Under the Spanish Mission system, bands living near Mission San Diego de Alcalá, established in 1769, were called Diegueños. After Mexico took over the lands from Spain, they secularized the missions in 1834, and Ipai and Tipais lost their lands and essentially became serfs.

 When California became a state in 1850, it was the worst period yet for the Kumeyaay Indians. Technically wards of the federal government, caught in a battle between states' rights and the federal government, the Kumeyaays found themselves with no protection.
    California passed the act for the Government and Protection of Indians in 1850. This act assumed state authority over the Indians and empowered county sheriffs to mark boundaries and protect Indians and Indian lands "as needed." The act also legalized the indenturing of Indian children, granting custody for males until age 18 and females until 15 years old.

    Children often were seen being driven to market, where Indian boys were sold for $50, and girls for $100. Thousands of Native Americans were made legal wards of Anglos who sought a cheap and steady labor supply. An advertisement inviting new settlers to California boasted free land and free Indian labor.

Not even the Mexican had treated them so poorly.

The Miwok

There were two basic groups, those living in the Sierras and those living along the coast. The coastal Miwoks were those who came in contact with the Spanish. The Coast Miwok Indians' territory stretched as far north as Bodega Bay, as far east as the town of Sonoma and included all of present day Marin County. Over 600 village sites have been uncovered and identified in the Miwok territory and, of those, more than 100 have been discovered on the Peninsula.