Ethnography of the Cahuilla Indians, by A. L. Kroeber, , at sacred-texts.com
Practically no information is available as to the social and religious life of the Cahuilla, but the information obtained in answer to a few inquiries goes to show their close affiliation with the other Mission tribes rather than with the agricultural Yuman tribes to the east. There is no evidence of any totemic clan system as among the Mohave. The chief or "captain" seems to be such principally through the possession of property. He is always regarded as the richest individual in the community. At ceremonies and gatherings he supplies food for the assemblage. This dependence of social rank on wealth is a typically Californian trait. The Luiseño follow the same practice. The Mohave chieftainship, so far as not influenced by hereditary succession, is dependent on valor.
The mythical origin of the Cahuilla is said to have been in the north, in which account they agree with the Luiseño. The large low-flying meteor, dakush, is distinguished from ordinary shooting stars, ngamngam, and is said to live in San Jacinto mountain, a belief which agrees with those of both Luiseño and Diegueño. The eagle "is the general of the Indians," volunteered a Cahuilla, by which no doubt he meant to express a mythological and ceremonial importance of the bird parallel to that which it has among other tribes of Southern California.
The most important ceremony of the Cahuilla seems to have been the annual tribal mourning gathering, hemnukuwin. This was in addition to singing immediately after a death. Jimsonweed or toloache, kiksawal, which plays so important a part in the initiation ceremonies of the Luiseño, Yokuts, and other tribes, was customarily used for religious purposes. It was not learned definitely that it was expected to be drunk by every boy or young man of the tribe, but such seems to have been the case. It was thought that the objects or events seen in the visions caused by the drink would come true. It was especially believed that the use of the jimson-weed would bring riches, no doubt in connection with the general idea that it conferred power and the attainment
of desire. It was also used as a medicine, especially in ease of broken bones. The Yokuts also employed it extensively for this purpose. It appears to have been efficacious in such cases by rendering the sufferer unconscious or insensible of pain for a number of days, in which time the healing took place. It is said by the Cahuilla that the amount of extract of the root that is drunk must be judged by a man experienced in its use, and that a number of deaths have resulted from the taking of excessive quantities.
The position of the medicine man or hechicero among the Cahuilla apparently corresponds very nearly to that of the medicine-man among the other Mission tribes and the Yokuts. This is especially brought out by the fact that he is the principal person who dances. The Mohave medicine-man acts as important a part as his colleague in these tribes, but as a causer and curer of disease, and not as the initiator of public ceremonies.
The ceremonial drinking of jimson-weed is known as pem-pa-wvan kiksawal. A girls puberty ceremony, the "roasting of girls" of the Mission tribes, seems to have been practiced. It was called pem-iwvlu-niwom.
Altogether, as one compares the culture of the Cahuilla with that of other tribes of California, it is seen that the several striking resemblances that they bear to the Mohave and Yuma are due to proximity, or to the similarity of the two natural environments. In so far as these causes are not operative, the Cahuilla partake of the culture common to the tribes of the coast and inland of Southern California, in other words, the Mission Indians. Many resemblances with the Yokuts are also noticeable. These are of course not confined to the Cahuilla, but are common to all the Mission Indians. Such similarities are not restricted to the material side of life, but are conspicuous in the general social and religious organization. On the side of mythology, however, the Yokuts resemble the northern Californians, and the Mission Indians the tribes of the Southwest. 25 The physical type of the Yokuts, or at least their southern tribes, has also been shown to be nearly identical with that of the
[paragraph continues] Mission Indians, 26 though the possible historical significance of this resemblance is weakened by the similarity of both types to the Mohave-Yuma physical form. All in all, the Yokuts form part of the great Central culture group of California, and the Cahuilla belong to the ethnographic province of Southern California, just as their respective habitats form part of distinct physiographic areas. The instances of resemblances between the two groups are however so numerous, that it is evident that there must have been considerable cultural interinfluence between the whole body of Southern California tribes on one side of the Tehachapi mountains, and the Indians of Central California on the other side.
May 14, 1907.
66:25 Present series, IV, 167, 1907; Journ. Am. Folk-Lore, XIX, 309, 1906.
67:26 Boas, Proc. Am. Ass. Adv. Science, XLIV, 261, 1896.