The Amah Mutsun Tribe

Published on October 7, 2012 by Amy

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Amah Mutsun Tribe
Amah Mutsun Tribe

The Amah Mutsun Tribe has an extensive history of communal activity, shared cultural understanding and collective rituals and beliefs, first pagan and then Christian. The Amah Mutsun occupied the San Juan Valley long before the Spanish arrived in the late 1700’s. In fact, radiocarbon dating of artifacts found at valley sites of early villages show that Tribal people occupied the area nearly 3,000 years ago.

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The Amah Mutsun community was originally made up of approximately 20 to 30 contiguous villages stretched across the Pajaro River Basin and surrounding region. Members of these different villages were united by shared cultural practices and tribal traditions. Their mutual religious practices, uniwue method of fishing and hunting, ceremonial dress, craftsmanship, and shelter set them apart from other tribes of California.

Most significantly, Amah villages were distinct from tribes outside their valley because of their unique language. No other Indian tribe spoke Mutsun. While the Costanoan language family was made up of eight separate languages, including Mutsun, each language was “as different from one another as Spanish is from French” in the Romance language group. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the Mutsun language had been spoken in the San Juan Valley for hundreds of years, indeed it was one of the first American Indian languages extensively studied in North America.

The Amah Mutsun Tribe had been drawn to the triangle of land formed by the Monterey Bay and the Pajaro and San Benito rivers due to the abundance of water and fish. The Tribe was geographically isolated from its neighbors due to the physiography of the San Juan Valley (Tratrah). However, these abundant lands later attracted other settlers who would drastically change the lives of the Amah Mutsun.

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