Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

Next: Chapter 23 Mi'-wokContentsPrevious: Preface

Tribes of California by Stephen Powers (1877)


INTRODUCTORY

There is some difficulty in drawing a line sharp between the California Indians and their neighbors. With some exceptions they shade away from tribe to tribe, from valley to valley, so that one can seldom put his finger on a river or a mountain-range and say that here one nation ends and another begins.

There are certain general customs which mark the California Indians, as, for instance the use of the assembly chamber, the non-use of torture on prisoners of war, cremation, and the prevalence of a kind of plutocracy, or if the word is allowable, dorocracy, that is, the rule of the gift-givers. But cremation and the assembly chamber are also used, to a certain extent, by some vicinal tribes that cannot be classed with these; and, on the other hand, cremation is not universal in California.

The term “Digger”, vulgarly applied to the race, is opprobious and unjust, equally as much as it would be to designate Chinamen as “Rat-eaters”. There are tribes, notably the Apaches, who subsist much more on roots than do the California Indians

Aside from language, the most radical difference between the Californians and the Paiuti or Nevada Indians is, that the latter build their lodges more or less on hill-tops, while the former build theirs near water-courses. As to the Californians and the Siwash, or Oregon Indians, probably the most notable difference is, that the latter have no large assembly chamber proper. Both these points of difference show that the Californians are a more peaceful, effeminate, and sensuous race than their neighbors. They are also more devoted to joyous, social dances and merry-makings.

But the crucial test is that of language. Not only are the California languages distinguished for that affluence of vowel sounds which is more or less characteristic of all tongues spoken in warm climates, but most of them are also remarkable for their special striving after harmony. There are a few languages found in the northern mountains which are harsh and sesquipedalian, and some on the upper coast that are guttural beyond the compass of our American organs of speech; but with these few exceptions the numerous languages of the State are beautiful for their simplicity, the brevity of their words, their melody, and their harmonic sequences.

The Tinné or Athabascan races extend far into California along the coast, reaching to the headwaters of Eel River. The tribes immediately around Humboldt Bay probably do not belong to them, but to the Californians. The former drove the Californians up the Trinity to the mouth of New River. They hold the Smith, the Klamath, Mad, and Eel Rivers entire, except the lower reaches of the last two. They also hold Scott River. Beginning at the head of this river, the line runs across to Mount Shasta; thence to the forks of the Pit; thence up South Fork and down along the Sierra to Honey Lake; thence along the western line of the double crest (the Wá-sho generally hold the summit meadows) to Alpine County. I have not seen the Indians of this county, but they are said to belong to the Paiuti. In Southern California the Paiuti tribes have pushed down King’s River and the San Joaquin nearly to the plains, and down the Kern to its mouth, also through Tahichapa Pass, holding nearly the whole Kern Basin. Of the tribes in the Mohave and Colorado Deserts I can say very little.

An accurate distribution of tribes within these limits is a difficult task. In the mountain regions where there are certain natural, well-defined territories, as valleys, etc., there are generally names which may be dignified as tribal; but on the great plains the Indians become scattered and diffused in innumerable little villages or camps, of which it is very seldom the case that even two are bound together by a common name. The chiefs could not hold them together. Hence, on the plains the only useful boundaries are linguistic; and the extent of any given language is generally far greater than in the mountains.

There will be found in these pages no account of the quasi-Christianized Indians of the missions Their aboriginal customs have so faded out, their tribal organizations and languages have become so hopelessly intermingled and confused, that they can no longer be classified. They are known as Diegeños, Migneleños, Rafaeleños, and the like Spanish names, which are formed from the missions to which they respectively belonged; and for purposes of classification it is useless to take down a vocabulary and call it the “San Miguel language”, for instance, for the Indians who originally lived there may be all dead, while those who give the vocabulary may be descended from Indians brought by the Spanish missionaries from the San Joaquin Valley, or some other point a hundred miles distant, and which has been forgotten even by the whites.

In this work I have followed the system of orthography recommended in the “Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 160”, which is substantially the same as the Continental. Occasionally it is found necessary to employ the consonants ng to denote the French nasal sound, also the German umlaut. has the sound of ch in the German Buch. Indian words are accented and syllabicated the first time they occur; after that they are written solid.

Owing to the great number of dialectic variations in California languages, there is probably not an Indian word in this volume which a person knowing only one dialect could not prove to be wrong.


Next: Chapter 23 Mi'-wokContentsPrevious: Preface

Home A - Z FAQ Art Prints Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/powers/preface.html