The Religion of the Luiseño Indians of Southern California, by Constance Goddard DuBois, , at sacred-texts.com
Miss Constance Goddard DuBois, the author of the present publication, is well known for her literary work dealing with Southern California. Of recent years she has earned distinction for her accounts of the myths and ceremonies of the Diegueño Mission Indians of this region, which have been published in several anthropological journals. In the summer of 1906 Miss DuBois spent some weeks in San Diego county, in field studies with the Luiseño Indians. This work she carried on under the Ethnological and Archaeological Survey of California, which Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst's generosity has made it possible for the Department of Anthropology of the University of California to conduct. In the present paper Miss DuBois reports the results of this study, adding certain information acquired during her previous visits to the Mission Indians.
Of the tribes formerly attached to the Franciscan missions of California the Luiseño and Diegueño are the only ones to survive in any numbers. Inasmuch as they have been fully under European influence for more than a hundred years, and as for nearly two generations they lived under a direct and enforced Christian discipline, it is as surprising as it is gratifying that so much of their own inner life still remains as Miss DuBois has been able to show in this paper, and that at least the memory of their old life continues unaffected by civilization. But it need hardly be said that the best of this information is all contained in the minds of a few of the old men, and that with their passing it also will disappear forever.
The Luiseño and Diegueño languages are distinct, forming part respectively of the great Uto-Aztekan and Yuman families; but the two tribes are physically similar, and share in common
the majority of their customs, arts, and beliefs. The terms Diegueño and Luiseño originally referred to the Indians of San Diego and San Luis Rey missions, irrespective of their native affiliations; but they have come to be the customary names of tribes, or more exactly, of two groups of people each speaking a common dialect.
Miss DuBois introduces her account of the religion of the Luiseño with a discussion of the beliefs and practices centering about the divine being Chungichnish, the central figure in Luiseño religious worship. Under the name of Chinigchinich this character has furnished the title for the missionary Boscana's account of the closely related neighboring Indians of mission San Juan Capistrano, by far the most illuminating and valuable account of the Indians of California that the world owes to the mission period. Miss DuBois's Luiseño informants state that the Chungichnish worship came to them from the coast and from the north; and that they in turn transmitted it to the Diegueño. There seems every reason for believing this statement; and although it is necessarily uncertain to what extent any uncorroborated tradition of an uncivilized people can be accepted as historically true, the interest and value of such traditions is clearly as great to those who may be skeptically inclined on general grounds, as to those who, for good reasons in particular cases, take them more nearly at face value.
Miss DuBois account of Luiseño symbolism, as embodied especially in the wanawut or rope-figure, and in the ground-painting, is of special interest on account of the slight development of symbolic religious expression heretofore discovered among the California Indians. It is significant that the Luiseño ground-paintings are of a comparatively simple geometrical character, recalling basketry patterns, and that they indicate the existence of objects rather than that they attempt to picture their form, or supposed appearance, even in a conventional style of representation. It seems uncertain whether these paintings are to be regarded as historically the result of the same cultural influences that gave a similar form of expression to the Pueblo and Navaho Indians. The geographically intervening Yuman tribes on the Colorado river show no trace of any equivalent practice.
Almost all the ceremonies of the Luiseño are either commemorative of the dead, or serve to initiate boys and girls into the condition of tribal and religious manhood and womanhood. The principal initiation of boys is the toloache ceremony, in which the central figure is the drinking of a stupefying decoction of jimsonweed, Spanish toloache.
The two new versions of the Luiseño creation given by Miss DuBois are fuller and more esoteric than any previously obtained among the Mission Indians. The succession of births or existences, some of them psychic, evidences an unusual point of view for an American people, and is reminiscent of Oceanic and Asiatic ways of thought. Supplemented by Boscana's two accounts of the creation at San Juan Capistrano, and by the Luiseño and Diegueño versions previously collected by Miss DuBois and others, these two valuable myths give an adequate conception of the Mission Indians beliefs concerning the origin of things.
In 1904 the editor had occasion to make a short stay among the Luiseño of Rincon, Pauma, and Pala, in the course of which certain information was acquired on the subjects here studied by Miss DuBois. While far less complete than the results of Miss DuBois, this information was independently gathered, and confirms her conclusions on a number of points. It has therefore been added in an appendix.
It is a source of regret that an expression of obligation in which Miss DuBois would join the editor can no longer be made. Mr. P. S. Sparkman of Valley Center, known for his long and patient study of the Luiseño language, was kind enough to examine and report on all Luiseño terms occurring in this paper. By his permission his valuable renderings, translations, and comments on these terms have been given in footnotes signed S, in all cases where they add anything to Miss DuBois's use of the words. Soon after the completion of this labor of love, Mr. Sparkman met an untimely end. It is a source of satisfaction that his notes in this work may at least serve in some degree as a monument of his intelligent, careful, and persevering study of the Luiseño language.
A. L. Kroeber.