Native Americans of Santa Clara de Asis

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Indians in the language family which anthropologists call the Costanoan occupied the area from Monterey up to the San Francisco Bay area. Costanoan is derived from the Spanish word meaning "coast people." Another general term used to designate speakers of the Coastanoan language is Ohlone.

The Costanoan people spoke eight languages, each of which is considered to define a different tribelet. The name of the Costanoans speaking one of these specific languages is used to refer to the Indians in the area where recruitment was concentrated in that tribelet. For example in Mission Carmel the Costanoan spoke Rumsen, in Soledad Chalon, in Santa Cruz Awaswas.

The Costanoans who lived in the Santa Clara area spoke Tamyen.

COSTANOANS FIGHTING SPANISH SOLDIER

COSTANOANS FIGHTING SPANISH SOLDIER by Thomas de Suria
1791 Original at Museum Naval in Madrid

Santa Clara also recruited Indians from other Costanoan triblets and other tribes. Neophytes at the mission included Northern Valley Yokuts (whose land was east of the coastal missions of San Juan Bautista, Santa Clara and San Jose), Plains Miwok (Eastern Miwok who lived between the Northern Valley Yokuts), and the Patwin (who lived on the banks of the Sacramento river).

INDIANS IN TULE BOAT SAN FRANCISCO BAY

INDIANS IN TULE BOAT SAN FRANCISCO BAY
Drawn by Louis Choris

Sadly the number of natives in the Bay area declined steadily after the end of the mission era. Most of the neophytes became laborers on area ranches. In 1840s there were a number of multiethnic Indian communities in the area, composed of the people who had lived at the missions. However, these shrank in size as the young people moved away. The Indian Scholar Richard Levy reports that "the Costanoan languages were probably all extinct by 1935." No official Federal government recognition has ever been given to the Costanoans. 1

  • 1. "Costanoan" by Richard Levy pp 485-495; "Eastern Miwok" by Richard Levy pp 398413-425; "Northern Valley Yokuts" by William J. Wallace pp 462-470 in Volume 8 CALIFORNIA of Handbook of North American Indians, Smithsonian Institute: Washington D.C., 1978