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San Diego’s early modern Indians

Edward Davis, Manzanita and Ensenada tribes, Kumeyaay basket and lace-making

Gloria Castañeda. When her relative Petra started making baskets, sumac was the weft, and the bundle was made of deer grass, but the overgrazing of the late 1800s took away the deer grass.
  • Gloria Castañeda. When her relative Petra started making baskets, sumac was the weft, and the bundle was made of deer grass, but the overgrazing of the late 1800s took away the deer grass.
  • Image by Sandy Huffaker, Jr.

Women’s Work

She said when she told Castaneda and Silva about the basket, they were excited and wanted to know if it was a fancy tamul basket. They were disappointed to find out it was only an open twined berry-gathering basket. Dozier says she presumes when Petra started making baskets, sumac was the weft, and the bundle was made of deer grass, but she said the overgrazing of the late 1800s took away the deer grass.

By Susan Luzzaro, April 6, 2000 | Read full article

"Old General" Manuel La Chusa of Carrisito. Davis observed the Indians during a period in which they were being forced to give up a seasonal hunter-gatherer life and adapt to a cash-based economy.

"Old General" Manuel La Chusa of Carrisito. Davis observed the Indians during a period in which they were being forced to give up a seasonal hunter-gatherer life and adapt to a cash-based economy.

Edward H. Davis Collection/San Diego Historical Society

The Indians and Edward H. Davis

Davis observed the Indians during a period in which they were being forced to give up a seasonal hunter-gatherer life and adapt to a cash-based economy. When drought and the Great Depression struck in the 1930s, Davis’s journals show that he became something of an angel to the poverty-stricken bands in the Mesa Grande area. May says Davis would often make rounds among the Indian families in a car or wagon andwould fill up their baskets with food.

By Neal Matthews, June 12, 1986 | Read full article

Cattle pen, Manzanita reservation. From the hills of the reservation, you can see for hundreds of miles.

Cattle pen, Manzanita reservation. From the hills of the reservation, you can see for hundreds of miles.

As Long as the Grass Grows

But the 90 resident and nonresident members of the Manzanita are a sovereign tribe, which paradoxically makes them subject to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is run by the Department of the Interior. This state of quasi-sovereignty has long been the status quo in federal-Indian relations (the original federal plan was to make the land west of the Mississippi “Indian Country,” a plan that was replaced by the reservation system).

By Laura McNeal, Sept. 28, 1995 | Read full article

Indian children, San Antonio Necua. The Indians often have married women descended from the Russian pacifists.

Indian children, San Antonio Necua. The Indians often have married women descended from the Russian pacifists.

One Thousand Survivors

On the shores of the dry lakebed known as the Laguna Salada, about 250 Cucapa reside. Perhaps 50 — Kiliwa Indians live in an area known as Arroyo de Leon at the foot of the Sierra San Pedro Martír. The Kumeyaay Indians, whose territory extends as far north as Escondido, in San Diego County, inhabit four settlements south of the border. Finally, Paipai Indians, who bear many cultural similarities to the Indians of Arizona.

By Jeanette De Wyze, Sept. 19, 1996 | Read full article

Let's Talk Tiapa Aa, a primer in one of the Kumeyaay languages. Langdon had no written material to aid her. She says no American Indians ever developed a writing system, with two exceptions.

Let's Talk Tiapa Aa, a primer in one of the Kumeyaay languages. Langdon had no written material to aid her. She says no American Indians ever developed a writing system, with two exceptions.

Ted Couro & Margaret Langdon

When an Indian Language is Gone

There is no generic word for ‘rabbit.’ You have a word for a jackrabbit, a cottontail, and a brush rabbit ’Cause they’re very distinctive-looking things. It’s the same with trees, Langdon says. No word means “oak” in general, but there are terms for all the oak varieties, of which at least six can be found in San Diego County. “Every Indian in San Diego County knows unerringly all the different kinds of oaks.”

By Jeanette De Wyze, Jan. 30, 1997 | Read full article

Daleane Adams' grandmother, Isabell Thing, was famous in San Diego as a medicine woman. “She was a full-blooded Indian originally from around Balboa Park."

Daleane Adams' grandmother, Isabell Thing, was famous in San Diego as a medicine woman. “She was a full-blooded Indian originally from around Balboa Park."

Secrets of the Dome Dwellers

Adams remembers how the tribe danced with gourd rattles. “We never used drums” — at least not until tourists started expecting them. “That’s because when you put on a powwow nowadays, the people come to hear drums and singing and to see the fancy feathers, like Indians wear in Oklahoma. Those are what they associate with all Indians. But we didn’t use drums and never wore fancy feathers. We didn’t live in teepees or kill a buffalo.

By Jeanne Schinto, Sept. 28, 2000 | Read full article

Delfina Cuero

Delfina Cuero

Delfina Cuero: Her autobiography, an account of her last years, and her ethnobotanic contributions

Her family fished and gathered shellfish in the Ocean Beach-Point Loma area. “There were lots of rabbits there, too. My grandfather used to tell the boys to eat rabbit eyes, because it would make them good hunters. To spear fish, they fixed cactus thorns to a long stick. For ropes, nets, and traps, they wove tall grasses and agave fiber. “We put the traps in the ocean, put a piece of rabbit meat in it."

By Jeff Smith, Aug. 16, 2001 | Read full article

San Diego Reader, August 30, 2001

San Diego Reader, August 30, 2001

They Shall Be Dead, and We Shall All Be Free

Lace making depended upon the import of rust-proof steel pins and Belgian linen thread; a completely uniform, small-diameter thread. There were no contemporaneous local substitutes for these materials. Cash was required to buy the imports. Traditional Indian textiles used in Southern California were cloaks made of strips of rabbit skin interwoven with milkweed or hemp cordage, skirts of shredded bast fibers, and mats made of pierced rushes threaded together on four or five rows of cordage.

By Deborah Dozier, Aug. 30, 2001 | Read full article

Maria Cuero: “Between Old Town and Point Loma was a lot of black mud where it is dry land now. We would gather the greens and roots and boil and dry them.... The food ..was real good because it was salty."

Maria Cuero: “Between Old Town and Point Loma was a lot of black mud where it is dry land now. We would gather the greens and roots and boil and dry them.... The food ..was real good because it was salty."

San Diego Historical Society

Native Exiles

Often she recalls taboos now fading from the landscape. Mission Valley once had almost as many rattlesnakes as fleas. But it was bad luck to kill a snake, “.... If a person who has been bitten goes into my garden, all the plants will die.” Pregnant or menstruating women should avoid that person as well. On the plus side, someone bitten by a snake or black widow spider could have a much better garden than before.

By Jeff Smith, Aug. 30, 2001 | Read full article

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