Having thus far dwelt upon the usages, belief, and customs of these Indians, it may not be uninteresting to know the origin of those who first settled in the neighborhood of St. Juan, the account of which, will contain many absurdities, and some equally extravagant as those already related. The first, or earliest people, who populated this section of the country, emigrated from a place called "Sejat," distant N.E. from the mission, seven or eight leagues, and in the middle of a valley, now known by the name of "el Rancho de los Nietos." Originally, the inhabitants were numerous, but the success, and influence of a holy conquest gradually eradicated their attachment to "Sejat," and all, finally, became subject to the spiritual, as well as temporal, administration of the ecclesiastical missions. Their chief, named "Oyaison," which name implies "wisdom" or "intelligence," and his wife, called "Sirorum," signifying that which is noisy, (probably alluding to the noise made by the shells and beads attached to her dress), had three children, called Coronne, "Vuiragram," and Uiniojum. Oyaison, after the death of Sirorum, separated from among the people many families, who accompanied him and his daughter Coronne, in a colonial enterprise; for, in consequence of the rapid increase of population, the annual production of seeds on his lands, were insufficient to maintain so great a number, and, accordingly, the colonists commenced their march. After travelling southwardly seven or eight
leagues, or more, they arrived at a place called "Niguiti," which is situated half a league only, N.E. from the mission. Here, they discovered a spring of fresh water, and from the favorable appearance of the neighboring country, they concluded that it was a place well adapted to the founding of a new colony. As soon as the erecting of their habitations was completed, and order had been established, the chief returned to "Sejat," leaving behind, his daughter "Coronne."
Twenty summers had passed away, and still no feelings of love, or wish to marry, had ever been known to exist in the heart of Coronne. The Indians said that she was very coarse and fat--that they never had seen, or in fact, that there never was another of such proportions. The name given to the new establishment was "Putuidem," which means "umbilicus projectura;" for Coronne was afflicted with an enlargement of that organ, and this was their notion for so naming the settlement. In course of time, owing to the scarcity of grain, many of the inhabitants separated; and, by permission of Coronne, located themselves about in different parts of the Valley of St. Juan; and in this way originated the many small villages, or towns, which were to be met with, in the route to Putuidem.
A custom was observed in all their new settlements, to appoint as chief or captain, the eldest of the families, and to him was given the name of Nu, and to the second in power, that of "Eyacque." Their wives were named also; the first "Coronne," and the second "Tepi." These same appellations were given to a small insect, or fly, which was abundant in the fields and gardens, called by us the lady bug. The red ones were Coronnes, and the yellow, Tepis! The first was given to the wife of the chief, in commemoration of the Capitana of Putuidem, and that of Tepi to the wife of Eyacque, for the reason that the two names implied equality, as demonstrated in the character of the insects who varied only in their colors. These names are the principal distinctions of rank, known among the Indians, and there are many of the present day, who, on account of their appellations, are considered and respected as descendants of Eyacque.
A grand feast was given by Coronne, of several days' continuance, and all the neighboring tribes were invited to attend, and take part in the amusements and rejoicings. The feast commenced with dancing,
playing and singing, and all their accustomed games and usages followed; but as in this world there cannot be complete happiness, or joy unadulterated, it happened that after she had retired for the night, whilst asleep, her body swelled up prodigiously, and in an instant became a mound of earth; thereupon the people retired to their respective rancherias. In the place where the town was located, and where they celebrated the feast, there is a small rising ground, which was probably formed by the course of the water in a freshet; but the Indians say, and religiously believe, that it is the body of Coronne.
After having taken leave of their friends, who remained sorrowful, and disconsolate for the loss of their Capitana, the Indians on returning home, arrived and put up for the night at a place called "Acagchemem," distant, from where the mission now stands, only about sixty yards; and from this time the new colony assumed the name corresponding to the place. "Acagchemem," signifies a pyramidal form of any thing that moves, such as, an anthill, or place of resort for other insects. Others apply the term to things inanimate; such as a pile of stones, &c.; but, the most correct signification of the word is understood as having relation to a heap of animated things.
The motive alleged by the Indians, for having dropped the name of their nation, and substituted that of "Acagchemem," is that they passed the night before mentioned, literally piled upon each other; men, women, and children; and when rising on the following morning, they vociferated "Acagchemem," implying, that they had slept in a heap; and from that time the appellation remained as if to commemorate forever the event.
When the Indians came to settle in the valley of St. Juan Capistrano, they spoke a language somewhat distinct from the one now in use, and in a dialect, not dissimilar to the one used in St. Gabriel. They say the cause of the variation, originated with their chief "Oyaison," who told them that as they were to change their place of residence, they were necessarily obliged to alter their mode of speech, as well as their customs, in order to become a distinct nation.
The name, "Sejat," signifies a place of wild bees, and "Sejar pepau," the honey. In this region there were to be found many hives, located in holes formed in the earth. The Indians search for them at all times, to
extract the honey, and it is made use of in their food. The color is black, and it is rather bitter, but I have been informed that there are places, where it is to be found, of a kind, equally as good, as that which is extracted from the hives of the domestic species.