Tuesday, 22 February 2011

the Kumeyaay tribe


The Kumeyaay Indians (also know as Tipai-Ipai, Kamia, or formerly Diegueño) occupy the state of California and Baja California in Mexico. They live on 13 reservations in San Diego county and 5 communities in Baja California. This map shows the main bands of Kumeyaay Indians.

One of the first facts mentioned in the history section is that the Kumeyaay have lived in this area for 12000 years; this establishes how long they were there before European settlers. It also describes how good life was before colonisation: Southern California has always been a haven of good weather, and good life. The Kumeyaay of Pre-Contact wanted for nothing. With ideal climate, and a land that they cared for and in turn provided a bounty of crops, game, and medicine. With little to no thought given to hardship of survival, the Kumeyaay were able to turn their thoughts to ways to improve their life. This was a world of astronomers... horticulturists... healers... scientists... and storytellers....’

The explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led the first European expedition known to visit San Diego in 1542 and the first European immigrant settlers they had there in California was 1769; at this time it is thought that the Indian population there was over 150,000. This tribe were one of the later ones to be affected since as early as the 1630s reservations were being made for Indians. It says that up until European settlement ‘the Kumeyaay were living off the land in harmony with nature, developing their unique North American tribal culture over THOUSANDS of years, including their native Yuman (Hokan) languages.’ Again, it mentions the length of time the Kumeyaay have lived it that area; this quote also indicates how important their traditions are to them thus showing that they don’t want to become Americans.

Next it describes how the Spanish had moved into their territory including coastal lands which were important to the tribe. It says how there was ‘continual friction and bloody, murderous fighting between the Kumeyaay and the non-native invaders’. It seems that the Kumeyaay are proud of how they stood up and fought bravely, in this section of the website there was in extremely big letter a quote from Lt. Colonel Pedro Fage in 1779: ‘Indeed this tribe, which among those discovered is the most numerous, is also the most restless, stubborn, haughty, warlike, and hostile toward us, absolutely opposed to all rational subjection and full of the spirit of independence’. It also describes how, as a result of the Mexican-American war, the US-Mexican border cut the Kumeyaay lands in half thus leaving some of their tribe alienated. They were also greatly affected by the California Gold Rush of 1848-55 because it tripled the Californian population as well as bringing disease, weaponry and greed. Worst of all though was the control the state and local militia had over the Kumeyaay which is described as genocidal: ‘Militias were at the forefront of the government-sanctioned murder of Indians in California. Typically attacking at night, the militias would murder men, women and children... Local, State and Federal governments supported the genocide of California Indians. City governments paid bounties on heads or scalps of Indians’. However, it also says how assimilation using the California Spanish Mission System, relocation and reservation poverty was also disastrous to the ‘ageless California Indian spirit and timeless culture’. Only around 1,000 Kumeyaay Indians are thought to have survived into the 20th century.

Overall the Kumeyaay seem to be quite bitter and sad about their tribe’s history which is completely understandable. Just like any tribe they have had lots of land and much of their culture stolen from them as well losing lives. However at the start of this section the editor of the website says, ‘I've rarely heard San Diego Indians speak ill of or express bitterness over the past — they seem to be more interested in their present and future’. Despite this, much of the website entails the history of the tribe and there is little about what affects the tribe nowadays; perhaps this is because they don’t have many issues nowadays, although I find that hard to believe considering that Native Americans have quite a long way to go until they have complete equality. At the present time the Kumeyaay tribe gain quite a lot of money through the casino business thanks to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 and Proposition 1a of 2000. It says how that, through this, the Kumeyaay ‘at last have a shot at participating in the American Dream’; this quote felt weird to me considering how proud the Kumeyaay seem to be about their traditions on this site however I suppose that they are thankful for the opportunity to get out of the impoverished conditions they were in. The issue surrounding that of Indian casinos is that of Americanisation and Capitalism against traditionalist Indians.

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