Kumeyaay people

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Anthony Pico, chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Mexico Mexico ( Baja California Baja California)
United States United States ( California California)
Ipai, Kumeyaay, Tipai, English, and Spanish,
Traditional tribal religion,
Christianity (Roman Catholic)[3]
Related ethnic groups
Cocopa, Quechan, Paipai, and Kiliwa

The Kumeyaay, also known as Tipai-Ipai, Kamia, or formerly Diegueño, are Native American people of the extreme southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. They live in the states of California in the US and Baja California in Mexico.[2] In Spanish, the name is commonly spelled Kumiai.


The Kumeyaay consist of two related groups, the Ipai and Tipai.[2] The two coastal groups' traditional homelands were approximately separated by the San Diego River: the northern Ipai (extending from Escondido to Lake Henshaw) and the southern Tipai (including the Laguna Mountains, Ensenada, and Tecate).


Nomenclature and tribal distinctions are not widely agreed upon. The general scholarly consensus recognizes three separate languages: Ipai, Kumeyaay proper (including the Kamia), and Tipai in northern Baja California (e.g., Langdon 1990). However, this notion is not supported by speakers of the language (actual Kumeyaay people) who contend that within their territory, all Kumeyaay (Ipai/Tipai) can understand and speak to each other, at least after a brief acclimatization period.[4] All three languages belong to the Delta–California branch of the Yuman family, to which several other linguistically distinct but related groups also belong, including the Cocopa, Quechan, Paipai, and Kiliwa.

The term Kumeyaay means "those who face the water from a cliff".[5] Both Ipai or Tipai mean "people."[6] Some Kumeyaay in the southern areas also refer to themselves as MuttTipi, which means "people of the earth."[citation needed]


Engraving published by Schott, Sorony, and Co., 1857

Evidence of settlement, in what is today considered Kumeyaay territory, may go back 12,000 years.[7] 7000 BCE marked the emergence of two cultural traditions: the California Coast and Valley tradition and the Desert tradition.[8] The Kumeyaay had land extending from the Pacific Ocean to present Ensenada, Mexico, and then on east to the Colorado River and North to what is known as Oceanside.[9] The Cuyamaca complex, a late Holocene complex in San Diego County is related to the Kumeyaay peoples.[10] The Kumeyaay tribe also used to inhabit what is now a popular state park, known as Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.[9]

One view holds that pre-historic Tipai-Ipai emerged around 1000 CE;[2][8] however, others believe Kumeyaay peoples have lived in San Diego for 12,000 years.[11] At the time of European contact, Kumeyaay comprised several autonomous bands with 30 patrilineal clans.[6]

Spaniards entered Tipai-Ipai territory in the late 18th century, bringing with them non-native, invasive flora, and domestic animals, which brought about degradation to local ecology. Under the Spanish Mission system, bands living near Mission San Diego de Alcalá, established in 1769, were called Diegueños.[6] After Mexico took over the lands from Spain, they secularized the missions in 1834, and Ipai and Tipais lost their lands; essentially band members became serfs.[3]

From 1870 to 1910, American settlers seized lands, including arable and native gathering lands. In 1875, President Ulysses Grant created reservations in the area, and additional lands were placed under trust patent status after the passage of the 1891 Act for the Relief of Mission Indians. The reservations tended to be small and lacked adequate water supplies.[12]

Kumeyaay people supported themselves by farming and agricultural wage labor; however, a 20-year drought in the mid-20th century crippled the region's dry farming economy.[13] For their common welfare, several reservations formed the non-profit Kumeyaay, Inc.[14]


The Kumeyaay Community College serves the Kumeyaay Diegueno Nation and was created by the Sycuan Band, to support cultural identity, sovereignty, and self-determination while meeting the needs of native and non-native students. The main focus of this college is on Kumeyaay language, Kumeyaay philosophy, and Kumeyaay arts. KCC primarily serves on resources from the 13 reservations of the Kumeyaay Nation.[15]


Further information: Population of Native California

Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. Alfred L. Kroeber proposed that the population of the Kumeyaay in 1770, exclusive of those in Baja California, had been about 3,000.[16] Katharine Luomala suggested that the region could have supported 6,000-9,000 Kumeyaay.[17] Florence C. Shipek went much further, estimating 16,000-19,000 inhabitants.[18]

In the late 18th century, Kumeyaay population was between 3000 and 9000.[2] In 1828, 1711 Kumeyaay were recorded by the missions. The 1860 federal census recorded 1571 Kumeyaay living in 24 villages.[19] In 1900, an estimated 1200 Kumeyaay lived on reservation lands, while 2000 lived elsewhere.[2] The Bureau of Indian Affairs recorded 1322 Kumeyaay in 1968, with 435 living on reservations.[19]

Tribes and reservations[edit]

Kumeyaay coiled basket, woven by Celestine Lachapa, 19th century, San Diego Museum of Man
Kumeyaay willow storage basket at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California cultural museum, Mexicali

The Kumeyaay live on 13 reservations in San Diego County, California in the United States and are enrolled in the following federally recognized tribes:

(formerly the Cuyapaipe Community of Diegueno Mission Indians of the Cuyapaipe Reservation)

They live on five communities in Baja California, including:

  • Juntas de Neji
  • La Huerta
  • San Antonio Necua
  • Santa Catarina
  • San José de la Zorra.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "California Indians and Their Reservations: P. SDSU Library and Information Access. (retrieved 21 May 2010)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Pritzker, 145
  3. ^ a b Loumala, 595
  4. ^ Smith, 2005
  5. ^ Hoffman, 71
  6. ^ a b c Loumala, 592
  7. ^ Erlandson et al. 2007, p. 62
  8. ^ a b Loumala, 594
  9. ^ a b "History". Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "A Glossary of Proper Names in California Prehistory." Society for California Archaeology. (retrieved 12 Aug 2011)
  11. ^ a b "Kumeyaay Indians of Southern California." Kumeyaay Information Village. (retrieved 21 May 2010)
  12. ^ Shipek (1978), 610
  13. ^ Shipek (1978), 611
  14. ^ Shipek (1978), 616
  15. ^ http://www.kumeyaaycommunitycollege.com/classes.htm
  16. ^ Kroeber (1925), 88
  17. ^ Loumala (1978), 596
  18. ^ Shipek (1986), 19
  19. ^ a b Loumala, 596
  20. ^ http://www.bia.gov/cs/groups/webteam/documents/document/idc1-029026.pdf
  21. ^ Carrico, Richard L. (Summer 1980). "San Diego Indians and the Federal Government Years of Neglect, 1850-1865". The Journal of San Diego History. San Diego Historical Society. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  • Erlandson, Jon M., Torben C. Rick, Terry L. Jones, and Judith F. Porcasi. "One If by Land, Two If by Sea: Who Were the First Californians?" California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity. Eds. Terry L. Jones and Kathryn A. Klar. Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press, 2010. 53-62. ISBN 978-0-7591-1960-4.
  • Hoffman, Geralyn Marie and Gamble, Lynn H., Ph.D. "A Teacher’s Guide to Historical and Contemporary Kumeyaay Culture". Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias, San Diego State University, 2006.
  • Kroeber, A. L. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, DC, 1925.
  • Luomala, Katharine. "Tipai-Ipai." Handbook of North American Indians. Volume ed. Robert F. Heizer. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978. 592-609. ISBN 0-87474-187-4.
  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.
  • Shipek, Florence C. "History of Southern California Mission Indians." Handbook of North American Indians. Volume ed, Heizer, Robert F. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978. 610-618. ISBN 0-87474-187-4.
  • Shipek, Florence C. "The Impact of Europeans upon Kumeyaay Culture." The Impact of European Exploration and Settlement on Location Native Americans. Ed. Raymond Starr. San Diego: Cabrillo Historical Association, 1986: 13-25.
  • Smith, Kalim H. 2005. "Language Ideology and Hegemony in the Kumeyaay Nation: Returning the Linguistic Gaze". Master's Thesis, University of California, San Diego.

Further reading[edit]

  • Du Bois, Constance Goddard. 1904-1906. Mythology of the Mission Indians: The Mythology of the Luiseño and Diegueño Indians of Southern California. The Journal of the American Folk-Lore Society, Vol. XVII, No. LXVI. p. 185-8 [1904]; Vol. XIX. No. LXXII pp. 52–60 and LXXIII. pp. 145–64. [1906].
  • Langdon, Margaret. 1990. "Diegueño: how many languages?" In Proceedings of the 1990 Hokan-Penutian Languages Workshop, edited by James E. Redden, pp. 184–190. University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale.

External links[edit]