Archaeological evidence shows that the Kumeyaay people lived in the San Diego area and Northern Baja California for 12,000 years. Different groups within the Kumeyaay tribe diversified and adapted their lifestyle according to their environment.
With an ideal climate and plentiful natural resources, they Kumeyaay thrived. Plant and animal food resources were plentiful. As noted in the flora section of this website, everyone had access to natural medicines. They were astronomers, horticulturalists, healers, scientists and storytellers. Life was good.
Have you ever been on a hike and noticed holes in granite boulders? You can observe these man-made holes throughout Southern California. The Kumeyaay made these impressions to grind food! Acorns and seeds were put in the holes, and they would use a "mano" stone to ground into a meal.
The Kumeyaay built their homes called "ewas" from willow branches. The willow contained salicin, which was a natural insect repellent. They also stored food and supplies in large containers made of willow branches.
The Kumeyaay practiced face painting and tattooing on both males and females. Each color and design had special meaning.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo arrives in Point Loma in September of 1542. It would not be until 1769 that Europeans take root in San Diego. The Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala was established near Old Town. The mission standing today is thought to be the fourth one built on the property. The original one was burnt down by the Kumeyaay in 1775!
It is believed that Spanish settlers were after the lost gold cities. They used similar tactics when plundering villages in Aztec lands. Did the Kumeyaay lay down? Lt. Colonel Pedro Fages described the Kumeyaay this way: " "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." Source: www.campo-nsn.gov
Spaniards endeavor to convert the native people to Christianity. The church gathers as many Kumeyaay into the missions as possible. Once there, the natives were held captive while they received religious instruction and provided free labor for the mission (often forcibly). The Kumeyaay resisted these efforts every step of the way. In one of many uprisings, the Kumeyaay rebelled and burned the original mission to the ground. They killed Father Luis Jayme on November 4, 1775. The Spaniards superior weaponry, however, overwhelmed the Kumeyaay. Resistance continued in the form of non-compliance to forced labor.
Mexico defeats Spain and takes over. San Diego comes under Mexican rule. All Kumeyaay lands taken control by military force.
The Kumeyaay launch attacks on Spanish and then Mexican forces in Rancho Bernardo, El Cajon, Old Town, Jamul, San Ysidro, Tijuana, and Tecate during a 6 year period. Their goal is to regain their land.
The United States declares war on Mexico in 1846. In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed. The U.S.- Mexico border is created. This border cuts through the heart of the Kumeyaay lands. This is a devastating turn of events for the Kumeyaay. Southern Kumeyaay relatives are alienated from their northern cousins.
300,000 gold prospectors and immigrants come to California from all regions of the world, sealing the fate of the Kumeyaay. Native Americans outnumbered everyone else 10-1. Now the tables turned. State and local militia went on full offensive and killed Kumeyaay men, women and children. William Kibbe, a militia leader, claimed his men killed 200 Indians to open up land. There were an estimated 150,000 California Native Americans in 1855. By 1900, there were only 16,000. Of the Kumeyaay tribe, there were only 1,000.