Kumeyaay at Point Loma

Cabrillo Day 2009
By Roy Cook

Auka, friends and family. Champion Wildcat singer Jon Meza Cuero fulfilled all expectations September 26, 2009. He was invited by the US Parks Point Loma Committee to be a significant part of the 46th annual Cabrillo Day recognition. Superintendent Tom Workman is there to greet us. He and Karl Pierce are familiar faces from the Parks Service. All the singers are pleased to be part of this recognition again,

Jon respectfully greets Tribal elder Jane Dumas and exchanges pleasantries in Tipai. They are both native fluent speakers in the local dialect. Jane Dumas continues to demonstrate her commitment to this celebration again and again. She participates in many of the activities that offer avenues to tribal traditional ways. She is a very traditional tribal person. She is an outstanding representative of the ongoing drama of tribal Americans in a complex urban context. She has endured for many decades. We are blessed each time we can be together.

The wind blows free, the sun warms our backs, the rocks remain and the songs sound again. We can look out across the bay and see the historical event carried by the songs selected by Jon Meza Cuero. We are convinced there are ancient ears listening to the songs. Our goal is to comfort and entertain all past, current and future peoples who hear these timeless Niemii songs.

But, once again at this year festival the term, fearful or great fear is quoted, as a description of the members of the Kumeyaay people. The truth is the Indian people already knew, from the thousands of year’s established American Indian message runners communication system, of the Europeans and their brutal treatment of the Native people. Additionally, the sailors were suffering from scurvy. A nasty, physically debilitating maritime disease. The sailors’ pasty appearance would cause anyone to recoil with apprehension.

The European summary of Cabrillo's journey in 1542 described the first encounter of Spaniards and native peoples in this uncharted land. As the story goes the Europeans approached the beach in a skiff where native canoes could be seen and MANY Indians gathered at the water's edge to inspect the unknown visitors, scattering as the Spaniards neared the shore. The three remaining Indians received gifts given by the landing party. The Kumeyaay "gave signs of great fear" as they physically described the sightings of other Europeans by the interior Yuman peoples to Cabrillo and his party, which was most likely a detachment from the expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's exploration party into the New Mexico and Arizona interior. The Indians indicated that these bearded men carried lances, rode great horses, and brutally slaughtered many Indians. To assuage their fears, Cabrillo and his men bribed them with more gifts. This documented above account verifies this writer’s position of prior American Indian knowledge of the Europeans and the message system.

The Spaniards returned near shore in the skiff at dusk that day, but were attacked by some Indians wielding bows and arrows. The Indians "wounded with their arrows three of a party that landed at night to fish," but Cabrillo restrained his crew from retaliation, convincing them to win the confidence of the offenders with gifts and the holy faith.

With mutual suspicion and violence, the opening page of history in California began with cautionary actions by both Native Californians and the Spanish. The Kumeyaay attacked first, perhaps, to protect them and repel the unwanted visitors, hopefully escaping the fate of the Yumans killed by the soldiers of Coronado. The Spanish initially chose restraint (probably because of the weak condition of its scurvy-ridden crew) so that they might persuade the Indians of Alta California to accept the imperatives of Spanish culture and religion. From this documented account, we can conclude there is NO clear legal or just claim for European imperial colonization. Resistance would continue into the next century and beyond.

When Spanish colonization efforts resumed in Alta California during the late eighteenth century, Native Californians proved difficult to subdue. The Kumeyaay, Yuman, Luiseño, and Cahuilla Indians around the San Diego region proved some of the most militant. In 1767, José de Galvez, inspector general of New Spain, dispatched orders to settle Alta California. Two ships were gone to San Diego under the command of Juan Pérez, the San Carlos and San Antonio. They reached San Diego bay by April 30, 1769. The expedition awaited two land parties led by Captain Fernando de Rivera y Moncada and Gaspar de Portola and Junípero Serra. Once united, the expeditions settled San Diego with both a presidio and a mission. Of his crew of ninety men, many suffering from scurvy, there were only sixteen in good health and Pérez kept the sick aboard the San Carlos and San Antonio. Soldiers guarded the ships closely because the "heathen of the village near the harbor are so inclined to theft that they approached very close to the bark in their little tule canoes and made several attempts to steal what they could lay hands on." The Spanish could not settle the land safely. This is, has been and will always be Indian Land. Might does not make right in a democracy or republic.

We were pleased to see: the Navy band, Cabrillo princess and our TONKAWA elder Celia Flores, originally a Luiseno from San Juan Capistrano, at this Cabrillo Festival.

Over 30 years ago, in recognition of the rich heritage, culture, history, and contributions of California Indians, the State of California proclaimed the fourth Friday in September as California Indian Day. Today and this weekend, California Indian Day continues to be a tradition celebrated by many communities across the state. “Everyday is Indian day.” Mehan, Aho, thank you.