Native Americans of Santa Cruz

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

Coastanoans and Miwoks are sub-groups of the Utian Family.

The Coastanoan people spoke eight languages, each of which defines a different tribelet. The name of the Coastanoans speaking one of these specific languages has been used, more in some mission areas than others, to refer to the Indian neophytes (primarily from that tribelet) in a specific mission. For example, in Mission Carmel the Costanoan spoke Rumsen, in Soledad Chalon, in Santa Cruz Awaswas.

MISSION INDIAN BELIEVED TO BE COSTANOAN

MISSION INDIAN BELIEVED TO BE COSTANOAN
Drawn by John Woodhouse Audubon c. 1848

A number of the neophytes at Santa Cruz were from other tribes, notably Southern Valley Yokuts (natives who lived in the upper end of the San Joaquin Valley, an area with a number of lakes and rivers) and the Northern Valley Yokuts (whose land was to the east of the coastal missions).

Sadly the number of natives in the Bay area declined steadily after the end of the mission era. As the missions closed, most of the neophytes became laborers on area ranches. In the 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;"Southern Valley Yokuts" by William J. Wallace pp 448-461; "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
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