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A Mission Record of the California Indians, by A.L. Kroeber, [1908], at

San Diego2

The language which the Indians of this mission speak is the

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[paragraph continues] Man dialect. It is so called because they say faâ for yes and man for no. 3

They have a great desire to assemble at a ceremony regarding a bird called vulture (gavilan). This ceremony begins with a search anxiously made for this bird, and they invite one another to seek it. This arises from the fact that there are at the mission certain keen neophytes, who, however, are lazy when it comes to work, such as gathering the seeds on which they live. Desiring to have what they can feast with, these have made use of the opportunity of hunting the said bird in order to seduce the more simple-minded ones. They tell them that this bird is a person, who can free them from their enemies and bestow upon them whatever they ask of him. However false this belief, they hold to it with great pertinacity, wherefore they cherish the bird with as much care as the best mother could show for her son. As soon as they have captured it, they bring it the best of what they have obtained in the hunt and in their food gathering. When it is well nourished, and grown, they kill it, and for its funeral they burn it. While it is in the bonfire, those who have assembled offer to it seeds, beads, and whatever they esteem most. In the following year they search for another vulture, and do the same with it. The means which has been found for separating them from these follies, is to set some good Indians to watch, and to chastise severely and in public those who gather for the occasion. 4

Although this land is favored with many medicinal herbs, they do not use them nor did they ever use them. 5 There are certain

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neophytes who are sagacious but very bad workers. 6 These persuade the others that they can cure them. Such are called guisyay, that is to say, wizard. Their method of doctoring is this. When they know that someone is sick, the patient goes to the cusiyay 7 or his relatives call him. This one takes in his mouth a stick or piece of wood or skin. . He turns to the part of the body which is in pain and begins to draw and suck it. When he removes his mouth, he shows to the patient what he has been carrying in it, persuading him that it was this which hurt him. With this the patient remains much calmed and contented, believing that he is already free from his sickness. From this it is to be inferred that their, greatest physical infirmity, and that which most destroys them, is melancholy or fear; 8 but the most common illness among them is venereal sickness. 9 Since four years there have been more deaths than baptisms. In this last year of 1814 the dead numbered one hundred and eighteen, those baptized seventy-five, adult pagans baptized being included in the latter number.


They are exceedingly desirous (apasionados) of preserving the customs of their elders. 10 They say that they came to these lands from the north. 11


They do not observe any ceremony in their funerals. All that they do, and that by the affected indifference of the missionaries, is to throw some seeds in the shroud of the dead. They do this with loud weeping, which they keep up for some days.}

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The Indians (indiada) are much inclined to pride and rancor. The men pursue one another with death for jealousies and other vexations. When the women are angry with their husbands, or these have become attached to other women, they revenge themselves for their injuries by depriving themselves of life. 12

No other idolatry is found among them than the vulture ceremony which has been described. The rite which they use in their funerals is to burn the body. While it is blazing, they throw seeds on the fire and cry out to the accompaniment of floods of tears, which may continue for days or even months. 13

These Indians do not have, nor did they have, any musical instruments, except a sonajilta (timbrel) of a disagreeable sound. 14


3:2 The replies made to the interrogatory from San Diego were probably received too late to be incorporated with the other reports, for they are found separate in another part of the Archives, volume III, page 27, of the Miscellaneous Papers. The fathers in charge of San Diego about 1814 were Fernando Martin and Jose Sanchez, according to Engelhardt's Franciscans in California, from which the data of a similar nature given below are also taken.

San Diego is the southernmost of the Franciscan missions of Upper California, the earliest founded, and the only one in the territory of the Yuman linguistic stock. From it are named the Diegueños, or Yuman Mission Indians, who survive today to the number of several hundred.

4:3 This designation of the language does not appear to have survived. The Diegueño word for yes is e, or khan, good, and for no, umau or arkhamau. Man should therefore probably be read Mau. The sound f does not occur in the Yuman languages.

4:4 Drastic; but if we remember that it was not the fathers’ business to sympathize with the Indian's civilization or to study it, but to bring him, for his own supposed good, to another way of living and thinking, our censure will not be severe, however such practices conflict with modern principles. The bird, as among the neighboring Luiseño, is more probably the eagle than the California condor, which the word gavilan properly indicates; the ceremony is an annual one, common to most of the Mission Indians of Southern California, and held in memory of the dead. The San Luis Rey report describes the ceremony more fully.

4:5 This is probably an extreme statement, but it is well known that Indian medicine depends far more on ceremonial or shamanistic practices, such as the sucking described below, than on any pharmaceutical remedies.

5:6 It will be seen that the father has a fondness for giving this explanation of Indian religious practices that meet his disapproval.

5:7 Probably the same as guisyay above. The word has been obtained as kwisiayu by the author.

5:8 An interesting confirmation of an opinion held by many ethnologists regarding most people that are primitive.

5:9 Needless to say, derived from the whites. The virulence of this disease among the Indians would be sufficient evidence of its newness to them, even if this fact were not confirmed by general contemporary statement.

5:10 The Indians of Yuman family probably show this trait more strongly than any others in California.

5:11 The common tradition of the Indians of Southern California, except the Mohave, who derive their first origin from the west. The Indians of Lower California are also said to have believed that they came from the north.

6:12 Suicide among many Indians is most frequent among women disappointed in love.

6:13 Cremation was the mode of disposing of the dead in vogue, at the time of discovery and settlement, among the Indians of Lower California and all of southern Upper California except the Chumash. Numerous burials have been found in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and on the Santa Barbara islands; but from about Los Angeles south, and eastward across the state, the scarcity of human remains is such as to be conclusive evidence of the prevalence of cremation, even were the confirmatory evidence of observers lacking. Under mission influence, of course, graves soon replaced the funeral pyre.

6:14 Drums are not known from Southern California, though baskets were sometimes beaten or scraped. Rattles were of turtle-shell or gourd.

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