Sacred Texts  Native American  California  Index  Previous  Next 

The Culture of the Luiseño Indians, by Philip Stedman Sparkman, [1908], at


Some doubt has been expressed as to whether the Indians of Southern California understood the art of making pottery before the arrival of the friars. It does not seem that there is any doubt that at least some of them did. Costanso's report of the expedition of 1769 speaks, though somewhat vaguely, of the Indians of San Diego as using pottery. The Luiseños themselves say positively that they were pottery makers.

Several different kinds of earthen vessels are made, the commonest form being one used now for keeping water cool, and formerly also used for storing seeds. This is called narungrush. A form of vessel with an extra wide mouth, wiwlish, is used for cooking food, another with a small mouth, nadungdamal, for carrying water. As water is carried on the back or shoulder, it would spill out of a large-mouthed vessel, while the mouth of a small one is easily stopped up with a bunch of grass or rushes. One type of vessel, papakamal, was made with two small mouths. This form was of small size, and was used to carry a small amount of water for drinking when people were out gathering food. It

p. 202

was carried by a string passed through the two small mouths, the Luiseños never making handles for their pottery or baskets. A bowl-shaped vessel was used for serving food. A shallow dish, tevatvamal, in shape between a plate and a saucer, was also used for serving food.

The only tools used in pottery making are a flat piece of wood and a smooth pebble of suitable size. Pottery is baked by merely digging a pit and filling it with dry cow-dung, among which the vessels are placed. The dry bark of trees was formerly used, wood not making a sufficiently hot fire. The clay used is thoroughly kneaded and tempered, and strips or coils of it are gradually added to the edge of the growing vessel. We have never seen any painted pottery made by the Luiseños, but the Cahuillas who live on the Colorado desert sometimes ornamented theirs.

A pipe, hukapish, was sometimes made of clay. It was short and tubular, tapering rather abruptly toward the small mouth-end.

Next: Articles Made of Plant Fibers