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    For 10 millennia before the Spanish and other European settlers arrived in California, the Kumeyaay Indian Nation lived in the area now divided into San Diego and Imperial Counties and Baja Norte. Although this nation of original inhabitants has been called Southern Diegueño, Diegueño-Kamia, Ipai-Tipai and Mission Indians, the people prefer to be known as Kumeyaay.
    Yuman-speaking people of Hokan stock, Kumeyaay territory extended from the Pacific Ocean east to the Colorado River, north to Warner Springs Valley and south to Ensenada. Neighboring nations to the northeast and east were the San Lusieño, Cupeño and Cahuilla. While southern California Indian nations shared many characteristics, there was little uniformity in language, customs, political and social organization or economic resources.
    Indian nations throughout California, and North and South America were comparable to the multiple cultures, governments, religions, economic resources and languages of independent nations that abounded on the European, African and Asian continents in the year 1000 AD.
    The Kumeyaay planted trees and fields of grain; grew squash, beans and corn; gathered and grew medicinal herbs and plants, and dined on fresh fruits, berries, pine nuts and acorns. Kumeyaay fished, hunted deer and other animals, and were known for basket weaving and pottery. The people had sophisticated practices of agriculture, plant and animal husbandry; maintained wild animal stocks; controlled erosion and overgrowth; built dams; created watersheds and stored groundwater.
    A federation of autono-mous, self-governing bands, or clans, the Kumeyaay had clearly defined territories that included individual and collectively owned properties. The Kumeyaay united in defense of their territory and communicated by foot couriers. Throughout this vast area trails were forged by the Kumeyaay through the mountains, deserts and river valleys for trading, gathering for funerals, marriages and competitive games with each other and neighboring nations.
    A band's territory extended anywhere from 10 to 30 miles, along a stream and tributaries. It included trails, shared hunting, religious, ceremonial and common gathering areas. However, specific land tenured by families and individuals provided the economic foundation of the Kumeyaay existence. Property was generally passed from father to son.
    Each family independently planted and maintained fields of grain, grass and other annuals, shrubs, tree groves, cornfields, quarries and hot and cold springs, clay beds and basket grass clumps. However, sharing the produce for the band's benefit was assumed. Territory belonging to a band often included adjacent holdings stretching from the mountains and river plains, to the coast.
    The Kumeyaay took advantage of the different climatic zones in the region, surviving fluctuations in the climate by rotating domestic crops and living off varieties of food sources in the different ecological systems.
    Sacred lands were shared. Creation stories and religious rituals were tied to specific locations, or holy lands, just as with the Hebrews, Christians and Muslims. One such place is Kuuchamaa, or Tecate Peak. Another is Wee-ishpa, or Signal Mountain. Burial grounds were sacred, and still are to this day. Each band had worship areas restricted to religious and tribal leaders.
    Generally peaceful by nature, the Kumeyaay social and governmental customs of tolerance and individual freedom spawned independent people.
    The social structure of the bands included the shiimull, or ancestral descent group, governed by a hierarchy of kwaaypaays. The shiimull often had family loyalties and relatives that extended beyond the band through marriage. In 1769, when the Spanish arrived, between 50 and 75 shiimull, or bands existed. Each included 5 to 15 family groups.
    The kwaaypaay was usually the male head of a shiimull. He inherited the position from his father, but was not necessarily from the band he led. The kwaaypaays were raised to become leaders. A common practice was for the kwaaypaay of one band to be selected from another band, thus ensuring unity among the clans. Also, since the primary duty was to maintain harmony and arbitrate disputes, a kwaaypaay without relatives in the band to prejudice decisions was more impartial and fair. Even though the leadership was drawn from among the sons of all kwaaypaays, the final choice, and approval of their leader, belonged to the band.
    Each kwaaypaay, or captain or chief, as they came to be called, had an assistant called the speaker, and a council of kuseyaay. Composed of male and female priests, scientists, doctors and other specialists, kuseyaays served as advisers in ecology, resource management, healing, and the spiritual and religious practices of the tribe.
    The kwaaypaay called upon these counselors to assist in providing information and making decisions for the tribe's welfare. Once a decision was made, it had the force of law.
    However, each family was free to follow and participate in the decision, or break off from the band; leave the band's territory and pursue its own course of action without punishment or retribution.
    The Kumeyaay lived life through songs. They danced and sang to celebrate, mourn and teach. Culture, traditions, history and social values were transmitted through songs. Songs taught everything the people needed to know to survive. There were songs about the environment such as salt, wildcats and plants. There was no written language. Songs contained the collective wisdom and memories of the Kumeyaay people.
    Individuals and clans had songs. Spiritual and creation songs and dances, such as the Bird Song and Eagle Dance, taught moral lessons and connected people with the ancestors and the meaning of life and death.
    In 1542, life began to change for the Kumeyaay. No longer a story of a culture and people evolving, living, dying, shaping and being shaped by the environment, it was a time of death caused by hunger and disease, occupation, slavery, rape and genocide.
    The last 500 years of the millennium for the Kumeyaay was a time of survival and conquest. The shared history became a story of clashing cultures and the struggle of the Kumeyaay to adapt, yet maintain their cultural identity in a changed world.
    First came the Spanish, followed by the Mexican government and the United States. Each believed the land and people who had lived here for millennia existed for their use and abuse.
    Unable to provide protection from the influx and military might of the newcomers, removed from food sources and land, unable to speak the language or understand the customs of the immigrants, and without legal protection of civil rights, the Kumeyaay became totally dependent upon a hostile populace, strangers in their own land. Denied customs, culture, social and political traditions, the Kumeyaay became strangers to themselves.
    Despite common beliefs that Californian Indians, beleaguered of soul and body, crept away to die, these ancestors survived. Their story of sacrifice and courage and belief that the Kumeyaay would reclaim a place in this land is as positive and encouraging as their suffering was devastating.

Generally peaceful by nature, a Kumeyaay band would include as many as 15 family groups.

    1769-1822 The Mission Period
    In September 1542, the coastal Kumeyaay encountered the first European, Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, when his ship sailed into San Diego Bay.
    Then, in 1769, the Spanish sent a colonizing force into upper California.
    Spanish army units founded a presidio (army post) in San Diego Bay and Franciscan Juan Crespi arrived with the first overland group of Spanish missionaries and soldiers. He was followed in July by Father Junipero Serra, with a group led by Gaspar de Portola. Father Serra, founder of the Mission San Diego, and others like him were charged with bringing the natives to Catholic Christianity. Thus began the mission years for the Kumeyaay.
    The directive of the priests was to educate the natives in "civilized pursuits and to make them working class citizens of the Spanish Empire." Once converted and properly indoctrinated in the customs of the church and the realm, these baptized Indians would be granted a piece of land. The local missions also were expected to supply the army with food, livestock and laborers for mission pueblos and private ranch holdings granted by the Spanish government.
    Kumeyaay coastal land was confiscated and the people captured and forced to work for the Spanish. Soldiers scoured the countryside for Indians to be rounded up for conversion and indentured slave labor. After a period of indoctrination and servitude, some were released to return to their homes. The women were often raped and used as property of the militia. Unmarried Indian girls, the sick, some elderly and men trained as specialists in leather and woodworking, carpenters, farmers and blacksmiths were permanently kept at the mission, often against their will.
    To avoid capture the Kumeyaay fled east to the mountains to make new homes. Kumeyaay ritual and spiritual practices were outlawed. The Kumeyaay revolted against forced servitude and abduction. In 1776, there were a number of uprisings and skirmishes, one destroying the San Diego Mission, which was rebuilt on another location. The Spanish forces moved inland, taking Kumeyaay lands in Santee, El Cajon, Jamacha and Jamul to gain control of better water resources.
    Death stalked the Kumeyaay in many ways. Without natural immunities the Kumeyaay, exposed to European diseases, died by the thousands as smallpox and measles spread through the villages.

    1822-1848 Mexican Period
    Following the Mexican Revolution and founding of the Republic of Mexico in 1822, the Spanish holdings were secularized. During the Mexican period, the missions became parish churches and mission lands, rancheros. Prior commitments made to Hispanicized Kumeyaay for small plots of land by the Spanish were dismissed. Mexican governors gave the best mission lands to Mexican nationals, and conceded large land grants, absorbing farms of Hispaniized Indians granted by the Spanish, as well as Kumeyaay villages within their boundaries.
    Kumeyaay living on former mission properties were turned over to Mexican nationals to serve as peon labor. Missions were placed under majordomos, who used the Indians as servants for their large families. Majordomos allocated passes to the Kumeyaay laborers to leave the rancheros to visit their families, and sent patrols to recapture those who did not return. The Kumeyaay became prisoners on their own land, trading one form of enslavement for another.
    When repeated requests to the Mexican government by the Kumeyaay about abuses of their land and water rights were ignored, inland bands led numerous uprisings and revolts. In San Diego, Mexicans seldom left the presidio or pueblos without military guard.
    Eventually, the United States moved to acquire the California territories. In December 1846, the U.S. Army led by Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny passed through Yuma, San Felipe, Warners Valley, Santa Ysabel and San Pasqual, destroying Kumeyaay homes for firewood.
    The Kumeyaay and other Indians were friendly toward the Americans, hopeful that this new government would keep promises to settle the land disputes and treat the Indians fairly. During the battle of San Pasqual between the Mexicans and U.S. Army, the Kumeyaay aided General Kearny. After the battle, they guided him to San Diego.
    The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo transferred California to the United States and guaranteed existing land titles, all rights and immunities, and religious freedom to Mexican citizens. All these rights also were to be applied to baptized Indians who became Mexican citizens; however they were rarely enforced for the Christian Kumeyaays, and never for the traditional Kumeyaays.

Anthony R. Pico is tribal chairman of the Viejas Bank of Kumeyaay Indians.

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