The Indians of San Diego County

By : Richard Bugbee,  

The tribal groupings make up the indigenous Indians of San Diego County: the Kumeyaay/Diegueño, the Payoomkawichum (Quechnajuichom/Luiseño and Acjachemen/Juaneño), the Kuupiaxchem/Cupeño, and the Cahuilla. The Diegueño are the largest group, and are classified in the Yuman language family, Hokan stock. They are divided by the San Diego River into the Ipai (the northern dialectical form) and the Tipai (the southern dialectical form).

The Southern Diegueño are known in their language as the Kumeyaay. The Kumeyaay/Diegueño occupy most of San Diego County and northern Baja Mexico, from around Escondido to south of Ensenada. Some research shows that the Kumeyaay are the same as the Kamia, which are the Yuman-speaking Indians of Imperial County, over the mountains east of San Diego County.

The Luiseño, Juaneño, Cupeño, and Cahuilla Indians belong to the Cupan subgroup of the Takic language family of Uto-Aztecan. This language is sometimes called Southern California Shoshonean. They live in the northern part of San Diego County, and are related linguistically and culturally to the Tongva/Gabrielino, Serrano, and Kitanemuk Indians.

The Luiseño occupy most northern San Diego County, north of Agua Hedionda and Escondido. The Cupeño are originally from Kupa (Warner Hot Springs) but were relocated to Pala Indian Reservation in 1903.

The Cahuilla are primarily in the desert areas of Riverside County, although they occupy the far northeastern most reservation of San Diego County, called Los Coyotes.

The Juaneño are primarily in Orange County, although their aboriginal territory extends as far south as San Onofre Creek in northwestern San Diego County. The Juaneño are not yet federally recognized but are recognized by the State of California.

All of the Indians who traditionally lived in the San Diego area when the Spanish arrived in 1769 were lumped together as Mission Indians.

There are 18 federally recognized Indian reservations in San Diego County, more than in any other county in the United States. However, most people have only heard of the reservations with successful bingo and gaming operations, which are the reservations of Sycuan, Barona, and Viejas.

The 1990 Census of Population and Housing lists around 2,200 Indians living on 17 of the reservations in the County, although there are many others living in urban areas. The reservations in San Diego County can be divided by the following tribal groups:

Kumeyaay/Diegueño (Ipai/Tipai):
Barona, Campo, Capitan Grande (unoccupied), ‘Ewiiaapaayp (Cuyapaipe), Inaja-Cosmit, Jamul Indian Village, La Posta, Manzanita, Mesa Grande, San Pasqual, Santa Ysabel, Sycuan, and Viejas Indian Reservations. Laguna Indian Reservation (not federally recognized).
Luiseño (Quechnajuichom):
La Jolla, Pala, Pauma, and Rincon Indian Reservations. San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians (not federally recognized).
Juaneño (Acjachemen):
(No reservation, ceremonial grounds at San Mateo State Park).
Cupeño (Kuupiaxchem):
Pala Indian Reservation (originally from Kupa [Warner Hot Springs]).
Los Coyotes Indian Reservation

for more information contact:
Richard Bugbee