Indian Lore Merit Badge
1. Give the history of one American Indian tribe, group, or nation that lives or has lived near you. Visit it, if possible. Tell about traditional dwellings, way of life, tribal government, religious beliefs, family and clan relationships, language, clothing styles, arts and crafts, food preparation, means of getting around, games, customs in warfare, where members of the group now live, and how they live.
Round, dome-shaped brush huts, called a kish. Made by first digging down a foot or two, then building up a frame of poles that was covered with brush. Most were 10-15 feet in diameter. One per family. Smoke hole in top, door hole on side. Except in winter, mostly used just for sleeping.
Way of life
Hunters and gatherers; no farming. Did everything by the seasons. Went out when it was the best time (or the only time) to gather some seed, or hunt some animals. Kept track of phases of the moon, changes of the seasons.
Basic social unit was the clan -- an extended family; not just parents and children, but aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, all related. There were about nine Cupeño clans. Each clan had a leader (net). Each of the clan leaders in the village would meet to decide larger issues, with the net of the largest clan having the most authority.
We don’t know all we could about this. There were two religions --
Family and clan relationships
Did most work by the clans. Territory was divided among the clans, and what grew there belonged to them. Lost Valley belonged to the Temewhanitcem (northerners) clan. Could not marry members of own clan (relatives). Had to marry outside the clan. Children were counted with their father's clan.
A big subject, but three points:
Not much. Men -- maybe small breechcloth in front. Women -- apron of willow fibers or rabbit pelt. In winter, rabbit pelts sewn together or deer hide as cape. When in long trips, yucca fiber sandals.
Arts and crafts
Principal Southern California craft was basketry. Baskets of all sizes, and for all sorts of uses. In later years, also began making pottery.
Staple food was acorn mush. Each fall the Cupeño would head off to oak groves (such as Lost Valley) where acorns were harvested, cracked, dried, then pounded into flour in stone grinding holes. Many are still seen around camp -- above the Rifle Range, Indian Wells campsite in Irvine, Bear Hollow in Grace. After pounding the flour was “leached” to rinse out the tannic acid which makes acorns bitter (but not poisonous).
Means of getting around
Races at the new moon. Childrens' games including a game like jacks played with stones.
Customs in warfare
Little of what we would call war. Did not have much reason. Did not have the weapons (except hunting tools). More feuding than anything else. Mostly between clans. Sometimes between villages, and occasionally between tribes. Usually fought over thefts (of food, say) or insults. Battle determined who was right. Lots of yelling, name calling, and some injuries. But when the battle was over, it was put behind them.
Where members of the group now live, and how they live.
In the 1800s the area around Cupa came to be owned by white men. Eventually John Downey, a former governor of California, went to court to have the Indians thrown off “his” land. Took almost ten years, and went all the way to the Supreme Court. Became national news. In 1901 the Supreme Court ruled the Cupeño had no legal right to the land they had lived on for perhaps 500 years or more. Government picked out a reservation at Pala (about 10 miles from Temecula), and in 1903 marched the Cupeño off to the reservation.