The Kumeyaay

History of the Kumeyaay Indians

The Kumeyaay and their ancestors  have lived on the Baja-California border at least 10,000 years in accordance with a recent excavation near Jacumba. Their descendants are probably the Yuman speaking Tipai. The striking red, black and white pictographs were painted in caves and on rocks along the southern California border, up the Gila River and along the Colorado River, ranging from the lower Grand Canyon to the Sea of Cortez. This tradition of ancient art is called La Rumorosa, after a site in northeastern Baja, Mexico.

The Kumeyaay Indians Today

There are twelve surviving North American Kumeyaay bands in the United States that are recognized by the federal government as sovereign tribal governments. Four Kumeyaay tribal communities survive south of the border in Baja California, Mexico.

One of the more successful tribal ventures are the San Diego County Kumeyaay Indian casinos, resorts, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and golf courses. You can learn more about them by clicking on this link.

Basketry of the Mission Indians

A photo from 1924 by Edward S. Curtis from The North American Indian (1907-1930) v.15, Southern California Shoshoneans. The Dieguenos Plateau Shoshoneans. The Washo ([Seattle] : E.S. Curtis ; [Cambridge, Mass. : The University Press], 1926), plate no. 509

Kumeyaay Bands of the United States

  • Campo Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
  • Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians
  • Barona Band of Mission Indians
  • San Pasqual Band of Indians
  • Inaja Cosmit Indian Reservation
  • Capitan Grande Indian Reservation
  • Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueño Indians, aka Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel
  • Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians aka Cuyapaipe
  • Manzanita Indian Reservation
  • La Posta Indian Reservation
  • Jamul Indian Village A Kumeyaay Nation
  • Mesa Grande Indian Reservation
  • Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation

The Baja California, Mexico, Kumiai Bands

  • San Jose de la Zorra
  • La Huerta
  • Juntas de Neji
  • San Antonio Necua
  • Santa Catarina (Kumeyaay-Pai Pai)

Campo reservation is only a few miles from the Mexican boundary.

A photo from 1924 by Edward S. Curtis from The North American Indian (1907-1930) v.15, Southern California Shoshoneans. The Dieguenos Plateau Shoshoneans. The Washo ([Seattle] : E.S. Curtis ; [Cambridge, Mass. : The University Press], 1926), plate no. 525

Deep into a cave of the McCain Wilderness east of San Diego with help from Tom and Daren, I was so fortunate to catch the morning sun bouncing around onto this pictograph. Prayer sticks abound and around on the floor. The colors are DS enhanced without which the pictograph is much more faded. While at the cave, it took me about an hour to find the painting while at the cave. We are busy at work on what will be our second and final book on La Rumorosa rock art. Above the Sunburst and Geometric figure are some other less defined elements that are more apparent in other photographs.
Don Liponi

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Because of the work involved in promoting our first book, it has been at least a year since I actually did any field work which is the passion that drew me into doing the book in the first place. In terms of promoting and presenting, it has been so great to meet others who support the ideas behind our work. Still, nothing can duplicate the serenity and stillness of that moment of discovery of a new pictograph. Cramped into a dusty and dark rock shelter, squinting with a flashlight at a wall that was painted on hundreds of years ago and seeing a message across time that the spiritual essence of the Shaman lives on. In the first photograph, an anthropomorph with its companion figure is a common portraiture of this style and sets above the track of the freeway - a modern intrusion. What would the Shaman think or could he even imagine such a thing?

Back from the freeway and in an area heavily used for illegal traffic today sets a large granitic boulder cracked open by some cataclysmic event in prehistoric times, the artist rendered this geometric mystery of some sort. Today, this pictograph is completely invisible and can only be seen with DStretch. The space in the crack is so short that even with a wide angle lens, it has to be shot obliquely which decreases the capabilities of DS. While I cannot even imagine what its meaning is, the excitement of bringing back this painting from oblivion seems so important. I hope one day that someone will add to our knowledge about what it could mean.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to walk in the desert with these "old friends" who understood the land and its harmonies to their people far better than we do.

Our group has been busy at work during the promotion making many new discoveries. We have well over 100 sites we have not published in Volume #1 that will go into Volume #2. All purchases of Volume #1 help us to be able to create the second and final volume of La Rumorosa Rock Art. Help us by buying Volume #1 which has sold over 600 copies!
Don Liponi ...

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Another very heartwarming "book tour" trip to Palm Desert, Joshua Tree and Camp Verde, near Sedona, AZ. There are so many dedicated people in every community that are doing parallel projects - trying to record and digitally save the rock art of their region. While there are some advocates out there making use of D Stretch, the tool is still largely unknown, which means we are missing lots of art that will probably disappear into oblivion before it is ever recorded. Perhaps, the people who are in charge of D Stretch would be better off educating the public on how to use this tool to record what is left rather than worry about whether or not fingers are present? I am sure that won't happen and your lack of interest in teaching the public will mean the loss of countless panels that might be recorded if your eye were on the prize. Despite so little D Stretch documentation, many people are doing their best to struggle along with a program hardly anyone understands to its potential. Archaeology is its own worst enemy. In many cases, it is the avocationalists who are taking the higher road to save while the professionals bicker over minutiae.

In any case, the Native Americans are guardedly hopeful that we can continue to record in the event that circumstances will improve in the future.

Book sales were good on this trip and I think I actually paid my way! I believe we are in the area of 600 copies sold which is just amazing. I want to thank you all. More to follow with specific details. More book dates coming up!
Don Liponi ...

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