The Kumeyaay, also known as Tipai-Ipai, formerly Kamia or 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.


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).

Michael Connolly, from San Diego, pronounces Kumeyaay


Nomenclature and tribal distinctions are not widely agreed upon. The general scholarly consensus (e.g., Langdon 1990) recognizes three separate languages: Ipai (Iipay) (Northern Kumeyaay), Kumeyaay proper (including the Kamia/Kwaaymii), and Tipai (Southern Kumeyaay) in northern Baja California. Other authorities (e.g., Luomala 1978 and Pritzker 2000) see only two: Ipai and Tipai.

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.[2] All three languages belong to the Delta–California branch of the Yuman language family, to which several other linguistically distinct but related groups also belong, including the Cocopa, Quechan, Paipai, and Kiliwa.

The term Kumeyaay means "those who face the water from a cliff".[3], it may also come from the Kiliwa word kumeey meaning "man (human being)" or "people." Both "Ipai/Iipay" and "Tipai" mean "man (human being)" or "people."[4] Some Kumeyaay in the southern areas also refer to themselves as MuttTipi, which means "people of the earth."[citation needed]

Linguist Margaret Langdon is credited with doing much of the early work on documenting the language.[5]


Engraving published by Schott, Sorony, and Co., 1857

Evidence of settlement, in what is today considered Kumeyaay territory, may go back 12,000 years.[6] 7000 BCE marked the emergence of two cultural traditions: the California Coast and Valley tradition and the Desert tradition.[7] The Kumeyaay had land extending from the Pacific Ocean to present Ensenada, Mexico, and then on east to the Colorado River and north to what is known as Oceanside.[citation needed] The Cuyamaca complex, a late Holocene complex in San Diego County is related to the Kumeyaay peoples.[8] The Kumeyaay tribe also used to inhabit what is now a popular state park, known as Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.[9]

One view holds that historic Tipai-Ipai emerged around 1000 years ago, though a "proto-Tipai-Ipai culture" had been established by about 5000 BCE.[1] Katherine Luomola suggests that the "nucleus of later Tipai-Ipai groups" came together around AD 1000.[7] The Kumeyaay themselves believe that they have lived in San Diego for 12,000 years.[10] At the time of European contact, Kumeyaay comprised several autonomous bands with 30 patrilineal clans.[4]

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.[4] After Mexico took over the lands from Spain, they secularized the missions in 1834, and Ipai and Tipais lost their lands; band members had to choose between becoming serfs, trespassers, rebels, or fugitives.[11]

From 1870 to 1910, American settlers 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.[12]

Kumeyaay people supported themselves by farming and agricultural wage labor; however, a 20-year drought in the mid-20th century crippled the region's dry farming economy.[13] For their common welfare, several reservations formed the non-profit Kumeyaay, Inc.[14]

Shawii is the name of the mush of acorn that was eaten daily by Kumeyaay .[15]


The Kumeyaay Community College was created by the Sycuan Band to serve the Kumeyaay-Diegueño Nation, and describes its mission as "to support cultural identity, sovereignty, and self-determination while meeting the needs of native and non-Native students." The college's focus is on "Kumeyaay History, Kumeyaay Ethnobotany and traditional Indigenous arts." It "serves and relies on resources from the thirteen reservations of the Kumeyaay Nation situated in San Diego county."[16]


Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. In 1925, Alfred L. Kroeber proposed that the population of the Kumeyaay in the San Diego region in 1770 had been about 3,000.[17] More recently, Katharine Luomala points out that this estimate depended on calculations of rates of baptisms at the Mission, and as such "ignores the unbaptized." She suggests that the region could have supported 6,000-9,000 people.[18] Florence C. Shipek goes further, estimating 16,000-19,000 inhabitants.[19]

In the late eighteenth century, it is estimated that the Kumeyaay population was between 3,000 and 9,000.[1] In 1828, 1,711 Kumeyaay were recorded by the missions. The 1860 federal census recorded 1,571 Kumeyaay living in 24 villages.[18] The Bureau of Indian Affairs recorded 1,322 Kumeyaay in 1968, with 435 living on reservations.[18] By 1990, an estimated 1,200 lived on reservation lands, while 2,000 lived elsewhere.[1]

Tribes and reservations

Kumeyaay coiled basket, woven by Celestine Lachapa, 19th century, San Diego Museum of Man
Kumeyaay willow storage basket at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California cultural museum, Mexicali

The Kumeyaay live on 13 reservations in San Diego County, California in the United States and are enrolled in the following federally recognized tribes:[20]

(formerly the Cuyapaipe Community of Diegueno Mission Indians of the Cuyapaipe Reservation)

They live on five communities in Baja California, including:

  • Juntas de Neji
  • La Huerta
  • San Antonio Necua
  • Santa Catarina
  • San José de la Zorra.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Pritzker 2000, p. 145
  2. ^ Smith 2005
  3. ^ Hoffman & Gamble 2006, p. 71
  4. ^ a b c Luomala 1978, p. 592
  5. ^ "Margaret Langdon; linguist helped write first local Indian dictionary The San Diego Union-Tribune". legacy.sandiegouniontribune.com. Retrieved 2016-10-10. 
  6. ^ Erlandson et al. 2010, p. 62
  7. ^ a b Luomala 1978, p. 594
  8. ^ "A Glossary of Proper Names in California Prehistory." Society for California Archaeology. (retrieved 12 Aug 2011)
  9. ^ "Native Americans", Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, retrieved 10 October 2016 
  10. ^ a b "The Kumeyaay of Southern California", The Kumeyaay Information Village, retrieved 10 October 2016 
  11. ^ Luomala 1978, p. 595
  12. ^ Shipek 1978, p. 610
  13. ^ Shipek 1978, p. 611
  14. ^ Shipek 1978, p. 616
  15. ^ A Teacher's Guide to Historical and Contemporary Kumeyaay Culture. SCERP and IRSC publications. ISBN 9780925613516. 
  16. ^ "Kumeyaay Community College", Kumeyaay Community College, retrieved October 10, 2016 
  17. ^ Kroeber 1925, p. 88
  18. ^ a b c Luomala 1978, p. 596
  19. ^ Shipek 1986, p. 19
  20. ^ "Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Notice 145A2100DD/A0T500000.000000/AAK3000000: Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible to Receive Services from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs". Federal Register, January 2015 (PDF). Federal Register. 80. Government Publishing Office. January 14, 2015. pp. 1942–1948. OCLC 1768512. Retrieved October 8, 2016. 
  21. ^ Carrico, Richard L. (Summer 1980). "San Diego Indians and the Federal Government Years of Neglect, 1850-1865". The Journal of San Diego History. San Diego Historical Society. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 


  • Erlandson, Jon M.; Rick, Torben C.; Jones, Terry L.; Porcasi, Judith F. (2010), "One If by Land, Two If by Sea: Who Were the First Californians?", in Jones, Terry L.; Klar, Kathryn A., California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity, Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, pp. 53–62, ISBN 978-0-7591-1960-4 .
  • Hoffman, Geralyn Marie; Gamble, Lynn H. (2006), A Teacher’s Guide to Historical and Contemporary Kumeyaay Culture, Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias, San Diego State University .
  • Kroeber, A. L. (1925), "Handbook of the Indians of California", Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, Washington, DC (78) .
  • Langdon, Margaret (1990), Redden, James E., ed., "Diegueño: how many languages?", Proceedings of the 1990 Hokan-Penutian Languages Workshop, University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale: 184–190 .
  • Luomala, Katharine (1978), "Tipai-Ipai", in Heizer, Robert F., Handbook of North American Indians, 8 (California), Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, pp. 592–609, ISBN 0-16004-574-6 .
  • Pritzker, Barry M. (2000), "Tipai-Ipai", A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 145–147, ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1 .
  • Shipek, Florence C. (1978), "History of Southern California Mission Indians", in Heizer, Robert F., Handbook of North American Indians, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, pp. 610–618, ISBN 0-87474-187-4 .
  • Shipek, Florence C. (1986), "The Impact of Europeans upon Kumeyaay Culture", in Starr, Raymond, The Impact of European Exploration and Settlement on Local Native Americans, San Diego: Cabrillo Historical Association, pp. 13–25, OCLC 17346424 .
  • Smith, Kalim H (2005), Language Ideology and Hegemony in the Kumeyaay Nation: Returning the Linguistic Gaze, University of California, San Diego . Master's Thesis.

Further reading

  • Du Bois, Constance Goddard. 1904-1906. "Mythology of the Mission Indians: The Mythology of the Luiseño and Diegueño Indians of Southern California." The Journal of the American Folk-Lore Society, Vol. XVII, No. LXVI. p. 185-8 [1904]; Vol. XIX. No. LXXII pp. 52–60 and LXXIII. pp. 145–64. [1906].
  • Miskwish, Michael C. Kumeyaay: A History Book. El Cajon, CA: Sycuan Press, 2007.
  • Miskwish, Michael C, and Joel Zwink. Sycuan: Our People, Our Culture, Our History: Honoring the Past, Building the Future. El Cajon, Calif.: Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, 2006.

External links