Language Survival In Southern California

Ethnologue Is a Site That Provides Information on World Languages–It Lists Cocopah and Quechan As Not Being Transmitted to the Children–Kumeyaay Is Even More Endangered In That It Is Only Spoken by the Grandparents Among Themselves–Cahuilla Is Listed As Nearly Extinct In That It’s Known by the Grandparents But Not Spoken–Language Revitalization Efforts Are Going on In Many Native Communities

Hokan languages and Uto-Aztecan languages in Southern California

In Southern California there are two aboriginal language groups: the Hokan and the Uto-Aztecan–The Hokan phylum could be found in various parts of California–Some people think that Hokan was one of the original language groups in California–It is thought that as other language groups migrated into California they pushed the Hokan speakers aside–The Uto-Aztecan groups in Southern California is the Takic languages–It is thought that they migrated into Southern California and displaced the Hokan groups, the Yumans–However, mitochondrial DNA studies show little difference between the Takic speakers and the Yuman speaking groups 

Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua

Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua

John Russell Bartlett

New York 1854


At San Diego:

No event that is worthy of mention occurred here, except a visit from a band of Diegueno Indians. The chief and several of his tribe were sent to me at my request by a Californian gentleman. They were miserable, ill looking set, with dark brown complexions and emaciated bodies; and though the weather was cold, they were but slightly clad. Articles of old and cast-off clothing, such as tattered shirt and pantaloons, were all that the best could boast of. One, I think the chief, had a piece of a horse blanket around his cadaverous looking body. I managed to get from them of vocabulary of their language; though I must confess that with the exception of the Apache, I never found one so difficult to express, in consequence of the guttural and nasals with which it abounded. I finally got the words so correct, that the Indians could recognize them, and give me the Spanish equivalents. I tried to write down some short sentences, but was obliged to give up the attempt as unsuccessful. I could not combine the words so as to be understood in a single instance. These Indians occupy the coast for some 50 miles above, and about the same distance below, San Diego, and extend about 100 miles into the interior. They are the same who were known to the first settlers as the Comeya tribe. I also found an Indian here from the upper Sacramento River. He had been taken prisoner by the American troops about three years before, and was now living with some of the officers. He was quick and intelligent, and answered promptly my questions relative to his tribe and country. I could not, however, ascertain the precise locality of his people, which he called the Heh’hana tribe – the H a deep guttural. I got from him a complete vocabulary of his language.


The geysers of Plutonic River, and returned to San Francisco:

An Indian village stood a few hundred yards from the house; and at my request Mr. Knight went out and brought me some three of the most intelligent among them, from whom I obtained a full vocabulary of their language. Like many other tribes of the country, and of this region in particular, they appeared to have no name for themselves as a people. By the white people these and all other Indians between the Sacramento and the coast, and thence through the central parts of the state, are called “Diggers” or “Digger Indians,” from the fact that they live chiefly on roots, which they collect by digging. I therefore set them down as Indians of Napa Valley. We had met with several small bands, and passed a few villages on our way up; but from none could I learn that they had any name for their tribe. This fact will account for the great diversity in the names of the California Indians as given by travelers. In examining the various books on this country and articles in scientific journals, I find tribes mentioned by names which are not elsewhere to be found; and in my inquiries I have found tribes who called themselves by names which I never heard before. This has induced me to believe that the small tribes are bands, which abound here more than in any other part of North America, when asked to what tribe they belong, give the name of their chief, which is misunderstood by the inquirer to be that of the tribe itself.

Their houses are circular, and from 12 to 30 feet in diameter, the interior usually excavated about 3 feet below the surface of the ground. Within this circle posts are planted, forked at the top upon which rest poles reaching from one to the other. The spaces between the posts are filled in with sticks or tules, against which the earth is firmly banked up outside. The roofs are dome-shaped, and in the smaller houses, supported by a single post in the center, on the four top of which rest two main rafters, with their outer ends planted in the ground. From these are stretched stout poles, about a foot apart and thatched with sticks and tules, or rushes closely interwoven, and covered with a solidly pressed layer of earth about a foot thick making the roof completely waterproof in the heaviest rains. In some villages the houses have but one aperture which is on the top of the roof, and serves for both door and chimney. This is entered by a sort of rude ladder, or by notches cut in the center post. Others have an opening at the side, so small as to not be entered except by crawling on the hands and knees. Around the sides of the interior are wide shelves, formed of poles and rushes nesting on four posts, which serve for beds.

In the view of the interior of one of their dwellings is seen a number of decoy ducks which they used to great advantage. Although the California tribes exhibit much skill at fishing and entrapping game, and the erection of their dwellings, they show little ingenuity in the arts of design. The accompanying rude figure in wood, of a woman and child, which is found on the coast, is all that I have seen of their carving.

The Indians dwelling near the great rivers of California make much dependence upon the salmon and sturgeon which they can take. For this purpose they use both nets and spears. When the river is wide, the nets are stretched by means of booms projecting from the banks, sometimes 100 feet into the stream. These booms are made of the trunks of trees, fasten together at the ends, and kept at right angle with the shore by stays of grape vine stretching from the boom to trees or stakes. Beneath the outer end of the boom is afloat or raft of tule, upon which is stuck a branch gaily trimmed with feathers and other ornaments, as a charm to secure success. Other charms, usually made up bunches of feathers raised upon poles, are placed along the bank, where are also one or two huts for the party in attendance. One of the party holds constantly in his hand a line attached to the net, by means of which he can feel when a large fish is entangled, whereupon the net is hauled in and the prize secured.

When the sturgeon is caught, the spinal marrow, which is considered a delicacy, is drawn out whole through a cut made in the back, and devoured raw, with rapidity quite startling to one not aware of the strength of an Indians stomach.

The spear is a very ingenious and effective contrivance. When thrown into a fish, the head, which is a bone with a line attached towards the point, detaches itself from the pole, which serves as a drag to weary out the fish. As soon as the pole can be seized, nothing remains but to haul the prey in.

The men either go naked or where a simple breech cloth. The women wear a cloth or strips of leather around their loins. A basket pointed at the lower end, is in universal use amongst them, for gathering the roots and seeds which form their chief subsistence. This is carried on their backs, supported by a band across the forehead. Their arms of defense are bows and arrows. Some tribes, however, make use of the spear or lance. In one respect the California Indians differ from all others. I allude to their beards, which are generally permitted to grow. It is true they are not as thick and bushy as in the white race, but short, thin, and stiff. I have never seen them extend beyond the upper lip and the chin. The hair of all California Indians I have seen is cut short.


At Monterey:

Monterey has always been noted for its excellent society; although the Americans have monopolized every other town in the state, it still preserves much of its original character. The old Californian or Castilian families are still in the ascendancy; but the young Americans and other foreigners are making terrible inroads among them, and carrying off their fair daughters. Many officers of the United States Army have married in California; and from what I heard, here and at other places, others intend following their example. The young señorita is certainly possessed many attractions and of those shut up in the secluded part of the world, without the advantage of a good education or of intercourse with refined society, they need not fear a comparison with their own ladies. In deportment they are exceeding gentle and ladylike, with all the natural grace and dignity which belong to the Castilian nation. Their complexion is generally as fair as the Anglo-Saxon, particularly along the seacoast, with large black eyes and hair. In this respect they differ much from the Mexican ladies of the interior, who are generally brunettes. In form they differ from their Mexican sisters. The latter are too often short and stout, while the Californian ladies are as slender and delicate in form as those from our Atlantic states. I was struck too with the elegance and purity of their language, which presented a marked contrast with the corrupt dialects spoken in Mexico.

The Californians as a people appear superior to the Mexicans, which may be attributed to two causes. Both countries, it is true, were colonized by the same race; but I think a superior class of men came to California, who have preserved their Castilian blood from all admixture with that of the aborigines. There were, doubtless, fewer of the poor class to who came here, owing to the greater length and cost of the journey, and the increase by immigration has been trifling since. The original colonists possessed large tracts of land, and have ever since continued in an isolated state, marrying among themselves, and enjoying a life of luxury and ease. The climate, unlike that of Mexico, is healthy and invigorating; while the humid atmosphere of the coast gives the fairness and brilliancy to the complexion unknown to the dry and burning planes of Mexico.

Although San Francisco will always rank first in the scale of Californian cities, by reason of its superior harbor and great commercial facilities, Monterey will become the residence of gentlemen of fortune, on account of its more genial climate and its distance from the noise and bustle of a great city. It will be to San Francisco what Newport is now to New York.


At Los Angeles:

I saw more Indians about this place than in any part of California I had yet visited. They were chiefly mission Indians i.e. those who had been connected with the missions, and derived their support from them until the suppression of those establishments. They are a miserable squalid looking set, squatting or lying about the corners of the streets, without occupation. They have now no means of obtaining a living, as their lands are all taken from them; and the missions for which they labored, and which provided after a sort for many thousands of them, are abolished. No care seems to be taken of them by the Americans; on the contrary, the effort seems to be, to exterminate them as soon as possible. One of the most intelligent of them, who was brought to me by the kindness of my friends here, was unacquainted with the name of the tribe to which he belonged, and only knew that it had been attached to certain missions. I obtained from him a vocabulary, which I found on examination to be the Diegueno language, with some words different from that obtained from San Diego.


At Mission San Gabriel:

These 5000 Indians constituted a large family, of which the Padres were the social, religious, and we might also say political head.

Living thus, this vile and degraded race began to learn some of the fundamental principles of civilized life. The institution of marriage began to be respected, and blessed by the rights of religion, grew to be so much considered that deviations from its duties were somewhat unfrequent occurrences. The girls, on their arrival at the age of puberty, were separated from the rest of the population and taught the useful arts of sewing, weaving, carding, etc., and were only permitted to mingle with the population when they had assumed the characters of wives.

When at present we look around and behold the state of the Indians of this country – when we see their women degraded into a scale of life too menial to be even domestics – when we behold their men brutalized by drink, incapable of work, and following a system of petty thievery for a living, humanity cannot refrain from wishing that the dilapidated mission of San Gabriel should be renovated, its broken walls be rebuilt, its roofless houses be covered, and its deserted halls be again filled with its ancient, industrious, happy, and contented original population.


At San Luis Rey:

The sargeant, at my request, sent for an old Indian of the neighborhood, who called himself the chief. On learning that an officer of the US government wished to see him, he made appearance with three others of his tribe. The old man presented himself in the dress of a Mexican officer – a blue coat with a red facings, trimmed with gold and lace, and a high military cap feather. He was quite communicative, and answered my questions readily. In giving me the words of his language, he enunciated them with great distinctiveness, and would not be satisfied with my pronunciation until all could at once recognize the word. When I had completed my vocabulary, and read off the native words, he evinced great pleasure as he repeated the corresponding word in Spanish, occasionally exclaiming Bueno or Muy Bueno! He called his tribe the Kechi.

On inquiring as to the state of things when the Padres were here, the old man heaved a deep sigh. He said his tribe was large, and his people all happy, when the good fathers were here to protect them. That they cultivated the soil; assisted in rearing large herds of cattle; were taught to be blacksmiths and carpenters, as well as other trades; that they had plenty to eat, and were happy. He remembered when 3000 of his tribe were settled in the valley, dependent upon or connected with the mission. Now he said they were scattered about, he knew not where, without a home or protectors, and were in a miserable starving condition. A few hundred alone remained to some villages up the valley, a few miles from the mission. He spoke with much affection of Father Peyri, its original founder who had resided here for 34 years. At no time, he said, where there more than 16 Spanish soldiers here, who occupied the building facing the mission, which is still standing.

Mr. Alexander Forbes, who met the venerable Peyri, and who has given us this account of his history, thus closes his remarks on the mission, and the affection entertained by the Indians for their pastor: “The best and the most unequivocal proof of the good conduct of these fathers, is to be found in the unbounded affection and devotion invariably shown towards them by their Indian subjects. They venerate them not merely as friends and fathers, but with the degree of devoted next approaching to adoration. On occasion of the removals that have taken place of late years, from political causes, the distress of the Indians and parting with their pastors has been extreme. They have entreated to be allowed to follow them in their exile, with tears and lamentations, and with all the demonstrations of true sorrow and unbounded affection. Indeed, if there ever existed an instance of the perfect justice and propriety of the comparison of the priest and his disciples to a shepherd and his flock, it is in the case of which we are treating. These poor people may indeed be classed with the ‘silly sheep’ rather than with any other animal; and I believe they would, in the words of the poet, even ‘lick the hand though it was raised to shed their blood’– – if this were the hand of the friar.”


At San Diego:

San Diego, like Monterey, is noted for its excellent society. There remain many of the old Castilian families here, who have preserved their blood from all admixture with the Indians. In this circle, all Americans and foreigners visiting the place have experienced such pleasure; for such is its refined and social character, that one almost imagines himself again enjoying the delights of home. The Californian ladies are said to possess all the finer qualities of the sex, whether of the head or the heart, and make most excellent wives. Such had been the attractions of these fair señoritas for the young American officers, that many have been induced to relinquish their commissions in the United States Army, and become planters or stock raisers in California.


At the Indian village of San Felipe:

June 2. Found ourselves in the valley without woods, in the lower part of which was a marshy spot with pools of water. Early in the morning our tents were thronged with Indians, who appeared to belong to the Diegueno tribe. They were a filthy looking set, half clad and apparently half starved. During the day, we saw many men and women wading about the marsh gathering roots and seeds of which two articles and acorns, their principal food consists. The women seem to be the chief laborers, the men lounging about the camp most of the day. The improvidence of the people seems almost incomprehensible. A very little exertion would have repaid them with all the wheat, maize, and vegetables, required for their subsistence. To these they might add a few cattle, which in this country, may be obtained for a mere trifle from the Ranchos, whose increase in this fine valley would give them a plenty supply of meat. As it is, they have neither corn nor meat, and spend 10 times as much labor in collecting the roots, seeds, and other wretched food they live on, as would be necessary by cultivating the soil to produce, fruits, and meets an abundance.

The village consists of 23 miserable old huts or wigwams built of straw and rushes. Some were covered with rawhides of various colors. A few small patches of ground were cultivated, not exceeding altogether a couple of acres. This was not for the want of land, as there were many hundred acres of good land around them, which by irrigation could be made furtile. From appearances near the village, I was led to believe that there had long been a settlement here, there being not only traces of former buildings in every direction, but also of acequias or trenches for irrigating the lands.


At Vallecita:

A band of Diegueno Indians live here, to whom the arrival of a train is an event of some importance. They made their appearance early this morning, dressed in their holiday clothes, and appeared more cleanly than any Indians we had seen. Nearly all wore clean white or fancy calico shirts, their only garment; pantaloons being regarded by all Indians as useless articles of dress. These people were formerly connected with the missions, and hence call themselves Christians; but they now live in a most degraded state of indolence and poverty. They cultivate beans and pumpkins, and pick up an occasional mule, which serves them for food; though their main reliance is upon the acorns, which they collect and store up in large baskets for winter use. The labor of preparing them for food is like almost all other labor, performed by the women, who were to be seen in front of every hut wielding their heavy stone pestles. When acorns are reduced to flour, it is washed to remove the bitter taste, and then cooked into a kind of gruel, or made into bread. These Indians were very attentive to us, bringing us wood (which is very scarce here) and water, and otherwise assisting about the camp. They seemed amply repaid with a few old clothes, or any fragments of food that remained from our tables. Our culinary department was always the great point of attraction to these poor creatures, who would often form a double circle around the campfires, much to the annoyance of the cook. The weather was excessively hot today, the mercury standing at 105°F in the shade under the bushes.


Fort Yuma:

Four miles below Fort Yuma are the remains of a fortification called Fort Defiance. This is the spot where we first encamped, and were unable to reach the water. It is an old ferrying place, and the scene of a massacre by the Yumas the year before our visit, the particulars of which I will state.

In 1849, when large numbers of people from the United States and the adjacent province of Sonora were emigrating to California, many came by the Gila and crossed the Colorado here. At this time, as there was no garrison on the spot, nor any white settlers, the Yumas derived quite an advantage from aiding emigrants to cross, having by some means of obtained a boat or scow for the purpose. A party of Americans, seeing a prospect of a lucrative business by the establishment of a ferry, dispossessed the Indians of their boat, drove them from the river, and would not permit them to help emigrants across or otherwise have anything to do with them. The leader in this affair was Dr. Langdon of Louisiana. The ferry was established at the rocky spur before alluded to; upon which, directly on the bank of the river, they built a rude fort wherein they could defend themselves. This, in contempt for the natives whom they had dispossessed of their rights, they called Fort Defiance.

The party which originally established the ferry was fitted out by JP Brodie, Esq., a gentleman living at Hermosillo in Sonora, of whom I have before spoken; he advanced the money for the purpose and retained an interest in it. While this gentleman had the direction of affairs, no further offense was given to the Indians, and emigrants were always treated well and fairly dealt with. Not long after, however, a man called Gallantin was employed by Dr. Langdon, or some other way became interested in the ferry. He turned out to be a bad fellow, and was supposed to be a fugitive from justice. He treated the Indians most brutally, and practiced all sorts of impositions upon the passing emigrants, charging about four dollars a head for everyone who crossed the river. He also extorted large sums from the Sonorans when returning to their homes from the mines, when he found or believed they had any considerable amount of gold with them.

When Dr. Langdon found out the character of Gallantin, he endeavored to get rid of him, but found himself unable to do so. About this time Gallantin took occasion to visit San Diego; and there his party got into a fight, in which a soldier was killed. Gallantin was arrested and imprisoned, but made his escape back to the Colorado with a supply of liquor. The men having fallen asleep, either from the effects of liquor or fatigue, the Yumas, who had watched their opportunity, rushed upon them with their clubs, and massacred every soul at the ferrry, embracing some 12 or 15 persons. Three men were at some distance in the woods cutting timber; these seeing from the actions of the Indians that something was wrong, succeeded in concealing themselves, and made their escape by joining a party of Mexicans who soon after came along. A large sum of money, all that had been saved by Langdon and Gallantin (estimated at from $15-$30,000) fell into the hands of the Indians; and this was freely used by them in supplying their wants from the emigrants who afterwards passed. They knew little of the value of gold, and would sometimes give four or five doubloons for an old worn out blanket, or gold eagle for a tattered shirt.

No sympathy was felt for the men who had thus lost their lives, but the event tended to encourage the Yumas in acts of violence, in which many innocent and un-offending parties perished. I heard of one occasion on which a party of emigrants crossed while the Yumas retained the ferrry. The Indians showed friendship for them, and assisted in making their fires and in taking charge of their animals. The party cooked their meal, and sat down quietly to eat; for although numbers of the Yumas were about their fires and the camp, their presence causes no uneasiness, as they were unprovided with arms. But on a sudden, at a given signal, they each seized a billet of wood from the fire, and knocked out the brains of the Americans.

The Pattie expedition headed west to trap beaver–They ended up in California where they were imprisoned–Sylvester Pattie died but his son convinced his captors to free him so he could inoculate the citizenry against an epidemic in the land

The Personal Narrative of James O Pattie of Kentucky

During an expedition from St. Louis, through the vast regions between that place and the Pacific Ocean, and then back through city of Mexico to Veracruz, during journeying this of six years, etc.

Edited by Timothy Flint 1833

Edited with notes, introductions, index, etc., by Reuben Gold Thwaites, editor LLD, editor of the Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Hennepin’s New Discovery, etc.

Separate publication from Early Western travel: 1748 – 1846, in which series is appeared as            volume XV III

Cleveland Ohio the Arthur H Clark Company 1905




We thence returned down the Helay[Gila], which is here about 200 yards wide, with heavily timbered bottom. We trapped its whole course, from whence we met it, to its junction with the Red River[Colorado]. The point of junction is inhabited by a tribe of Indians called Umene [Yuma]. Here we encamped for the night. On the morning of the 26th, a great many of these Indians crossed the river to our camp, and brought us dried beans, for which we paid them with red cloth, with which they were delighted beyond measure, tearing it into ribbands, and tying it around their arms and legs; for the truth must be told, they were as naked as Adam and Eve in their birthday suits. They were the stoutest men, with the finest forms I ever saw, well proportioned, and as straight as an arrow. They contrived, however, to inflict upon their children an artificial deformity. They flatten their heads, by pressing a board upon their tender scalps, which they bind fast by a ligature. This board is so large and light, that I have seen women, when swimming the river with their children, towing them after them by a string, which they hold in their mouth. The little things neither suffered nor complained, but floated behind their mothers like ducks.



… We resumed our march, and on the sixth arrived at another village of Indians called Mohawa [Mohave]. When we approached their village, they were exceedingly alarmed. We marched directly through their village, the women and children screaming, and hiding themselves in their huts. We encamped about 3 miles above the village. We had scarcely made our arrangements for the night, when 100 of these Indians followed us. The chief was a dark and sulky looking savage, and he made signs that he wanted us to give him a horse. We made us prompt signs of refusal. He replied to this, by pointing first to the river, and then at the furs we had taken, intimating, that the river, with all it contained, belonged to him; and that we ought to pay him for what we had taken, by giving him a horse. When he was again refused, he raised himself erect, with a stern and fierce air, and discharged his arrow into the tree, at the same time raising his hand to his mouth, and making their peculiar yell. Our captain made no other reply, then by raising his gun and shooting the arrow, as it still stuck in the tree, in two. The chief seemed bewildered by this mark of close marksmanship, and started off with his men. We had no small apprehensions of a night attack from these Indians.


At San Diego:

… This is said to be the largest, and most flourishing, and every way the most important mission on the coast. For its consumption 50 beeves are killed weekly. The hides and tallow are sold to ships for goods, and other articles for use of the Indians, who are better dressed in general, then the Spaniards. All income of the mission is placed in the hands of the priests, who give out clothing and food, according as it is required. They are also self constituted guardians of the female part of the mission, shutting up one hour after supper, all those, whose husbands are absent, and all young women and girls above nine years of age. During the day, they are entrusted to the care of the matrons. Notwithstanding this, all the precautions taken by the vigilant fathers of the church are found insufficient. I saw women in irons for misconduct, and men in the stocks. The former are expected to remain a widow six months after the death of a husband, after which they may marry again. The priests appoint officers to superintend the natives, while they are at work, from among themselves. They are called alcaldes, and are very rigid in exacting the performance of the allotted tasks, applying the rod to those who fall short of the portion of labor assigned them. They are taught in different trades; some of them being blacksmiths, others carpenters, and shoemakers. Those, trained to the knowledge of music, both vocal and instrumental, are intended for the service of the church. The women and girls sew, knit, and spin wool upon a large wheel, which is woven into blankets by the men. The alcaldes, after finishing the business of the day, give an account of it to the priests, and then kiss his hand, before they withdraw to their wigwams, to pass the night. This mission is composed of parts of five different tribes, who speak different languages.

The greater part of these Indians were brought from their native mountains against their own inclinations, and by compulsion; and then baptized; which act was as little voluntary on their part, as the former had been. After these preliminaries, they had been put to work, as converted Indians.


At Los Angeles:

My next advance was to a small town, inhabited by Spaniards, called the town of the Angels. The houses have flat roofs, covered with bituminous pitch, brought from a place within 4 miles of the town, where this article boils up from the earth. As the liquid rises hollow bubbles like a shell of a large size, are formed. When they burst the noise is heard distinctly in the town. The material is obtained by breaking off portions, that have become hard, and with an ax, or something of the kind. The large pieces thus separated, are laid on the roof, previously covered with earth, through which the pitch cannot penetrate, when it is rendered liquid again by the heat of the sun.



… I consented willingly to this proposal, as I was desirous of crossing the Bay of San Francisco to the Russian settlement called the Bodega.


I proceeded to carry my wish into execution on the 23rd, accompanied by two Coriac Indians, whose occupation was the killing of sea otters by the Russians, who hire them into their service. Those who pursue this employment have water crafts made of sealion’s skins, in the shape of a canoe. Over this spreads atop, completely covered in such a manner as to preclude the possibility of the entrance of any water. An opening is left at the bow and the stern, over which the person who has entered draws a covering of the same material with that of the boat, which fastens firmly over the aperture in such a manner, as to make this part entirely waterproof, as any other portion of the boat. Two persons generally occupy it. No portion can be more secure than they are, from all the dangers of the sea. The waves dash over them harmless. The occupants are stationed, one at the bow, and the other at the stern; the latter guides the boat, while the other is provided with a spear, which he darts into the otter whenever he comes within its reach. Great numbers are thus taken.


At the mission of San Carlos:

… I had often seen similar combats, and in fact worse, having been present when men entered the enclosure to encounter the powerful bull in his wild and untamed fierceness. These unfortunate persons are armed with a small sword, with which they sometimes succeed in saving their own lives at the expense of that of the animal.

I once saw the man fall in one of these horrible shows; they are conducted in the following manner: the man enters to the bull with the weapon, of which he avails himself, in the right hand, and in the left a small red flag, fastened to a staff about 3 feet in length. He whistles or makes some other noise, to attract the attention of the animal, upon hearing which the bull comes towards him with the speed of fury. The man stands firm, with the flag dangling before him, to receive this terrible onset. When the bull makes the last spring towards him, he dexterously evades it, by throwing his body from behind the flag to one side, at the same time thrusting his sword into the animal’s side. If this blow is properly directed, blood gushes from the mouth and nostrils of the bull, and he falls dead. A second blow in this case is seldom required.

Another mode of killing these animals is by men on horseback with a spear, which they dart into his neck, immediately behind the horns. The horse is often killed by the bull. When the animal chances to prefer running from the fight to engaging in it, he is killed by the horseman, by being thrown heels over head. This is accomplished by catching a hold of the tail of the bull in the full speed of pursuit, and giving a turn around the head of the saddle, in such a manner, that they are enabled to throw the animal into any posture they choose.



… The priests are omnipotent, and all things are subject to their power. Two thirds of the population are native Indians under the immediate charge of the spiritual rulers in the numerous missions. It is a well-known fact, that nothing is more entirely opposite to the nature of a savage, then labor. In order to keep them at their daily tasks, the most rigid and unremitting supervision is exercised. No bondage can be more complete, than that under which they live. The compulsion laid upon them has, however, led them at times to rebel, and endeavor to escape from their yoke. They have seized upon arms, murdered the priests, and destroyed the buildings of the missions, by pre-concerted stratagem, in several instances. When their work of destruction and retribution was accomplished, they fled to the mountains, and subsisted on the flesh of wild horses which are there found in innumerable droves. To prevent the recurrence of similar events, the priests have passed laws, prohibiting an Indian to use or possession of any weapon whatever, under the penalty of severe punishment.

Fire Drill

Very few of us could start a fire without a lighter or matches–Fires used to be started with a fire drill–It is twirled by moving your hands back and forth while maintaining a downward pressure–Your hands will move down the drill–The trick is to quickly move your hands back up the drill–The board is a soft wood with a dimple in it where the drill fits–A small ember will be started which needs to be nurtured into flame by moving it into fibers and blown on

Making Paddle and Anvil Pottery

When Margarita Castro at Santa Catarina BC Mexico taught paddle and anvil pottery making she ground the dry clay along with potsherd temper on a metate–She called the powder “masa” or corn meal–We patted the wet clay into a flat disk which she called a tortilla–We built up the sides of the pot using coils that we rolled out–She called those “chorizo” or sausage–We paddled the coils against an anvil held inside the pot which resembled a mushroom–She called that an “hongo” or mushroom–The photo here is of Josefina Ochurte grinding the dry clay on a metate

The Attack on Mission San Diego, November 4, 1775 from the Account of Father Palou

Account of the Cruel Martyrdom of the Venerable Father Luis Jayme, and of the Lamentable Tragedy at Mission San Diego

By Father Palou


At about 1 o’clock in the night that part of the savage mob arrived which was to attack the poor mission. Some of these Indians stationed themselves at the doors of the huts of the Christians in the village in order to prevent them from sounding the alarm or taking up arms, threatening with death whoever should leave his habitation. The others went to the vestry to rob the vestments and whatever they might discover of use to themselves. Finding the chests locked, they broke them open with stones and stole everything they wanted. From the sacristy they passed on to the soldiers’ quarters which stood somewhat apart. Here they found a fire burning; but all, even the sentinels, were sleeping so soundly that the racket caused by breaking open the wardrobes in the vestry had not been sufficient to rouse them. When savages noticed this, one of their number took a brand from the fire and with it set fire to different parts outside. That awakened the two missionaries, who were sleeping in separate apartments, also the soldiers of the guard. Of these there were only three besides the corporal, since one had gone to the new foundation of San Juan Capistrano, and another having gone three days before to this Presidio on account of ill health, had not been replaced. Besides those mentioned, there were in another quarter the blacksmith and to carpenters, one from the Presidio, who was ill, and one who belonged to the mission. In another building were two youths, the son and the nephew of the Presidio Lieutenant. Against the small number of persons stood united a formidable army, but so cowardly as to choose the most unexpected hour of the night.

When father Vicente awoke and saw the buildings on fire, he hastened to the barracks where the soldiers had already begun to discharge their muskets. The two boys likewise took refuge under the protection of the soldiers. The blacksmith was about to leave his room when he was so badly wounded that he died soon after. The carpenter of the mission seized a gun which he had in readiness, shot one of the Indians, and escaped to the soldiers’ quarters during the subsequent turmoil. The other carpenter Urselino by name, who was ill, received a mortal wound; he lived to the fifth day, however during which time he was prepared for death; and we piously believe that he went to enjoy God inasmuch as he gave such good proof of being well disposed; for, when pierced with the arrow that caused his death, he said only these words: “Ha Indian, you have killed me. God forgive you!” He persevered in these dispositions, forgiving him who had inflicted the wound. More than that; when he made his will, presuming there was no needy relative, he bequeathed all that was coming to him from the general store, and that was quite a considerable amount, to the Indians of Mission San Diego. An heroic act, worthy of a true disciple of Jesus Christ!

Father Luis Jayme, who awoke at the same time as his companion, Father Vicente, did not seek the soldiers quarters, but went to where a crowd of savages were standing. On coming near enough, he greeted them with his customary salutation “Love God, my children! Amar a Dios, hijos!” In return, however, they seized him and dragged him outside the mission to the bed of the river. Here, having stripped him to the trunks, they began to shoot innumerable arrows into his body and to beat him with clubs until life was extinct. When discovered next day, there was not a sound spot in his body, save the consecrated hands. These God had preserved (as we must piously believe and infer from the fathers godly and exemplary conduct), in order that it might be known how zealously and nobly he had labored for the Indians who should repay him with such cruelty, and the how he had toiled for the purpose of saving their souls and rescuing them from the gates of hell. Nor do we doubt that he shed his blood willingly, in order to irrigate that vineyard of the Lord which he had cultivated amid suchs hardships and which, because of such copious irrigation, will yield fruit in season by converting the remainder of the pagans who has yet persist in their wild life. This we hope from the Lord through the intercession of the venerable deceased, whose soul I do not doubt is now enjoying God.

While some of the savages were martyring the venerable deceased, the rest craved to do the same to the other father in the soldiers’ barracks, which like the other structures was already on fire. In order to massacre all, as they had resolved, the savages kept on discharging arrows and throwing clubs. One of the soldiers, who wore no leather jacket, was in fact struck by an arrow and disabled; but the other three did their best and succeeded in killing the some of the savages and wounding others. The fire raging in every direction was already becoming intolerable. In order not to roasted death, the soldiers determined to move to a little adobe structure, three walls of which had the height of a man, and which the cook had covered with boughs as a protection against the sun. This place they reached at imminent peril from a shower of arrows. Shooting through the cracks and openings in the walls, the soldiers wounded every savage that came within sight. No sooner, however, had the Indians noticed this then they threw firebrands on the branches that served as a roof. Fortunately, there were but few branches, so that little harm was done to the persons who had taken refuge there. What molested them seriously where the darts, clubs, and firebrands which the Indians threw into the side that was open. To deliver themselves from this danger, the soldiers resolved to fetch from the burning buildings some bundles and boxes with which to erect a kind of parapet. Although in this bold attempt another soldier was disabled by the arrows of the enemies, the men succeeded in’s constructing the low barricade behind which they were protected when discharging their muskets. Though shielded now on all sides against the arrows, the defenders were not secure against the firebrands, sticks, and lumps of Adobe, which the savages threw over the walls; still these did little harm. In this situation, the heroic defenders continued until the powder began to give out. In one of the burning houses, the mission had a quantity of powder which it used to discharge the guns on great festival occasions. It was preserved in a box, which through the interposition of the Lord, had not yet been reached by fire. They succeeded in getting it; and with it the men continued the defense until the dawn of day, when the enemies retired, taking along their dead and wounded.

Meanwhile the second band of savages had proceeded to the garrison; but before reaching it, they stopped because those who were to assault the mission had in their haste set fire to its buildings when the others were at a distance from the Presidio. From the road they saw the conflagration at the mission; but they dared not approach the garrison, since they presumed that the fire must’ve been seen there. Hence, they hastened back to join the other savages at the mission, in order to help them in case the expected relief should come from the Presidio soldiers. At the military post, however, they were as careless as the guards at the mission. They did not learn what had happened until the morning of November 5, when they were notified by the lower California Indian whom, on withdrawal from the enemies, Father Vicente had dispatched to them. Without doubt, the sentinel had been sleeping, since he neither had seen the great fire, although from the Presidio the Mission buildings are visible, nor had even heard the gunshots so often breaking the silence of the night, although at the mission one could hear the salute which was fired every morning at the Presidio.

After daybreak, on November 5, when the savages had disappeared, the Christians came forth from their rancheria. They went to Father Vicente who was with the wounded soldiers and with tears in their eyes related how the pagans had threatened them with death if they would leave their habitations. Then Father Vicente immediately sent an Indian to the Presidio to report what had happened. Others were dispatched to in search of Father Luis. Father Vicente a was much worried on his account, as he knew nothing about his companion, the whole building was already ablaze when he fled to the barracks. Not finding Father Luis with the soldiers, he again left the barracks at the peril of his life to look for him in his apartment. Failing to find him there, Father Vicente feared that he had been burned to death, but such was not the case; for Father Luis had gone up to the savages, who at once took his life in a cruel manner. Not knowing this, however, Father Vicente supposed that Father Luis might perhaps be in hiding and was not aware that the savages had departed. Hence he ordered a search. At the same time, he directed other Indians to extinguish the fire in the wheat room, so that at least some of the provisions that the mission had might be saved.

The Indians searched for Father Luis and at length found him dead in the mission arroyo. The body was covered from head to foot with wounds and wore no more clothing than his innocent blood. They bore the corpse to Father Vicente, who was beside himself with grief at the sight of his beloved companion Father. He wrote later that the face was so disfigured and bruised from the blows with clubs that he could recognize the body of Father Luis only by the whiteness of his flesh appearing through the crust of blood, that was the only robe that the corpse wore. There was not a sound spot on it, except the innocent hands. It is left to the reader to imagine the pain which the said Father must of felt who saw his beloved companion missionary killed with such cruelty, and to picture the extraordinary lamentations of the neophytes bitterly bewailing their dead father whom they loved so much. When pain and sorrow at last gave way to for reflection, Father Vicente ordered some of the Indians to prepare stretchers on which to carry the dead and those of the wounded who could not travel on horseback, to the Presidio, whilst waiting for relief from there. This was done; and when the soldiers appeared they conveyed the dead and wounded to the garrison, Father Vicente following on foot. On arriving at the Presidio, he buried the two dead, the venerable Father Luis Jayme and the blacksmith José Romero. Then they endeavored to restore to health the four soldiers and the carpenter Urselino. The former all recovered; but the carpenter who was more seriously injured died an exemplary death on the fifth day after the cruel tragedy. A few days later, Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen and Father Gregorio Amurrio arrived. They had gone to found mission San Juan Capistrano, but suspended action for the present. The three Fathers celebrated the obsequies for the dead Father, and then reported all that had occurred to the Father Presidente in letters which the lieutenant dispatched by a courier to Monterey.