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Chingichngish (also spelled Chinigchinix, Chinigchinich, Changitchnish, etc.) also known as Quaoar (also Qua-o-ar, Kwawar, etc.) and by other names including Ouiamot, Tobet and Saor is the name of an important figure in the mythology of the Mission Indians of coastal Southern California, a group of Takic-speaking peoples, today divided into the Payomkowishum (Luiseño), Tongva (Gabrieliño and Fernandeño), and Acjachemem (Juaneño) peoples.
Chinigchinix was born, or first appeared, after the death of Wiyot, a tyrannical ruler of the first beings, who was poisoned by his sons. Wiyot's murder brought death into the world, and as a consequence, the male creator Night divided the first human ancestors into distinct peoples, assigning them languages and territories.
The name Ouiamot is ostensibly similar to Wiyot (Ouiot), the name of another important figure, the primeval tyrant killed just before the appearance of Chinigchinix. Ouiamot is possibly to be taken as Ouiamot the childhood name of Chinigchinix. The name Quaoar was first recorded by Hugo Reid in his 1852 description of Tongva, in the spelling Qua-o-ar. Quaoar's parents were Tacu and Auzar, or, according to other accounts, he was born of Tamaayawut (Mother Earth). According to yet other accounts, "he had neither father nor mother".
Both the Tongva mythology and language are recorded only fragmentarily. As a consequence, the pronunciation of the name Quaoar is not known with certainty. Hugo Reid (1852) recorded it as Qua-o-ar, suggesting that it was trisyllabic. But the Spanish[year needed] transcribed it Quaguar, suggesting two syllables ([ˈkwawar], reflecting the Spanish use of gu for [w]). Kroeber (1925) spells it Kwawar, though he notes Reid's spelling as well: Kwawar (" Qua-o-ar "). Harrington (1933) gives the most precise transcription, K(w)á’uwar, in interpreting an 1846 translation of a Spanish text.
The Takic mythology is known only fragmentarily, as these peoples were Christianized early, by Spanish missionaries, during the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Only sparse material has been collected by ethnologists from the few remaining native speakers during 19th century. Chingichngish has variously been represented as a creator deity, a culture hero or lawgiver figure or a "prophet", who became associated with the figure of Christ after the conversion of the Takic peoples.
This character was first mentioned in a description of the beliefs of the native peoples who were associated with the Mission San Juan Capistrano in accounts written by the Franciscan missionary Jerónimo Boscana in the 1820s. One version of Boscana's manuscript was subsequently published by Alfred Robinson (1846), who gave it "Chinigchinich" as a title. Some subsequent scholars have characterized Luiseño religion in general, or certain portions of it, or a set of some more widely shared traits, as a Chingichngish cult (DuBois 1908; Kroeber 1925; Moriarty 1969).
John Peabody Harrington (Boscana 1933) thought that Chingichngish might have been a historical figure, but most scholars have interpreted him as a deity. Alfred L. Kroeber (1925) suggested that Chingichngish beliefs were a historic-period native response to cultural shock of the missions, and Raymond C. White (1963) thought that they might have arisen in response to earlier contacts with European sailors along the California coast.
The most distinctive characteristic of Chingichngish beliefs concerned the existence of a set of "Chingichngish avengers" who spied on human beings and enforced the moral code. These figures included Raven, Rattlesnake, Bear, Mountain Lion, and others. There were also ceremonial items sacred to Chingichngish, including mortars and winnowing trays. Chingichngish beliefs were associated with the initiation ceremonies for adolescent boys, during which the hallucinogenic plant Datura (Toloache, Jimsonweed, Datura wrightii) was ingested, but elements of these ceremonies were much more widely shared than were belief in the specific character of Chingichngish.
- Michael Eugene Harkin, Reassessing revitalization movements: perspectives from North America and the Pacific Islands, American Anthropological Association, U of Nebraska Press, 2004 ISBN 978-0-8032-2406-3, p. 15.
- Kroeber, Alfred. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California, Volume 2
- Harrington, John Peabody. 1933. Chinigchinich: A Revised and Annotated Version of Alfred Robinson's Translation of Father Geronimo Boscana's Historical Account of the Belief, Usages, Customs and Extravagancies of the Indians of This Mission of San Juan Capistrano Called the Acagchemem Tribe (1846). Hanna, ed.
- Boscana, Jerónimo. 1933. Chinigchinich: A Revised and Annotated Version of Alfred Robinson's Translation of Father Geronomi Boscana's Historical Account of the Belief, Usages, Customs and Extravagancies of the Indians of this Mission of San Juan Capistrano, Called the Acagchemem Tribe. Extensively annotated by John P. Harrington. Fine Arts Press, Santa Ana, California.
- Boscana, Jerónimo. 1934. A New Original Version of Boscana's Historical Account of the San Juan Capistrano Indians of Southern California. Edited by John P. Harrington. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 92(4). Washington, D.C.
- DuBois, Constance Goddard. 1908. "The Religion of the Luiseño Indians of Southern California. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 8:69-186. Berkeley.
- Kroeber, A. L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
- Moriarty, James R., III. 1969. Chinigchinix: An Indigenous California Religion. Southwest Museum, Los Angeles.
- Robinson, Alfred. 1846. Life in California. Wiley & Putnam, New York.
- White, Raymond C. 1963. "Luiseño Social Organization". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 48(2). Berkeley.