Native Americans of San Juan Bautista

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Costanoan is a language family of California Native Americans who "lived in approximately 50 separate and politically autonomous nations or tribelets," according to Professor Richard Levy. Seven missions were established in Costanoan territory: Mission Carmel and the two missions that ring it, 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.

COSTANOANS FIGHTING SPANISH SOLDIER - 1791

COSTANOANS FIGHTING SPANISH SOLDIER - 1791
By Thomas de Suria, Museo Naval, Madrid

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

There was extensive "comingling of the Costanoan with peoples of different linguistic and cultural background during the mission period," according to Professor Levy. Mission records for San Juan Bautista indicate that there were Southern Valley Yokuts and Northen Valley Yokuts who were neophytes at this mission. A number of important Northern Valley Yokut villages have been identified 35-40 miles east of Mission San Juan Bautista.

Indians Of California

Indians Of California
Drawn by Louis Choris

The Costanoans lived off the land. They hunted both large and small animals, and birds, and were avid fishermen. The typical method of hunting deer was for an individual hunter to wear a deer's head as a disguise and imitate a feeding deer.

Salmon were important to the Costanoans living near the rivers. There were two methods of catching fish. One was to attract them to bonfires at night and then spear them. They also used nets and baskets.

CALIFORNIA INDIANS FISHING

CALIFORNIA INDIANS FISHING
Drawn by J.R. Bartlett

The Costanoan language was all but extinct by the end of 19th century. A 1973 estimate found only 200 -300 individuals who claimed to have at least some Costanoan ancestry, many of them descendants of mission indians. A group of descendants in the San Jose area united as the Ohlone Indian Tribe but no government recognition has ever been given to them. 1

  • 1. "Costanoan" pp 485-495 by Richard Levy; and "Southern Valley Yokuts" pp 448-461 and "Northern Valley Yokuts" pp 462-470 by William Wallace in Volume 8 CALIFORNIA in the Handbook of American Indians, Smithsonian Institute: Washington D.C., 1978