Native Americans of San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

Costanoan 1 is a language family of California Native Americans who "lived in approximately 50 separate and politically autonomous nations or tribelets" in the area extending from Monterey to San Francisco.

Seven missions were established in Costanoan territory: San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo and the two missions to the north and south of Carmel, San Juan Bautista and Soledad; and four missions in the San Francisco Bay area: San Jose, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Francisco de Asis.

A NATIVE OF THE MONTEREY AREA

A Native of the Monterey Area
Drawn about 1791 by José Cardero

The Costanoan people spoke eight languages, each of which is considered to designate a different tribelet. The name of the Costanoans speaking one of these specific languages is often used to refer to the Indians in that area. For example Chalon in Soladad, Mutson in San Juan Bautista and Rumsen in Mission Carmel.

There was extensive "comingling of the Costanoan with peoples of different linguistic and cultural background during the mission period." After the Carmel mission (initially located at the Monterey presidio) was moved in 1770 to the Carmel Valley, the natives to the south, the Esselen, were gathered to this mission.

The first foreign visitors to San Carlos Borremeo de Carmelo, members of a French scientific expedition, arrived in September, 1786 where they were welcomed by Fr. Fermin Lasuén. The neophytes from the mission were lined up to greet the visitors (and given an extra ration of food that day).

MISSION CARMEL 1786

Mission Carmel 1786 Drawn by José Cardero French Explorer Jean-Francois de la Perouse Being Received at Mission Carmel in 1786

The Costanoan people lived off the land, which they carefully preserved. Each fall, large areas of the forest underbrush were burned to promote the growth of seed bearing trees, increase the grazing area for deer, elk and antelopes, and facilitate the gathering of acorns, the native's most important plant food.

INDIANS POUNDING ACORNS

Indians Punding Acornsby A.T. Agate

The Costanoan language was all but extinct by the end of 19th century. It is estimated that in 1973 there were only 200-300 descendants left, many of those with mixed ancestry. A group of descendants in the San Jose area united as the Ohlone Indian Tribe but no government recognition has ever been given.

  • 1. "Costanoan" pp 485-495 by Richard Levy; and "Esselen" pp 496-499by Thomas Roy Hesterin Volume 8 CALIFORNIA in the Handbook of American Indians, Smithsonian Institute: Washington D.C., 1978