Another tribe of Mission Indians in San Diego County of California are the Luisenos, who derive their name from the San Luis Rey Mission
established in about 1770 by the Franciscan Junipero Serra. Many cultural similarities existed between them and the Dieguenos. Under American
rule in 1846, the Indians were driven deeper into the desert and mountain country, far back from the sea.
Today, descendants of those first Luisenos still thrive on their reservation in San Diego County.
Long, long ago the Luiseno Indian tribe lived at the ocean side by the setting sun. They loved their life there, feeding on the many seafood available
with little effort. Their life was leisurely, crops were plentiful, all seemed serene and their tribe prospered.
The Luisenos worshiped their Great Spirit, the Sun-God. Always they did what was commanded of them by the Great Spirit. Their tribal leader and
war-god, Uu-yot, was responsible to the Sun-God for the welfare of his people. Luisenos were loyal and obedient to both Uu-yot and the Sun-God.
One day, Sun-God willed the Luisenos to move eastward and settle in the land of the rising-sun. Many boats were made by the young braves, and the
Luiseno tribe began their voyage to find a new home. Uu-yot let the fleet eastward through heavy mist and fog up the San Luis River.
To help keep the boats together, the Luisenos sang their sacred songs to each other while they traveled. At last they reached a beautiful canyon area
with wide meadows and woods on either side of the river. They camped and rested, finding the land good. Plenty of acorns from the nearby oak
trees were on the ground, providing their favorite dish of weewish, a kind of mush made by grinding acorn pulp in a stone metate. Weewish made
delicious patty-cakes cooked over a fire or on hot rocks. Besides, the tribal children were kept busy collecting acorns for storage, a good winter food
After days of rest at this natural homelike campground, Uu-yot declared this to be a good homeland for them to settle upon permanently. All the
Luisenos were happy, and agreed. Immediately, the people set to work, establishing their family homes, creating a village. That very evening the
entire tribe gathered around a large campfire and participated in a tribal thanksgiving ceremonial led by Uu-yot. A large feast followed, which was
prepared by the women of the tribe in gratitude for their new land. Much dancing and singing continued into the night, a "home-warming" affair.
On the following days, garden land was prepared by young braves. Corn and root seeds were planted by all the families for a community garden.
Others hunted for wild rabbits, deer, and other small game, as well as fishing the river for food supplies. Uu-yot gave thanks each day to Sun-God
for the many blessings bestowed upon his tribe, the Luisenos.
Later and without warning, a period of darkness and storms descended upon the area, with sharp lightning flashes and roaring crashes of thunder.
Torrential rains fell upon the land. The river overflowed, creating a dangerous situation for the tribe. Uu-yot led his people to higher ground and all
were saved. They prayed to the Great Spirit to quiet the forces of nature that again they might live in peace and safety. Uu-yot gathered his tribesmen
to smoke the sacred tobacco in the ceremonial circle, appeasing the Great Spirit and his gods of wrath.
Soon thereafter, a thin line of light broke overhead through the black ominous sky and moved eastward. Next morning, out of the east, the Sun rose
again, spreading widely its light, life, and warmth. The Luisenos were grateful and returned to their homes to clean up the debris left by the storm.
|Before This Land
A Luiseno Legend
Music: The Enchanted Valley by AH-NEE-MAH
|Dance of the Dead
A Luiseno Legend
Once a year the People of Kamak left their village and went up Palomar Mountain to gather acorns. Everyone went, young and old, and even the ill
were carried along on litters so that the village could stay together at this important time. The houses were left empty, no one was afraid of thieves in
While the village was deserted, a man from another nearby village called Ahoya came to Kamak. He found everyone gone. He knew where they had
gone, and why, so he knew he could not see his friends this trip. He decided to spend the night and go on his way the next morning. He did not go
into anyone's house, but rather he took a large basket normally used to store grain and turned it over. He crawled under the basket, where the wind
could not bother him. He fell asleep.
In the early evening, but long after dark, he was awakened by someone calling People out to dance. At first he thought the People of Kamak had
come back from acorn gathering. Then, being an old man, he began to recognize the voices of People he had known many years ago, but who were
now long dead. He began to realize that the voices were spirits of the Dead! While the People of Kamak were away, the Dead had returned to dance.
The old man lay quietly under the basket, listening to the voices of all the People, all the way back to the ancient days. He heard the
Woman-who-was-turned-into-rock as she sang. He heard the Man-who-scooped-rock-with-his-hand as he sang. All the People of the ancient days
were here in the village again.
The old man could not stand to wait any longer. After he had listened for hours, he wanted to look at the People he had known as a young man and
the faces of the People he had only heard about in old stories. He threw the basket off and looked where the Dead had been dancing.
There was only a flock of birds, and they flew away, startled by the basket overturning. The turtle-shell rattle the Dead had played all night as they
danced lay on the ground. It was now just a piece of soap-root.
The old man was not allowed to see the Dance of the Dead.