Published on December 27, 2012 by Amy
The Kumeyaay, also known as Tipai-Ipai, Kamia, or formerly Diegueño, are Native American people of the extreme southwestern United States and northwest Mexico. They live in the states of California in the US and Baja California in Mexico. In Spanish, the name is commonly spelled Kumiai.
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The Kumeyaay consist of two related groups, the Ipai and Tipai. The two coastal groups’ traditional homelands were approximately separated by the San Diego River: the northern Ipai (extending from Escondido to Lake Henshaw) and the southern Tipai (including the Laguna Mountains, Ensenada, and Tecate).
Nomenclature and tribal distinctions are not widely agreed upon. The general scholarly consensus recognizes three separate languages: Ipai, Kumeyaay proper (including the Kamia), and Tipai in northern Baja California (e.g., Langdon 1990). 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. All three languages belong to the Delta–California branch of the Yuman family, to which several other linguistically distinct but related groups also belong, including the Cocopa, Quechan, Paipai, and Kiliwa.
The meaning of the term Kumeyaay is unknown, but Ipai or Tipai both mean “people.” Some Kumeyaay in the southern areas also refer to themselves as MuttTipi, which means “people of the earth.”
Evidence of human settlement, in what is today considered Kumeyaay territory, may go back 12,000 years. 7000 BCE marked the emergence of two cultural traditions: the California Coast and Valley tradition and the Desert tradition. The Cuyamaca complex, a late Holocene complex in San Diego County is related to the Kumeyaay peoples.
One view holds that pre-historic Tipai-Ipai emerged around 1000 CE; however, others believe Kumeyaay peoples have lived in San Diego for 12,000 years. At the time of European contact, Kumeyaay comprised several autonomous bands with 30 patrilineal clans.
Spaniards entered Tipai-Ipai territory in the late 18th century, bringing with them non-native, invasive flora, and domestic animals, which brought about degradation to local ecology. Under the Spanish Mission system, bands living near Mission San Diego de Alcalá, established in 1769, were called Diegueños. After Mexico took over the lands from Spain, they secularized the missions in 1834, and Ipai and Tipais lost their lands; essentially band members became serfs.
From 1870 to 1910, American settlers lawlessly seized lands, including arable and native gathering lands. In 1875, President Ulysses 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.
Kumeyaay people supported themselves by farming and agricultural wage labor; however, a 20-year drought in the mid-20 century crippled the region’s dry farming economy. For their common welfare, several reservations formed the non-profit Kumeyaay, Inc.
Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. Alfred L. Kroeber proposed that the population of the Kumeyaay in 1770, exclusive of those in Baja California, had been about 3,000. Katharine Luomala suggested that the region could have supported 6,000-9,000 Kumeyaay. Florence C. Shipek went much farther, estimating 16,000-19,000 inhabitants.
In the late 18th century, Kumeyaay population was between 3000 and 9000. In 1828, 1711 Kumeyaay were recorded by the missions. The 1860 federal census recorded 1571 Kumeyaay living in 24 villages. In 1900, an estimated 1200 Kumeyaay lived on reservation lands, while 2000 lived elsewhere. The Bureau of Indian Affairs recorded 1322 Kumeyaay in 1968, with 435 living on reservations.