Gustavus A. Eisen.

An account of the Indians of the Santa Barbara Islands in California online

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author the island itself was known as Liniooh. The original authority
is not quoted.

The island is 20 miles long and about 3Vo miles wide. It is
2.410 feet high and visible some 55 miles. Of the natives of this
island neither Cabrillo nor Viscaino give any account. The island has
once been thickly populated as is shown by the many burial grounds.
Unfortunately the largest one of these was washed away in 1879 by
a destructive waterspout.

Anacdiga. The island of Anacfipa is a mere rock, without har-
bor and even without water. No vegetation can be seen from off the
shore. It is the smallest of the islands of the channel. It was called
by the Indians „En ni-ahpagh" and by Vancouver referred to as
Enneeapah. The present name is probably a corruption of the Indian
name. The island is 4V.j miles long, and about 980 feet high.

Santa Rosa Island. Named first by Cabrillo „San Lucas", but
later on during the return voyage referred to as San Sebastian. By
Viscaino the island was marked down on the chart as Isla de Cleto.
According to Cabrillo the Indians called the island nNicalque*. Ac-
cording to Bancroft the Indian name was „Hurmal". Cabrillo men-
tions that there are three villages on the island called: Nicochi,
Coycoy, and Coloco. On the return voyage they are called „Nichochi"
and „Estocoloco". The island is 16^4 miles long by 9 miles wide. Its
elevation is 1.500 feet. It contains about 50.000 acres of ground or
about 73 square miles. The average height is about 600 feet, and
the average length and width are 9 miles by V/^ miles. This island
is apparently less suited to sustain life than Saota Cruz and Cata-
lina, but both accounts and investigations show that the Indian popu-
lation was once very numerous. The winds on the island are terrific,
and there are at present only few trees even in the ravines. Water
however is plentiful in certain parts, and dry seasons are scarce.

At Cabrillo's visit the island was inhabited. „It is inhabited
and the people are like those on the other islands." Again we read:
The inhabitants of these islands are very poor. They are fishermen,
they eat nothing but fish; they sleep on the ground; all their bu-
siness and employment is to fish. In each house they say there is
fifty souls. They live very swinishly; they go naked." „There is a re-
gular row of islands — . Some are large others are small, but

all are inhabited and populous, and the inhabitants trade with each
other and with those on the continent. They are however very po-
pulous." In another place we read: „They found them (Santa Rosa

12 I- Gustav Eisen:

and San Miguel islands) very populous, and these people, and all
tliese of the roast passed by, lived by fishing, and make beads
from the bones of fishes, to trade with the people of the main land."

San Miguel Island. Called by Cabrillo „Isla de Posesion", but
after the death of Cabrillo the island was named by Ferrelo, his
pilot, after the admiral: „Isla de Juan Rodriguez". On the chart
of Viscaino the island is marked down as „Isla de Baxos". Accord-
ing to Cabrillo and Ferrelo the island was known by the natives
as: „Ciquimuymu". In Bancroft we read that the island was called
„Twocan", but by what authority is not quoted.

The island is 7^2 miles long and about 700 feet high. For-
merly the island was very fertile, perhaps the most fertile of all the
channel islands, but at present it is little more than a barren sandy
waste. There is now a rather land-locked harbor, known as Cuyler's
harbor, but even this has deteriorated on account of a land slide or
earthquake taking place about five years ago. The island was once
thickly populated by Indians. Cabrillo tells us „In the island of Po-
sesion there are two villages: „Zaco" and „Niraollollo". „They were
well treated by the Indians, every one going naked, and they have
their faces painted in the manner of a chess-board. To this port they
gave the name of Posesion."

According to Vancouver this island was also marked down on
the Spanish charts as „Isla de San Bernardo".

Santa Barbara Island. The island is thus named oa the chart
of Viscaino. The island is only about 7 milles long and only 547 feet
high. It can be seen at a distance of 27 miles. Neither Cabrillo nor
Viscaino visited the island. We know however from the Indian
remains found that the island was once densely populated.

San Nicolas Island. So named on the chart of Viscaino. It is
the one most distant from the mainland and one of the least fertile,
poorest of the islands. It is 890 feet high and can be seen 34 miles
away. The island is about 8 to 20 miles long.

This island is interesting, because on it lived the last remnant
of the Indians belonging to the island tribes, indeed the only Indian
of whom we have a detailed account. The island was like the others
once thickly populated, but little by little the number of inhabitants
became less. The reason is not fully known. But it is by some be-
lieved that the natives were partly exterminated by Indians from
Alaska who had been brought down to these islands to hunt sea-
otter. Any how it is known that already in 1811 a ship from Boston

An Account of the Indiana of the Santa Bar'oara Islands in California. 13

had landed some 30 Indians from Kodiak on San Nicolas and it is
said that they killed all the native men, and appropriated the women.
However this may be, certain it is that in 1835 the natives on the
island had dwindled down to 18, and it was decided by the mission-
aries on the mainland to remove these Indians to the missions of
the mainland. Accordingly a vessel was sent to the island of San
Nicolas and the Indians gathered in. This was in 1836. But when
the Indians were all embarked, one of the women missed her babe.
It had been left behind iQ some way. The mother started to hunt
for it, but remaining away very long, and on account of a sudden and
very heavy wind, the small vessel had to leave and lie before the
wind out to sea. In course of time the Indians were landed at Santa
Barbara and probably merged in other indian tribes. The vessel which
was again to visit the island in order to bring back the remaining
woman, was unfortunately shipwrecked on the coast, and as there
was no other vessel of sufficient size to brave the rough waters around
the island, it came to pass that for 18 long years the indian woman
was left to her fate on the island. j It was only in 1853 that a hunter
with the name of Nidever from Santa Barbara visited the island and
brought the woman away. He had seen some things of her already
two years previously, but was then unable to find her. During this
visit Nidever had seen several small windbreaks made of branches
and canes. They were in the form of a half circle and bound to-
gether with grass ropes. He had also found regular, small, pyramidal
houses or Indian huts made of branches etc., but the grass growing
in them, and their dilapidated condition generally indicated that they
had not been used for years. When he found the woman at last she
was living in such a windbreak. We may now follow Nidevers tale:
„She was sitting in an enclosure, so that her head and shoalders
were barely visible above it. As the white man approached, two or
three wild dogs began to howl, but she gave a yell at the dogs who
then disappeared. She was sitting crosslegged on some grass that
covered the ground within the inclosure and which seemed to serve
as bed. Her only dress consisted of a kind of gown, leaving her neck
and shoulders bare, but it was long enough when she stood up to
reach to her ankles. It was made of bird (shag) skin cut in squares
and sewed together, the feathers pointing downwards. Her head had
no covering save a thick mass of matted hair of a yellowish brown
color, and which looked as if it had rotted off. (See the account of
Cabrillo and Viscaino of the fair color of the Indians). She was

14 I- Gustav Eisen :

engaged in stripping a piece of blubber from a sealskin. Within
the enclosure was a smouldering fire and a heap of ashes. She was
constantly talking to herself. When first seeing Mr Brown the com-
panion of Mr Nidever she smiled and received him most graciously
and with much dignity and selfpossession. And when the other men
came up, she greeted them in the same manner.

The Indians which Mr. Brown had brought along did not under-
stand a single word of what she said, although they knew several
different dialects. From a bag she took out several roots {carcomites(?),
also other roots, and roasting them on the fire she offered them to
the men to eat. They found them very palatable. The visitors soon
made her to understand that they wanted her to leave the island with
them, and gathering up her belongings she was soon ready to start.
She packed most of the things in a large basket made of rushes,
while other of her things were bundled up by her visitors. She had
so many things that every one of the visitors carried some of her
belongings when leaving. Among her things was an extra dress made
of fine birdskins and finely ornamented. She also insisted upon carrying
off all the old dried blubber, and a seal's head which was so decayed
that the brain was oozing out. She evidently desired to bring every
thing that would sustain life. When all was ready she took from the
fire a burning stick in her hand and walked out. She led the party
by a fine spring from which she drank, and then led them to an
other spring in which she washed her face and hands. The island
was inhabited by foxes and by wild dogs, similar to those which Ni-
dever had seen among the Indians of the northern part of California.
The Indian woman took kindly to the food of her visitors, and evi-
dently preferred it to the one she had been accustomed to. She was
exuberant when one of the men made her a dress of calico, and
observing how the man was sewing she insisted to try her hand at
this too. She would push the needle in the cloth with her right hand
and pull it out with her left one. At first she did not know how to
thread the needle, but she learned quickly. In the hunters camp she
made herself useful, in carrying wood and water. She occupied herself
with making several baskets, but she worked at several at the same
time, first doing a little work on one and then dropping it for an-
other. She made the baskets watertight by placing inside several lumps
of asphaltum together with some few heated pebbles. The asphaltum
melting she gave the pebbles a rotary motion which soon covered
the interior of the baskets with an even watertight coating, after

An Account of the Indians of the Santa Barbara Islands in California. 15

which the pebbles were thrown out. During a storm that threatened to
upset the small boat she made signs that she could stop the gale.
Kneeling down on deck and facing the wind she began incantations
and prayers. When the sky suddenly showed sign of clearing she
pointed to it with pride as if to say „see I did it".

She had never been on the mainland before, and she showed
great astonishment at every thing she saw. She showed a childish
delight when she saw an ox-cart, and quickly immitated the revolving
motion of the wheels with her hand and arms. And when a gentleman
rode down to the beach she was evidently dumbfounded by seeing
him on the horse. She quickly immitated the motion of the horse by
placing her first two fingers of her right hand over the thumb of her
left hand, and mimicking the galloping of the horse she gave a shout
of delight.

She was taken care of by the family of Mr. Nidever and had
every thing she wanted. She could however only communicate by signs
as there was no one to understand her language. An other old indian
woman was said to understand a few words (according to Hittell's
History, but I do not find it mentioned in Nidever's account), but
otherwise there was none who could understand her. She soon became
an expert in using signs, and after a few months made herself well
understood that way. She was passionately fond of fruits and would
eat them constantly. This brought on a dysentery from which she did
not recover. She did not survive more than four months her removal
from the island. „She had a warm love, was grateful and affectionate
as a child, and was of a gentle and lovable nature". After her death
her belongings were gathered together and sent to Rome! except
a water bottle made of rushes and covered with asphaltum, which
bottle is now in the posession of the California Academy of Sciences
San Francisco. It was not until a short time before she died that
she understood that they wished to know some thing of her language.
Only a few words of hers are now preserved : Hide = tocah ; Man
=inaclie; Sky = toygwah ; Body =: puoochay.

From signs that she made they understood that the wild dogs
had eaten her child, and that when she found it out she lay down
on the ground and cried. When she at last got up and returned to
the schooner it had already left. She had a generous nature and when
given trinkets etc. she would soon give them away, just as did the
Indians met by Cabrillo and Viscaino.

16 I. Gustav Eisen:

Indians on the Main opposite the Islands.

Of these Indians we have severalrath er exhaustive accounts prin-
cipally by some of the mission fathers. But these accounts tell us
exactly what we least desire to know, and of what we do wish to
know they tell us little. The missionaries had no other object in
view than to convert the heathens and to glorify Rome. In every
action of the Indians they saw only inspiration of the devil. Instead
of trying to uplift the Indians, they enslaved them under a tyranical
yoke. The missionaries opinion of the Indians can not be accepted
without much modification and doubt. Of greater value are the very
scanty mentions of the Indians by the early navigators. Cabrillo refers
to the Indians of Santa Barbara several times. When he approached
the shore the Indians disembarked in their canoes which were made
of bent plank tied together with rope and cemented with asphaltum.
Some of the canoes held up to 20 men. Everywhere Cabrilio tells
us that the Indians were well disposed, that they were armed with
bows and arrows and went clad in skins. At San Diego or Ensenada
they called the Spaniards „Cuacamal".

Vancouver tells us that when he apprached land at Santa Bar-
bara, an Indian canoe was launched with four men. They had paddles
ton feet long, with blade at each end, and they managed the canoe
with such a skill that they brought out the admiration of the Spa-
niards. This was as late as in 1838. The whole coast along the
channel seems to have been thickly populated. Cabrillo tells us „that
from morning to night the ship was surrounded by canoes. The In-
dians brought with them quantities of sardines : very good ; they say
that inland there are many villages and much food. The poeple do
not eat any maiz; they went clothed in skins, and wear their hair
very long and tied up with cords very long and placed within the
hair; and these strings have attached to them daggers of flint, and
of wood and of bone". In an other place: „The natives aided in
bringing water and wood to the ship. The village is called Cicacut.
Other villages from that place to Cape Conception are called: „Ciucut,
Anacat, Maquinanoa, Paltare, Anacvat, Olesino, Coaacac, Paltocac,
Tocane, Opia, Opistopia, Nocos, Yutum, Auiman, Micoma, Carojniso-
pona. An old Indian woman is princess of those villages. She came
on the ship and slept there two nights together with other Indians.
The village of Ciucut appeared to be the capital of the villages. The

An Account of the Indians of tbe Santa Barbara Islands in California. 17

village at the cape is called Xeno, and another province is called
Xucu. They have their houses rounded and covered very near down
to the ground. The Indians eat acorns and another grain which is
large as maiz and white, of which they make tamales: It is good for
food. They say that inland there is much maiz. Indians came on
bord with water and fish, and showed much good disposition. They
have in their villages large public squares, and they have au inclo-
sure like a circle, and around the inclosure they have many blocks
of stone fastened in the ground which issue about 2 palms (hands),
and in the middle of the inclosure they have many sticks of timber
driven in the ground like masts, and very thick; and they have many
pictures on these same posts, and we believe that they worship them,
for when they dance they dance around this inclosure."

Half a century later Viseaino found the same conditions on the
mainland. Of the San Diego Indians he says that they were a fine
looking race, clothed in sealskins and that they received the Spani-
ards with extreme kindness. They had large dwellings and numerous
ranches, made excellent canoes, and were expert fishermen and hunt-
ers. Higher up on the mainland somewhere near Santa Barbara, he
found that the country was governed by a chief who offered them hos-
pitality, and who even went so far as to offer every Spaniard ten
wives if they desired to remain with them.

Vancouver who visited the coast two hundred and fifty years
later, found the Indians very much the same. He has e very good
idea of the Indians „which behaved themselves with much decorum^
much sensibility and much vivacity, and with good order, very un-
like that inanimate stupidity that marks the character of the northen
Indians we have seen under the Spanish juridiction at San Francisco
and Monterey." But some change had taken place since Cabrillo's
and Viscaino's time. Father Vincente told him how the Indians were
suspicious and regarded all strangers as enemies and refused to visit
other ^societies".

The narrative of Don Miguel Costanso has already been
referred to. The following is an extract from the same. I have
excluded everything which does not directly concern the Indians
and the paragraphs follow each other in the same manner and order
as in his narrative. At the first arrival in the port of San Diego:
„they discovered at a little distance a troop of Indians armed with bows
and arrows; to whom they made signs with white cloths calling them
to a parley. But they setting their steps by those of our folk, foir

Sitzb. d. kCn. bCliin. G«s, d. Wiss. II. CUsse. 2

18 I. GustavEisen:

more than half an hour, did not permit them to come up. These
Indians stopped every little while upon some height, watching our
folk, and evidencing the fear which the foreignerss caused them by
the very thing they did to allay it. They thrust one point of their
bows down in the soil, and grasping it by the other extremity they
danced and whirled about with unspeakable velocity; but as soon as
they saw our folk near, they again withdrew themselves with the same
lightfootednes." The Indians soon however became friendly and showed
the Spaniards where a river and water could be found." A river came
down from the high Sierras thro' a spacious canada. At a gunshot
from it and outside the wood, was discovered a pueblo or rancheria
(Indian settlement). It was composed of huts of a pyramidal shape
and covered with earth. On sighting their companions with the
Spaniards all came out of their houses to receive them, men, women
and children, proffering their houses to their guests. The women
came in decent garb, covered from waist to knee with close-woven
and doubled nets. The pueblo consisted of some 30 tr 40 families:
and at one side of it an enclosure stood guard, made of branches
and trunks of trees. In this they gave to understand that they took
refuge to defend themselves from their enemies: a fortification in-
expugnable to the arms in use among them. These natives are of good
figure, well-built and agile. They go naked without more clothing
than a girdle of ixtle (Agave), or very fine maguey fibre, woven in
the form of a net. They get this thread from a plant called the
Lechuguilla. Their quivers which they [bind in between the girdle
and the body, are of skins of wildcat, coyote, wolf or deer, and their
bows are two varas (66 inches) long. Besides these arms, they use
a species of warclub of very hard wood, the form of which is like
that of a short and curved cutlass, which they fling edgewise and it
cleaves the air with much violence. They hurl it to a greater distance
than a stone. Without it they never go forth in the field; and if
they see a viper or other obnoxious animal, they throw this „manaca"
at it and comonly sever it in half. According to the experience
afterwards in the continual intercourse with our Spaniards, they are
of haughty temper, daring, covetous, great jesters and braggarts ; altho'
of little valor, they make great boast of their powers, and hold the
most vigorous for the most valiant. They crave whatsoever rag; but
when we have clothed different ones of them on repeated occasions,
they would present themselves the folloving day stark naked. The
principal sustenance of the Indians around this port is fish. They

An Account of the Indians of the Santa Barbara Islands in California. 19

eat also much cockles. They use rafts made of rushes, -which they
manage dexterously with a paddle or oar of two blades. Their harpoons
are some varas (one vara is 33V4 inches) in length ; the point is of
bone, very much sharpened, inserted in a shaft of wood. They are
so dexterous in hurling this that they rarely miss their aim. „0f
the Indians encountered during the expedition towards the north, Cos-
tanso tells us that : „all are peopled with a multitude of Indians, who
came out to meet them and in some parts accompanied them from one
stage of the journey to the next: „a people very docile and tractable,
chiefly from San Diego onvard' (up the coast)". "The Indians in whom
was recognized more vivacity and industry, are those that inhabit
the Islands and the coast of the Santa Barbara Channel. They live
in villages with houses of spherical form, in the fashion of a half
orange, covered with rushes (probably Juncus and Scirpus). They are
up to twenty varas (55 feet) in diameter. Each house contains three
or four families. The hearth is in the midle, and in the top of the
house they leave a vent to give exit for the smoke. In nothing did
the natives give the lie to the affability and good treatment which
were experienced by their hands in other times (1602) by the Spaniards,
who landed upon those coasts with the general Sebastian Viscayno.
They are of good figure and aspect, men, vomen and children; very
much given to painting their faces and bodies with red ochre. They
use headdresses of feathers, and some small darts which they bind
up in their hair, with various trinkets and beads of coral of different
colors. The men go entirely naked, but in time of cold they use long
capes of tanned skins of sea - otters, and some mantles of the same
skins cut in long strips, which they twist in such manner that all
the fur remains on the outside ; then they weave these strands one
with the other, forming a weft, and give it the pattern referred to.

The women go with more decency, girt about the waist with
tanned skins of deer which cover them in front and behind more
than half down the leg, and with a cloak of otter skins over the body.
There are some of them with good features. These are the Indian
women who make trays and baskets of rushes, to which they give
a thousand different forms and graceful patterns, according to the
uses to which they are destined, whether it be for eating, drinking,
guarding their seeds, or other ends, for these peoples do not know
the use of earthenwares as those of San Diego use it.

The men work handsome trays of wood, with firm inlays of
coral or of bone; and some vases of much capacity, closing at the

2Q I. Gustav Eisen:

mouth, which appear to be made with lath* and with this

machine would not come out better hollowed nor of more perfect
form. They give the whole a luster which resembles the finished work
of a skilled artisan. The large vessels which hold water are of a
very strong weave of rushes pitched within; and they give them the
same form as our own water jars.

To eat the seeds which they use instead of bread, they toast
them first in great trays, putting among the seeds some pebbles or
small stones heated until they are red hot; then they move and
shake the stones in the tray so that it may not burn; and when the
seed is sufficiently toasted they grind it in mortars of stone. Of these
mortars there are some of extraordinary size, as well wrought as if
they had had for the purpose best tools of steel. The constancy, atten-

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