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

San Luis Obispo.

Fifteen different languages are spoken in this mission. 39


I have found some wind instruments made of elder sticks. 40


Notwithstanding that the Indians in their native state hold lands according to their families, there is no necessity of agreements to sow, as there are wild fruits on them; and if something

p. 17

rich is produced, it causes many wars if anyone has the boldness to go to collect the crop without previously paying or notifying the legitimate owner. 41


There are all kinds (espiras or esleras), poor and rich, but among the rich there is in each village one to whom all look up and whose voice is respected by all such as are found living with him. To him, I do not know according to what rules, all offer tribute from their fruits, goods, and beads. Such men summon to the ceremonies all those who gather, and who are actually their friends. If by chance any one of these refuses the invitation, arms are resolved upon; and with the approval of his people the chief takes the road to avenge the injury which the other has done him by not accepting the invitation. 42 He deprives of life not only the chief but as many as are gathered with him. For all services they have no other reward than to look upon him, who has had the good fortune to kill some one, as a public person.


The Indians of each settlement or village have cemeteries marked out with boards or stones. They also have songs and ceremonies for burying the dead. They make a distribution of beads to all who have come together to assist in bringing the body to the grave. There is one, he who raises it on his back, who has for his particular duty the obligation of opening the grave. I have not been able to ascertain what their songs mean in our language.


16:39 The report on the Indians of San Luis Obispo was probably written by Father Luis Antonio Martinez. His companion, Antonio Rodriguez, did not come to San Luis Obispo until 1811. The San Luis Obispo Indians were Chumash, though the dialect of the vicinity of the mission differed markedly from those of Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez. It is difficult to conjecture what the fifteen languages mentioned can have been, unless they were slightly different dialects of Chumash. The number and distribution of the dialects of this family are very little known. It has been suspected that the dialects were numerous, and the present statement seems to be confirmatory. The only Indians other than Chumash likely to have been brought to San Luis Obispo, would be of the Salinan and Yokuts families.

16:40 The wind instruments made of elder sticks are the flutes mentioned previously and again below.

17:41 The translation has been given according to what appears to be the meaning of the text. This reads: Sin embargo de que los Indios tienen tierras por familias en su gentilidad, como son frutos silvestres no tienen necesidad de contratos, para sembrar, y si un objeto poderoso que produce, no pocas guerras, si alguno tiene el arrojo de it à coger sus frutos sin pagar, y avisar, antes à su legitimo dueño.

17:42 The statement that the rich man is the chief, is in accord with observations from almost all parts of California. The dependence of social rank on wealth seems, however, to have been greatest in this southern region and in northwestern California. The other missionaries contributing to this report make no mention of similar conditions. That the refusal of an invitation should cause war, seems also to indicate a greater influence and higher social position of the chief than among many California tribes. In most parts of the state it is very doubtful whether the inhabitants of one village would have been likely to commence war with those of a neighboring settlement merely on account of a slight put upon the dignity or prestige of their chief.

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