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Anthony Pico, chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay
Total population
As of 1990, 1,200 on reservations; 2,000 off-reservation[1]
Regions with significant populations
Mexico Mexico (Baja California Baja California)
United States United States (California California)
Ipai, Kumeyaay, Tipai, English, and Spanish
Related ethnic groups
Luiseño, Cocopa, Quechan, Paipai, and Kiliwa

The Kumeyaay, also known as Tipai-Ipai, are a tribe of Indigenous peoples of the Americas who live at the northern border of Baja California in Mexico and the southern border of California in the United States. Their Kumeyaay language belongs to the Yuman–Cochimí language family.

The Kumeyaay consist of three related groups, the Ipai, Tipai, and Kamia. The San Diego River loosely divided the Ipai and the Tipai historical homelands, while the Kamia lived in the eastern desert areas. The Ipai lived to the north, from Escondido to Lake Henshaw, while the Tipai lived to the south, in lands including the Laguna Mountains, Ensenada, and Tecate. The Kamia lived to the east in an area that included Mexicali and bordered the Salton Sea.

Map of Kumeyaay extent prior to European Colonization.
Map of Kumeyaay extent prior to European Colonization.


Michael Connolly, from San Diego, pronounces Kumeyaay

The Kumeyaay or Tipai-Ipai were formerly known as the Kamia or Diegueño. In Spanish, the name is commonly spelled Kumiai.

The term Kumeyaay translates as "people".[2] It is related to the Kiliwa word kumeey meaning "man (human being)" or "people." Both Ipai/Iipay and Tipai mean "man (human being)" or "people."[3]


Nomenclature and tribal distinctions are not widely agreed upon. The general scholarly consensus (e.g., Langdon 1990) recognizes three separate languages: Ipai (Iipay) (Northern Kumeyaay), Kumeyaay proper (including the Kamia/Kwaaymii), and Tipai (Southern Kumeyaay) in northern Baja California. Other authorities (e.g., Luomala 1978 and Pritzker 2000) see only two: Ipai and Tipai.

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 language family, to which several other linguistically distinct but related groups also belong, including the Cocopa, Quechan, Paipai, and Kiliwa.

Linguist Margaret Langdon is credited with doing much of the early work on documenting the language.[5]


Pre-European Contact

Evidence of settlement in what is today considered Kumeyaay territory may go back 12,000 years.[6] 7000 BCE marked the emergence of two cultural traditions: the California Coast and Valley tradition and the Desert tradition.[7] The Kumeyaay had land along the Pacific Ocean from present Oceanside, California in the north to south of Ensenada, Mexico and extending east to the Colorado River.[8] The Cuyamaca complex, a late Holocene complex in San Diego County is related to the Kumeyaay peoples.[9] The Kumeyaay tribe also used to inhabit what is now a popular state park, known as Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.[10]

One view holds that historic Tipai-Ipai emerged around 1000 years ago, though a "proto-Tipai-Ipai culture" had been established by about 5000 BCE.[1] Katherine Luomola suggests that the "nucleus of later Tipai-Ipai groups" came together around AD 1000.[7] The Kumeyaay themselves believe that they 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.[3]

Spanish Exploration and Colonization

The first European to visit the region was Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 and met with the Kumeyaay, but did not lead to any colonial settlement. Sebastian Viscaino also visited in 1602 and met with a band Kumeyaay during the feast of San Diego de Alcala, giving the region of San Diego its name, but this also did not accumulate to colonial settlement.

In 1769, the Portolá expedition landed in the San Diego Bay and arrived to the Kumeyaay village of Cosoy (Kosa'aay) to recover and resupply. After their recovery, the Spanish established a presidio over the village and the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, incorporating the village into the settlement of San Diego. Under the Spanish Mission system, bands living near Mission San Diego de Alcalá, established in 1769, were called Diegueños, and later bands living near Mission San Luis Rey de Francia were called Luiseño.[3] The Spaniards brought with them non-native, invasive flora, and domestic animals, which brought about degradation to local ecology.

After years of sexual assaults from the Spanish soldiers in the Presidio and physical torture of Mission Indians using metal-tipped whips by Mission staff[12], the Tipai-Kumeyaay villages led a revolt against the Spanish, the priest and two others. Missionaries and church leaders forgave the Kumeyaay, but the Spanish solidified their control over the area to the end of the Mission Era.[13]

Early Mexican Rancho Era

Mexico assumed ownership of Kumeyaay lands after defeating Spain in the Mexican War of Independence in 1821. The following year, Mexican troops confiscated all coastal lands from the Kumeyaay, granting much of the land to Mexican settlers, who became known as Californios,[14] to develop the land for agriculture, beginning the California Rancho Era.

Kumeyaay fell victim to smallpox and malaria epidemics in 1827 and 1832, reducing the Kumeyaay population.[15]

Various disputes culminated to a skirmish between the Kumeyaay and Mexican soldier stationed in San Diego in 1826, killing 26 Kumeyaay.[15] After decades of debates and delays, the missions in Alta California were secularized in 1833, and Ipai and Tipais lost their lands; band members had to choose between becoming serfs, trespassers, rebels, or fugitives.[16]

Under territorial governor Jose Figueroa Some of the Kumeyaay from Mission San Diego were allowed to resettle and establish San Pasqual Pueblo in 1835, who would later become the San Pasqual Band of Diegueno Mission Indians.[17] The Kumeyaay Pueblo fought against hostile bands and protected Mexican settlers, with a decisive victory over an anti-Christian uprising and capturing its leader, Claudio.[18]

Battle of San Pasqual, picturing the Kumeyaay Pueblo

Mexican-American War

During the Mexican-American War, the Kumeyaay were initially neutral. The Kumeyaay of the San Pasqual pueblo were evacuated as the Americans approached the town. The Mexicans and the Californios were victorious over the Americans at the Battle of San Pasqual. A Kumeyaay leader, Panto, called on the Mexicans to cease hostilities with the Americans so that the Kumeyaay could tend to the wounded Americans, to which provided Panto and the San Pasqual Kumeyaay resupplied the Americans and helped ensure the American capture of the Pueblo de Los Ángeles and San Diego.[17][18]

Modern American & Mexican Era

After the Mexican-American War, Kumeyaay lands were split between the US and Mexico through the Mexican Cession resulting from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago.

In 1851, the San Diego County unilaterally charged property taxes on Native American tribes in the county and threatened to confiscate land and property should they fail to pay up. This led to the San Diego Tax Rebellion of 1851 or "Garra's Revolt", with the destruction of Warner's Ranch led by the Cupeño, beginning the first stage of the Yuma War. The Kumeyaay agreed to join the revolt along with the Cocopah and Quechan, but made no military commitments to attack San Diego or capture Fort Yuma.[19][20]

Instead, the San Pasqual Band of Kumeyaay fought against the Quechan campaign to attack San Diego and defeated the Quechan in the San Pasqual Valley.[21]

Establishment of Kumeyaay Reservations in the U.S.

On January 7, 1852, representatives of a number Kumeyaay clans, including Panto, met with Commissioner Oliver M. Wozencraft and negotiated the Treaty of Santa Ysabel. The agreement was part of the famous “18 Treaties” of California, negotiated to protect Indian land rights. After the 18 Treaties were completed, the documents were sent to the United States Senate for approval. Under pressure from white settlers and the California Senate delegation, the treaties were all rejected.[17]

From 1870 to 1910, American settlers seized lands, including arable and native gathering lands. In 1875, President Ulysses S. 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.[22]

Kumeyaay were displaced to construct the El Capitan Reservoir
Kumeyaay were displaced to construct the El Capitan Reservoir

In 1932, the Coapan Kumeyaay living on the San Diego River were removed to make way for the El Capitan Dam and Reservoir and relocated their inhabitants at the Barona Reservation and the Viejas Reservation.[15]

Kumeyaay in the Mexican Revolution (1910-1911)

During the Mexican Revolution, the Magonistas gained the support of the Kumeyaay with an enthusiastic base particularly in the Tecate region, many Kumeyaay from both sides of the border were enticed by their anarcho-syndicalist message of indigenous liberation from the Mexican and American colonial nation-states starting with the end of the Porfirio Díaz dictatorship. The Kumeyaay supported the Magonistas as guides throughout the land, whose aid allowed them to control Mexicali, Tecate, and Tijuana during the Magonista Rebellion of 1911.[23] However, the Kumeyaay did not participate in much of the active fighting in the Magonista Rebellion, and did not participate with Cocopah, Kiliwa, and Paipai tribes in raiding on small towns or looting Chinese-Mexican businesses in the region, and may have even smuggled Chinese-Mexican refugees to the American side of the border.[23] By the end of June, the rebellion was suppressed by the Madero Administration.

After the revolution, the ban on Ejidos and other forms of communal living were lifted and the Kumeyaay were able resume their traditional communal way of life legitimately with their communities in Valle de Las Palmas, Peña Blanca, and their five other reservations.[24]

Kumeyaay-American Economy and Casino Industry

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.[25] For their common welfare, several reservations in the US formed the non-profit Kumeyaay, Inc.[26]

Cuts in Native American welfare programs under the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations forced reservation to find other means of income and capitalize on industries not possible off-reservation.[27]

Barona Resort Hotel
Barona Resort Hotel

In 1982, the Barona Band won its case in the Barona Group of the Capitan Grande Band of Mission Indians v. Duffy (1982) to operate high-stakes bingo games, leading to the expansion of many Kumeyaay bingo operators into the Casino industry. This helped establish Vegas style gaming operations in the reservations in the region, evaporating reservation unemployment and poverty in a short time. In total, the Kumeyaay operate six casinos: Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino, Sycuan Resort and Casino, Viejas Casino & Resort, Valley View Casino and Hotel, Golden Acorn Casino and Travel Center, and Jamul Casino.[27]

Kumeyaay-Mexican Economy and Wine Tourism Industry

On the Mexican side of the border, Kumeyaay reservations manufacture traditional craftwork to sell on the American side of the border with partnering Kumeyaay souvenir gift shops and casinos.[28]

Many Kumeyaay there have moved into urban areas to seek better employment opportunities compared to their agrarian employment on the reservation. The depopulation of their reservations have allowed neighboring non-native Ejidos to encroach on their lands.[29]

Valle de Guadalupe, B.C.
Valle de Guadalupe, B.C.

The Kumeyaay reservations on the Mexican side of the border have largely retained their traditional heritage. Some reservations faced water shortages, making it difficult to continue agricultural operation. This led many communities to enter wine-tasting and tourism industries in the Guadalupe Valley.[30] Many bands began launching wine tours and festivals to attract tourists and foreign visitors from Southern California and cruise passengers stopping at the Port of Ensenada.[24]

Kumeyaay and the US-Mexican Border

In 1998, the Kumeyaay established the Kumeyaay Border task force to work with federal immigration officials to secure free passage of Baja Kumeyaay bands to visit the US Kumeyaay bands and ensure their rights to protected graves and artifacts protected by the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.[15]

However, border construction accelerated in 2020 and Kumeyaay representatives at the border to protect and preserve Kumeyaay artifacts were turned away from the construction area. This sparked protests among the bands and Kumeyaay women organized to lead a protest at the border in July. The La Posta Band filed a lawsuit in August against the Trump administration seeking to block further construction of the border wall through their burial sites.[31]


Frame of an ‘ewaa
Frame of an ‘ewaa
Kumeyaay items.
Kumeyaay items.

The Kumeyaay had a system of trail runners who carried messages and announcements between bands, which notified the presence of the Spaniards prior to Cabrillo's arrival in San Diego.

Acorns were a staple of the Kumeyaay diet, and made acorn mush they called shawii, which could be used to made dough to make bread. Other grains like pine nuts or chia seeds were also stone-ground and consumed.[32]

The Ipai-Tipai Kumeyaay traded with the Kamia Kumeyaay to obtain obsidian from an area south of the Salton Sea. They also traded along the Pacific coast to obtain Olivella shell beads from the Chumash and tribes in the Gulf of California.[32]

The Kumeyaay Community College was created by the Sycuan Band to serve the Kumeyaay-Diegueño Nation, and describes its mission as "to support cultural identity, sovereignty, and self-determination while meeting the needs of native and non-Native students." The college's focus is on "Kumeyaay History, Kumeyaay Ethnobotany and traditional Indigenous arts." It "serves and relies on resources from the thirteen reservations of the Kumeyaay Nation situated in San Diego county."[33] In the fall of 2016, Cuyamaca College began offering an associate degree in Kumeyaay Studies with courses at its Rancho San Diego campus, as well as at Kumeyaay Community College on the Sycuan reservation.[34]


Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. In 1925, Alfred L. Kroeber proposed that the population of the Kumeyaay in the San Diego region in 1770 had been about 3,000.[35] More recently, Katharine Luomala points out that this estimate depended on calculations of rates of baptisms at the Mission, and as such "ignores the unbaptized." She suggests that the region could have supported 6,000-9,000 people.[36] Florence C. Shipek goes further, estimating 16,000-19,000 inhabitants.[37]

In the late eighteenth century, it is estimated that the Kumeyaay population was between 3,000 and 9,000.[1] In 1828, 1,711 Kumeyaay were recorded by the missions. The 1860 federal census recorded 1,571 Kumeyaay living in 24 villages.[36] The Bureau of Indian Affairs recorded 1,322 Kumeyaay in 1968, with 435 living on reservations.[36] By 1990, an estimated 1,200 lived on reservation lands, while 2,000 lived elsewhere.[1]

Tribes and reservations

Kumeyaay coiled basket, woven by Celestine Lachapa, 19th century, San Diego Museum of Man
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
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:[38]

PrimariIy Ipai affiliated Kumeyaay tribes:

Primarily Tipai affiliated Kumeyaay tribes:

In Baja California, they live in five village communities, all of which are affiliated with the Tipai:

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

Kumeyaay Villages

Village sites active as reservations

Former Pueblo

Village site catalysts for European Urbanization

Other Former Villages in the US

In the City of San Diego

In the County of San Diego

In Imperial County

Other Former Villages in Mexico[39]

In the Municipality of Tijuana

  • Kwa-kwa | Cuero de Venado
  • Wanya pu:wam | Cerro de Bonifacia
  • We-ilmex

In the Municipality of Playas de Rosarito

  • Jiurr-jiurr | Agua Escondida

In the Municipality of Tecate

  • Mat'haina:l | Villareal de San José
  • Cikaú | Tanama
  • Mat'kwoho:l | Cañon Manteca
  • Uap 'cu:l uit | Cañon Manteca
  • Ja-kwak-wak | Las Juntas
  • Ha'kumum | Agua Tule
  • Metot'tai | Valle de las Palmas
  • 'Ui'hapal | Peña Blanca
  • Kwat' Kunšapax | Las Calabazas
  • Cukwapa:l | El Compadre
  • 'Ui'ha'tumer
  • Mutu Cata | Cañon del Cansio
  • Jat'ám | Santa Clara
  • Ha'mat'tai | Jamatay
  • Ha'kume | Ejido Jacume

In the Municipality of Mexicali

  • Hwat Nyaknyuma
  • Wekwilul
  • Hakwisiay

In the Municipality of Ensenada

  • Jhlumúk | Valle de Guadalupe
  • Kwar Nuwa | El Sauzal
  • 'Ui'cikwar | Real del Castillo
  • Yiu kwiñi:l | Ojos Negros
  • Ha'cur | San Salvador

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Pritzker 2000, p. 145
  2. ^ Slater, Carol, Yuman linguist, student of Dr. Margaret Langdon
  3. ^ a b c Luomala 1978, p. 592
  4. ^ Smith 2005
  5. ^ "Margaret Langdon; linguist helped write first local Indian dictionary | The San Diego Union-Tribune". Archived from the original on 2016-10-11. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  6. ^ Erlandson et al. 2010, p. 62
  7. ^ a b Luomala 1978, p. 594
  8. ^ Kumeyaay Lands 1769-2000
  9. ^ "A Glossary of Proper Names in California Prehistory." Society for California Archaeology. (retrieved 12 Aug 2011)
  10. ^ "Native Americans", Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, retrieved 10 October 2016
  11. ^ a b "The Kumeyaay of Southern California", The Kumeyaay Information Village, retrieved 10 October 2016
  12. ^ Yagi, George (2017-10-11). "The Battle for San Diego". HistoryNet. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  13. ^ "Sociopolitical Aspects of the 1775 Revolt at Mission San Diego de Alcala". San Diego History Center | San Diego, CA | Our City, Our Story. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  14. ^ Gurling, Sara (2018-11-22). "Give Thanks and Remember Your Cousins". Latino Rebels. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  15. ^ a b c d "Kumeyaay Timeline". Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  16. ^ Luomala 1978, p. 595
  17. ^ a b c "History". Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  18. ^ a b Farris, Glenn. "CAPTAIN JOSE PANTO AND THE SAN PASCUAL INDIAN PUEBLO IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY 1835-1878". San Diego History Center | San Diego, CA | Our City, Our Story. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  19. ^ "The Indian Tax Rebellion of 1851". HistoryNet. 2006-06-12. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  20. ^ "San Diego History : Garra's Uprising". Los Angeles Times. 1992-08-10. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  21. ^ "Kumeyaay Sense of the Land and Landscape". Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  22. ^ Shipek 1978, p. 610
  23. ^ a b Muñoz, Gabriel Trujillo (2012). La utopía del norte fronterizo: La revolución anarcosindicalista de 1911. San Ángel, Del. Álvaro Obregón, México, 01000, D. F: Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de las Revoluciones de México. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-607-7916-83-3.CS1 maint: location (link)
  24. ^ a b "Kumeyaay Land: Baja California's Endangered Rural Heritage". Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  25. ^ Shipek 1978, p. 611
  26. ^ Shipek 1978, p. 616
  27. ^ a b Banegas, Ethan. "Indian Gaming in the Kumeyaay Nation". San Diego History Center | San Diego, CA | Our City, Our Story. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  28. ^ "SAN ANTONIO NECUA Baja California Mexico Kumeyaay Indians Documentary Kumiai Photos Pictures". Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  29. ^ "Juntas de Nejí". Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  30. ^ "Native Kumiai Finding a New Way - The Baja Storyteller". Baja Bound Insurance Services. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  31. ^ Srikrishnan, Maya (2020-08-17). "Border Report: Kumeyaay Band Sues to Stop Border Wall Construction". Voice of San Diego. Retrieved 2020-09-02.
  32. ^ a b Hoffman, Geralyn Marie (2006). A Teacher’s Guide to Historical and Contemporary Kumeyaay Culture (PDF). San Diego State University: Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias.
  33. ^ "Kumeyaay Community College", Kumeyaay Community College, retrieved October 10, 2016
  34. ^ Huard, Christine (15 August 2016). "College expands Kumeyaay studies program". The San Diego-Union Tribune. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  35. ^ Kroeber 1925, p. 88
  36. ^ a b c Luomala 1978, p. 596
  37. ^ Shipek 1986, p. 19
  38. ^ "Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Notice 145A2100DD/A0T500000.000000/AAK3000000: Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible to Receive Services from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs". Federal Register, January 2015 (PDF). Federal Register. 80. Government Publishing Office. January 14, 2015. pp. 1942–1948. OCLC 1768512. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
  39. ^ a b " - Kumeyaay Place Names". Retrieved 2020-09-01.
  40. ^ 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.


Further reading

  • 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].
  • Miskwish, Michael C. Kumeyaay: A History Book. El Cajon, CA: Sycuan Press, 2007.
  • Miskwish, Michael C, and Joel Zwink. Sycuan: Our People, Our Culture, Our History: Honoring the Past, Building the Future. El Cajon, Calif.: Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, 2006.

External links

This page was last edited on 24 September 2020, at 07:56
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