Kumeyaay (Diegueños) Nation



Kumeyaay (Diegueños)

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. In Spanish, the name is commonly spelled Kumiai.

Evidence of settlement, in what is today considered Kumeyaay territory, may go back 12,000 years. 7000 BCE marked the emergence of two cultural traditions: the California Coast and Valley tradition and the Desert tradition. 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. The Cuyamaca complex, a late Holocene complex in San Diego County is related to the Kumeyaay peoples. The Kumeyaay tribe also used to inhabit what is now a popular state park, known as Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

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

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. 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. The Tipai-Ipai observed numerous life-cycle rituals, obligations, and taboos. Reaching puberty was a public affair.

Girls underwent special rites; boys often had their nasal septa pierced. Most marriages, arranged by parents when children reached puberty, were monogamous. Divorce was relatively easy to effect. Twins were considered a blessing and supernaturally gifted. The dead were cremated along with their possessions. Souls were said to inhabit a region somewhere in the south. Wailing, speech making, the singing of song cycles, and gift exchange might accompany cremation. Mourners cut their hair, blackened their faces, and never mentioned the deceased’s name again.

Though Mission Indians were converted long ago, those teachings were not evident in the continuance of their early folklore, passed down from generation to generation. Cinon Duro, the last of long-ago chiefs of the Diegueños, related their traditions of in the following legends in the late 1890s.

The Kumeyaay consist of two related groups, the Ipai and Tipai. 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).

The Mission Indians of San Diego County, California, include the Diegueños of Yuman heritage and fragments of Shoshonean tribes related to people of Mexican Baja California. The Diegueños therefore have Aztec influences in their culture.

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. 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.

In the late 18th century, Kumeyaay population was between 3000 and 9000. 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. The Bureau of Indian Affairs recorded 1322 Kumeyaay in 1968, with 435 living on reservations.

Kumeyaay-Diegueño Nation


The oldest known Kumeyaay ancestors — the San Dieguito Paleo Indians — have been traced back into prehistoric San Diego lands to 10,000 B.C. through hard archeological evidence collected from ancient San Diego area indigenous sites which virtually proves the Diegueno and Kumeyaay Indian peoples have lived in Southern California and northwest Mexico for at least 12,000 years.


As soon as the Indian villagers found that Tu-chai-pai was dead, all living things came together from the mountains and the valleys–all men and all animals–to mourn for him. The dove that lives here went away to seek her mate upon a high white mountain, and when she came back there was blood on her wings, the blood of her Maker.

Then the people went up on a high mountain and set two stone tablets–one facing East and one facing West. On these tablets were marked the number of days of the fiesta for Tu-chai-pai.

The men wished to bury him, and they made a great funeral pyre. They were about to set fire to it when Coyote appeared and would not agree to this, and the men gave in to him, because they were afraid of him. The villagers sent Coyote far to the East on an errand. He was far away when he saw a plume of smoke rising above the hills, and he came rushing back.

“What are you burning?” he asked.

“We are burning nothing,” they told him.

Again the villagers sent Coyote far away toward the sunset. When he looked back, again he saw smoke. By then the people had finished burning the body–all but the heart. Coyote returned and found the Indian warriors standing shoulder to shoulder about the heart of their beloved Tu-chai-pai.

“I see what you are doing,” said Coyote. “You are burning the heart.” Suddenly, he sprang over the heads of the Indian men and seized the heart and fled to the mountains, where he devoured it. Ever since the Indians have hated Coyote for this dreadful trick he played upon them.

Yo-ko-mat-is, the younger brother, went far away to the West, but when the Indians pray to him for rain, he comes back every time, and their prayers are answered by the great spirits of himself and Tu-chai-pai.

Story of Creation

When Tu-chai-pai made the world, the earth was the woman, the sky was the man. The sky came down upon the earth. The world in the beginning was a pure lake covered with tules. Tu-chai-pai and his younger brother, Yo-ko-mat-is, sat together, stooping far over, bowed down by the weight of the sky. The Maker said to his brother, “What am I going to do?”

“I do not know,” said Yo-ko-mat-is.

“Let us go a little farther,” said the Maker.

So they went a little farther and sat down to rest. “Now what am I going to do?” said Tu-chai-pai.

“I do not know, my brother.”

All of this time the Maker knew what he was about to do, but he was asking his brother’s help. Then he said, “We-hicht, we-hicht, we-hicht,” three times. He took tobacco in his hand. and rubbed it fine and blew upon it three times. Every time he blew, the heavens rose higher above their heads.

Younger brother did the same thing because the Maker asked him to do it. The heavens went higher and higher and so did the sky. Then they did it both together, “We-hicht, we-hicht, we-hicht,” and both took tobacco, rubbed it, and puffed hard upon it, sending the sky so high it formed a concave arch.

Then they placed North, South, East, and West. Tu-chai-pai made a line upon the ground.

“Why do you make that line?” asked younger brother.

“I am making the line from East to West and name them so. Now you make a line from North to South.”

Yo-ko-mat-is thought very hard. How would he arrange it? Then he drew a crossline from top to bottom. He named the top line North, and the bottom line South. Then he asked, “Why are we doing this?”

The Maker said, “I will tell you. Three or four men are coming from the East, and from the West three or four Indians are coming.”

The brother asked, “Do four men come from the North, and two or three men come from the South?”

Tu-chai-pai said, “Yes. Now I am going to make hills and valleys and little hollows of water.”

“Why are you making all of these things?”

The Maker explained, “After a while when men come and are walking back and forth in the world, they will need to drink water or they will die.” He had already made the ocean, but he needed little water places for the people.

Then he made the forests and said, “After a while men will die of cold unless I make wood for them to burn. What are we going to do now?”

“I do not know,” replied younger brother.

“We are going to dig in the ground and find mud to make the first people, the Indians.” So he dug in the ground and took mud to make the first men, and after that the first women. He made the men easily, but he had much trouble making women. It took him a long time.

After the Indians, he made the Mexicans and finished all his making. He then called out very loudly, “People, you can never die and you can never get tired, so you can walk all the time.” But then he made them sleep at night, to keep them from walking in the darkness. At last he told them that they must travel toward the East, where the sun’s light was coming out for the first time.

The Indians then came out and searched for the light, and at last they found light and were exceedingly glad to see the Sun. The Maker called out to his brother, “It’s time to make the Moon. You call out and make the Moon to shine, as I have made the Sun. Sometime the Moon will die. When it grows smaller and smaller, men will know it is going to die, and they must run races to try and keep up with the dying moon.”

The villagers talked about the matter and they understood their part and that Tu-chai-pai would be watching to see that they did what he wanted them to do. When the Maker completed all of this, he created nothing more. But he was always thinking how to make Earth and Sky better for all the Indians.

The sovereign KUMEYAAY-DIEGUENO NATION of indigenous Native American California Indians of North America are known by many names and spellings, including: Kumiai, Kóal, Kumei, Cumeyaay, Kumyai, northern and southern Diegueño Diegueno Diegueño Digueno Dieguenyo, Ipai-Tipai, Tipaay, Tiipay-Iipay, Diegueno-Kamia, Kamia, Mission Indians of San Diego California Mission Indians, San Diego Indians.

Fly at the Council

Another time, Tu-chai-pai thought to himself, “If all my sons do not have enough food and drink, what will become of them?” He thought about this for a long, long time and said, “Then they will surely die.” He then thought, “What do my men want to do? I will give them three choices: to die now forever, or to live for a long time and then return to the heavens or to live forever.”

When the Maker had finished his thinking, he called all men together, but none of the women. He said to the men, “I have been thinking, since there is not much food and water now, I want to know what you wish to do? Here are your three choices: to die forever, to live for a long time on Earth, or to live forever.”

Some Indians replied, “We want to die forever”; some said, “We want to live for a time and then die”; others said, “We want to live forever.” So they talked and talked in a Council meeting, for they did not know how to decide for everyone.

Then the fly arrived and said, “Oh, you men, what are you talking so much about? Tell the Maker you want to die forever.” So the people talked and talked a long time and decided upon their choice: to die and be done with life forever.

This is the reason the fly rubs his hands together constantly, because he is begging forgiveness of the Indians for these fateful words of his.

Impiety of Frog

When the moon had grown very little, all the Indian people were running races to keep up with the moon. At the end, the rabbit and the frog agreed to run a race together. The people watched and laughed loudly at the frog, because he had the shape of a man but wore no clothes. Frog became very angry at the Maker and said, “Because you did not make me well, you shall have to pay for my disgrace.”

Now Tu-chai-pai had gone away to a very high place and fell asleep. Frog was down in a deep place shaking his fists in defiance of the Maker.

Suddenly the Sun appeared, and the maker came with it. He had a long stick pointed at both ends, which he held over his head. He reached down with it around the deep place and touched the back of the frog, where it left a long white mark.

By this time Frog had become so angry that he thought of a wrong deed to commit. He decided to spit poison into the water where Tu-chai-pai would drink. Thoughts of this evil deed by now had magically entered the Maker’s heart, who said to himself, “I shall die.” Some boys then came and told the Maker what the frog had done.

Tu-chai-pai told them, “I shall die with the Moon. Watch the Moon and when it becomes very small, then I will die.” The boys watched and watched as the Moon grew smaller, and in six large stars, the Maker finished his life.

At that time, since all of the things on this Earth were the children of Tu-chai-pai, they too will die, sometime when the Moon seems right, according to the Maker of long, long ago.

Kumeyaay Research Museums

KUMEYAAY RESEARCH MUSEUMS is a Web portal to important historical Kumeyaay information. Learn how to find active fun things to do in San Diego to learn about the aboriginal California tribes of Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. Extensive professional picture galleries documenting California indigenous culture, history and lifestyle, ethnographic arts and crafts by virtual tour of Native American tribal documentaries featuring detailed on-line museum departments for creative and academic research of the four tribal groupings indigenous to San Diego County: The Kumeyaay-Diegueño Indians, the Luise Diegueño Indians, the Cupe Diegueño Indians, and the Cahuilla Indians.

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