The Indians of the Inland Empire; A History steeped in Native Lore and Spanish Tragedy

Part One:

The Indians of the Inland Empire,
represent a varied and somewhat unique region of the state. Beginning on the Northern Deserts, the tribes found in this area were the Chumash, Alliklik, Kitanemuk, Serrano, Gabrielino Luiseno Cahuilla, and the Kumeyaay.

The various valleys and Mountains and climate varied considerably from the windswept offshore channel Islands that were principally inhabited by Chumash speaking peoples.

Any meetings with their mainland neighbors was by large and graceful planked canoes powered by double paddle ores. These vessels were called "Tomols" and manufactured by a group of craftsmen as stature as the Tribal Medicine men. They could carry hundreds of pounds of trade goods and up to a dozen passengers.

 They actually traveled up the Santa Ana and San Gabriel Rivers, especially during the winter months. While not in the Inland Empire, these peoples would travel up the Santa Ynez River in Ventura.

Like their northern neighbors, the Tactic speaking peoples of San Nicholas and Santa Catalina Islands built planked canoes and actively traded rich marine resources with mainland villages and tribes. Shoreline communities enjoyed the rich animal and faunal life of ocean, bays and wetlands environments.

Interior tribes like the Serrano, Luiseno, Cahuilla, and Kumeyaay shared an environment rich in Sonoran life zone featuring vast quantities of rabbit, deer and an abundance of acorn, seeds and native grasses.

At the higher elevations Desert Bighorn sheep were hunted. Several herds of Bighorn sheep can be found ranging up on MT. Baldy North of Upland and also up in the Anza area on Thomas Mountain and the lake Hemet area.

Tribal Villages varied in size from poor desert communities with as little as 100 people to the teaming Chumash villages with over a thousand inhabitants. Another small tribe of Cahuilla could be found living along the riverbanks of the Cajon River in the Rialto area. Conical homes of arroweed, tule or croton were common, while whale bone structures could be found on the coast and nearby Channel Islands.

Interior groups manufactured clay storage vessels sometimes decorated with paint. Baskets were everywhere manufactured with unique designs.

 Catalina Island possessed a soapstone or steatite quarry. This unique stone was soft and could easily be carved with cutting tools and shaped into vessels, pipes and cooking slabs.

Each tribe and community had a chieftain, sometimes females, whose duty it was to organize community events and settle conflicts among their followers. This leader was usually assisted by a crier or assistant, Shaman or Indian doctors were known everywhere and greatly respected.

The ritual use of the hallucinogen jimsonweed was primarily in male puberty rituals. Other substances used were Jute extracted from the leaves of Cactus and Hemp, used primarily for thee making of ties and rope, eventyally found its way into the inner smoking rituals. Like other California Indian communities, society was divided into three classes, the elite, a middle class and finally a less successful lower class. These peoples were among the first to come to the Inland Empire valleys and Mountains and deserts over 10,000 years ago, many think by crossing the landbridge between Alaska and Russia. They were also the first peoples to ecnounter the Spanish Missionaries and Conquisters in the 15th and 16th century. 

Gary Hall the ghostpainter

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