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In the early 1600s Sebastian Vizcaino visited the California coast–He named San Diego Bay and met the Chumash people with their plank canoes–Excerpts of his diary here:

Diary of Sebastian Vizcaino 1602-1603

In: Spanish exploration in the Southwest 1542 – 1706, edited by Herbert Eugene Bolton, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1916

On the 12th of the said month, which was the day of the glorious San Diego, the general, Admiral, religious, captains, ensigns, and almost all the man went on shore. A hut was built and mass was said in celebration of the feast of Señor San Diego. When it was over the general called a council to consider what was to be done in this port, in order to get through quickly. It was decided that the Admiral, with the chief pilot, the pilots, the masters, caulkers, and seamen should scour the ships, giving them a good cleaning, which they greatly needed, and that Capt. Peguero, Ensign Alarcon, and Ensign Martin de Aguilar should each attend to getting water for the ship, while ensigns San Juan Francisco, and Sgt. Miguel de Lagar, with the carpenters, should provide wood.

When this had all been agreed upon, 100 Indians appeared on a hill with bows and arrows and with many feathers on their heads, yelling noisily at us. The general ordered Ensign Juan Francisco to go to them with four arquebusiers, father Fray Antonio following him in order to win their friendship. The Ensign was instructed that if the Indians fled he should let them go, but if they waited he should regale them. The Indians waited, albeit with some fear. The Ensign and soldiers returned, and the general, his son, and the Adm. went toward the Indians. The Indians seeing this, two men and two women came down from a hill. They having reached the general, and the Indian women weeping, he cajoled them and embraced them, giving them some things. Reassuring the others by signs, they descended peacefully, whereupon they were given presence. The net was cast and fish were given them. Whereupon the Indians became more confident and went to the rancherias and we to our ships to attend to our affairs.

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In this bay the general, with his man, went ashore. After they had gone more than three leagues along it a number of Indians appeared with their bows and arrows, and although signs of peace were made to them, they did not dare approach, excepting a very old Indian woman who appeared to be more than 150 years old and who approached weeping. The general cajoled her and gave her some beads and something to eat. This Indian woman, from extreme age, had wrinkles on her belly which looked like a blacksmith’s bellows, and the navel protruded bigger than a gourd. Seeing this kind of treatment the Indian came peacefully and took us to their rancherias, where they were gathering their crops and where they had made paresos of seeds like flax. They had pots in which they cooked their food, and the women were dressed in skins of animals. The general would not allow any soldier to enter their rancherias; and, it being already late, he returned to the frigate, many Indians accompanying him to the beach. Saturday night he reached the captain’s ship, which was ready; wood, water, and fish were brought on board, and on Wednesday, the 20th of the said month, we set sail. I do not state, lest I should be tiresome, how many times the Indians came to our camps with skins of martens and other things. Until the next day when we set sail, they remained on the beach shouting. This port was given the name of San Diego.

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On the 27th of the month, and before casting anchor in a very good cove which was found, a multitude of Indians came out in canoes of cedar and pine, native planks very well joined and caulked, each with eight oars and with 14 or 15 Indians, who looked like galley slaves. They came alongside without the least fear and came on board our ships, mooring their own. They showed great pleasure at seeing us, telling us by signs that we must land, and guiding us like pilots to the anchorage. The general received them kindly and gave them some presents, especially to the boys. We anchored, and the Admiral, Ensign Alarcon, father Fray Antonio, and Capt. Peguero, with some soldiers went ashore. Many Indians were on the beach, and the women treated us to roasted sardines and a small fruit like sweet potatoes.

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The next day the general and the Father Commissary went ashore, a hut was built, and mass was said. More than 150 Indian men and women were present, and they marveled not a little at seeing the altar and the image of our Lord Jesus crucified, and listened attentively to the saying of mass, asking by signs what it was about. They were told that it was about heaven, whereat they marveled more. When the divine service was ended the general went to their houses, where the women took him by the hand and led him inside, giving him some of the food which they had given before. He brought to the ship six Indian girls from 8 to 10 years old, whom their mothers willingly gave him, and he clothed them with chemises, petticoats, and necklaces, and sent them ashore. The rest of the women, saying this, came with their daughters in canoes, asking for gifts. The result was that no one returned empty-handed. The people go dressed in seal skins, the women especially covering their loins, and their faces show them to be modest; but the men are thieves, for anything they saw unguarded they took. They are people given to trade and traffic and are fond of barter, for in return for old clothes they would give the soldiers skins, shells, nets, thread, and very well twisted ropes, these in great quantities and resembling linen. They have dogs like those in Castile.

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… On the beach there was a Pueblo and more than 300 Indians, men, women and children. The general and Ensign Alarcon went ashore and inspected it. The next day the general and many of the rest of us went ashore. The Indian men and women embraced him and took him to their houses. These women have good features. The general gave them beads and regaled them, and they gave him prickly pears and a grain like the gofio of the Canary Islands, and in some willow baskets very well made, and water in vessels resembling flasks, which were like rattan inside and very thickly varnished outside. They had acorns and some very large skins, apparently of bears, with heavy fur, which they use for blankets.

The general went inland to see the opposite coast. He found on the way a level prairie, very well cleared, where the Indians were assembled to worship an idol which was there. It resembled a demon, having two horns, no head, the dog at his feet, and many children painted all around it. The Indians told the general not to go near it, but he approached it and saw the whole thing, and made a cross, and placed the name of Jesus on the head of the demon, telling the Indians that that was good, and from heaven, but that the idol was the devil. At this the Indians marveled, and they will readily renounce it and receive our holy faith, for apparently they have good intellects and are friendly and desirous of our friendship. The general returned to the Pueblo, and an Indian woman brought him to pieces of figured China silk, in fragments, telling him that they had got them from people like ourselves, who had negroes; that they had come on the ship which is driven by a strong wind to the coast and wrecked, and that it was farther on. The general endeavored to take two or three Indians with him, that they might tell him where the ship had been lost, promising to give them clothes.

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So we went on skirting the coast and on Monday, the second of the said month, we sighted two other large islands. Passing between the first and the mainland, a canoe came out to us with two Indian fishermen, who had a great quantity of fish, growing so swiftly that they seem to fly. They came alongside without saying a word to us and went twice around us at so great speed that it seemed impossible; this finished, they came aft, bowing their heads in the way of courtesy. The general ordered that they be given a cloth, with bread. They received it, and gave in return the fish they had, without any pay, and this done they said by signs that they wished to go. After they had gone five Indians came in another canoe, so well constructed and built that since Noah’s Ark the finer and lighter vessel with timbers better made has not been seen. Four men rowed, with an old man in the center singing as in a mitote of the Indians of New Spain, and others responding to him. Before coming alongside the stopped and he saluted us three times, making many ceremonious gestures with his head and body, and ordering the Indians to row around. This was done so swiftly that in a moment they went around us twice and immediately came aft. Only the old man spoke, he saying by signs that we must go to his land, where they would give us much food and water, where there was a river. He gave us a flask of it which he had brought, and a willow basket of food, a sort of porridge made of acorn meal. This Indian made himself so well understood by signs that he lacked nothing but ability to speak our language. He came to say that as a pledge of the truth of what he said one of us should get into his canoe and go to his land, and that he would remain on board ship with us as a hostage. The general, in order to test the Indians good faith, ordered a soldier to get into the canoe, and at once the Indian came aboard our ship with great satisfaction, telling the others who were in the canoe to go ashore and prepare food for all of us.

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… The Ensign and the pilot said that they had gone into the interior of the said Island and that there was a Pueblo there with more than 200 large houses in each one of which led more than 40 Indians; and that in the midst of its two poles were nailed together, with one above, like a gallows. More than 20 canoes came alongside the frigate, and because they were all done they dared not stay there. In this place there are many numbers of Indians, and the mainland has signs of being thickly populated. It is fertile for it has pine groves and oaks, and a fine climate, for although it gets cold it is not so cold as to cause discomfort.

Luiseño Creation Story


In the beginning, there was darkness and earth, brother and sister. Darkness was also called unoccupied, there is no one, and whitish gray (a term that referred to the Milky Way). Earth was also called empty, there is nothing there, and changing in form descending. The brother came unto the sister and they brought forth the sun, sand, flat rocks and stones, trees and shrubs, medicinal herbs and grasses, meat animals, and Wuyóot (also spelled Wiyot and Ouiot).
 
Wuyóot looked upon Red Legged Frog covetously. She could tell what was on his mind. When he saw that her behind was skinny and bony he lost interest. Red Legged Frog became angry and bewitched him.
 
He became sick and before he died said that all people will follow him in death. This is how death came to the world. However, he said he would return as the moon.
 
He died and was cremated; Blowfly rubbed her fire sticks together to light the pyre. They sent Coyote away to get fire from the sun. He ran back and jumped over the shortest ones guarding the body of Wuyóot. In various tellings this is either Big Cone Spruce and Incense Cedar or Badger. Brush Rabbit sang at Wuyóot’s funeral, being the first to ever sing.
 
A spirit, Chinigchinich, appeared and created humans. He said that those who do not obey him will be punished with “bears to bite, snakes to sting, misfortunes, infirmities and death.” Because of the similarity to the biblical God some believe that this was influenced by the missions, forming what anthropologists call syncretism or the fusing of native and external beliefs. Raven is Chinigchinich’s animal as was bear, cougar, various species of rattlesnake, stingrays, tarantula hawk (Pepsis wasp), black widow, tarantula and other spiders, ticks, scorpion and centipede. Rock crystals and tourmaline are also Chinigchinich’s and can be used to kill.
 
Instruction in proper behavior was given during the boys and girls initiation ceremonies. The boys took toloache to have a vision of animals. The girls took an infusion of tobacco. A ground painting showing the world and Chinigchinich’s animals was used.

The Alarcon expedition was the first into the Lower Colorado River area–They traveled up the river in 1540 and got as far as the Yuma area–Here are some excerpts:

Principal Navigation, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, Volume III Richard Hakluyt 1600, London in The Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology volume 1 number one 1979 pages 8 – 37

… Immediately an old man came with the rolls [cakes] of maize, and certain little gourds, and calling me with a loud voice and using many gestures with his body and arms came near me. Causing me to turn toward the people, and turning toward them himself, he said to them Sagueyca, and all the people answered with a great voice Hu. He offered to the Sun a little bit of everything he had there, and likewise a little more to me (although afterword he gave me all the rest) and did like to all that were with me. Calling out my interpreter, by means of him I gave them thanks, telling them that because my boats were little I had not brought many things to give them in exchange, but that I would come again another time and bring them, and that if they would go with me in my boats to my ships which I had down at the river’s mouth, I would give them many things. They answered that they would do so, being very glad in countenance.

Here, by the help of my interpreter, I sought to instruct them what the sign of the cross meant, and willed them to bring me a piece of timber, from which I caused a great cross to be made, and commanded all those that were with me that when it was made they should worship it, and beseech the Lord to grant his grace that so great a people might come to the knowledge of his holy Catholic faith. This done, I told them by my interpreter that I left them that sign in token that I took them for my brothers, and that they should keep it for me carefully until I returned, and that every morning at sunrise they should kneel before it. They took it immediately, and without suffering it to touch the ground they carried it and set it up in the midst of their houses, where all of them might behold it. I willed them always to worship it, because it would preserve them from evil. They asked me how deep they should set it in the ground, and I showed them. Great numbers of the people followed those that carried the cross, and those that stayed behind inquired of me how they should join their hands, and how they should kneel to worship the cross, and they seemed to have great desire to learn it.

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They told me they burned those who died, and such as remained widows stayed half a year or a whole year before they married again. I desired what they thought of such as were dead. He told me that they went to another world, but that they had neither punishment nor glory. The greatest sickness that this people die of his vomiting blood up the mouth, and they have physicians who cure them with charms and blowing which they make.

The apparel of these people is like that of the former: they carried their pipes with them to perfume themselves, as people of New Spain use tobacco.

I inquired whether they had any governor and found that they had none, but that every family had its own master [“had their sevarall governour”]. These people have, besides their maize, certain gourds, and another grain like millet. They have grindstones and earthen pots, in which they boiled those gourds, and fish of the river, which are very good.…

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… I asked him of Cevola: he told me he had been there, that it was a goodly thing, that the chief there was very well obeyed, and that there were other chiefs there about, with whom he was continually at war. I asked him whether they had silver and gold, and he, having perceived certain bells [on the boat?] said they had metal of their color. I inquired whether they made it there and he answered me, no, but that they brought it from a certain mountain, where an old woman dwelt. I demanded whether he had any knowledge of a river called Totonteac – he answered me no, that he, however, knew of another exceeding mighty river in which there were huge crocodiles that of their hides they made shields. These people worship the Sun neither more nor less than those whom I had passed, and then they offer to Him the fruits of the earth, they said “receive hereof, for Thou hast created them.”

Cocopa Creation Story


Cocopa Creation Story–Adapted from the Telling of William Kelly
Sipa and Komat, the creator gods, were under the water. Komat pushed Sipa out and he became the older. They came up through the water and Komat asked Sipa how he came up. He told him – with his eyes open. The older brother became blinded because of this. There was no land so they got three kinds of ants to dig up hills of earth and the water went down.
The ground dried out here and there and the two brothers made men. They made all sorts including Indians, Mexicans, Chinese and Americans. Komat, the blind one, needed to urinate so he went over to the bushes and Sipa switch the people he had made for Komat’s because they were better. Komat came back and felt the people before him and knew that they weren’t his because they were deformed. He needed to urinate again and Sipa switched his fox for Komat’s fox. Komat could tell that the fox wasn’t his.
Komat kept on making men. When they were all made it was time to add eyes to them. Sipa wanted to put them on their toes. Komat said this would not be good because when they walk through mud or dust they would not be able to see. He said the eyes should be in the head. Sipa agreed and that’s how they were made. Sipa made a bow and arrow and shot Komat, but did not injure him seriously. Everything was dark so Sipa made a light but it was not good. Komat made a good one and threw it into the sky where it travels during the day. Sipa was going to throw his out but Komat said no and it was the moon. Sipa changed again the men Komat had made for his. This time Komat became mad, broke the sky and disappeared through a hole in the ground. Things that cause disease and death came up through the hole so Sipa covered the hole with his feet but a number of sicknesses came through.
Sipa made more people and sorted them out into the different tribes. The spot where the twins came up and these things happened is called Striped House. Sipa taught the people how to talk and live. He built a house for them of adobe that turned to stone. It is located east of Tucson. In the house the children learned to play and the Yuma boy and the Cocopa boy and the Maricopa boy fought.
 
Sipa gave the people various things and the Mexican and the American, who were the youngest cried because they wanted things. The Cocopa boy said to give them to them to shut them up. Sipa took everybody to Wi Kwami. Coyote took his little sister Snake and threw her around. Snake complained to Sipa. He took whiskers from his chin and thorns from a bush and put them in Snake’s mouth. He blew tobacco smoke into her mouth and put ashes on her face and told her if the coyote threw her around to bite him. She did and coyote died.
The people did not know how to cry so locust taught them how to cry. Three birds directed the cremation. The two frog sisters of coyote mourned and decided to seek revenge on Sipa for putting teeth in Snake’s mouth. The two frog sisters caught Sipa’s excrement when he defecated. Sipa became ill because of this. He vomited white, yellow, red and black. These became food plants for the people. He died and the three birds took an ember from Coyote’s cremation and hid it in the ground. Coyote had a brother who wanted to eat Sipa’s body so the birds sent him to the sun to get fire for the cremation. While he was away, Quail, who was hiding the ember, lit the funeral pyre. The old woman who is taking care of the sun asked Coyote what he wanted the fire for. He told her and she said the pyre was nearly burned down. Coyote came bounding back and the people surrounded the pyre to guard it from him. Coyote begged to be led in, finally jumping over Badger and Skunk. Coyote ran away with the heart and the nonhuman persons tried to catch him.
The people were forgetting all the things that Sipa had taught them. The three birds sent White Road Runner to find Sipa who was walking toward heaven. He told him what was going on. Sipa said he couldn’t come back. Road Runner came back and told what had happened. Badger was sent after Sipa. He came back but it could not be seen. He told the people how to live. Some people didn’t listen and they don’t live right. They steal and kill people.