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Robert Heizer: Some Last Century Accounts of the Indians of Southern California

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Coahuilla IndiansJ H Gilmour1892
An Indian ProphetJ H Gilmour1892
Indian PoliticiansJ H Gilmour1892
A Model Indian CampJ H Gilmour1892
The Indian QuestionJ H Gilmour1892
Indian JusticeJ H Gilmour1892
Thrifty Agent RustAnonymous1892
The Cohuilla IndiansT F Drew1889
The Method of Manufacturing Pottery and Baskets Among the Indians of Southern CaliforniaP Schumacher1880
The Cohuilla IndiansT F Drew1889
Eagle Fiesta of the California IndiansJ J Warner1857
San Luis Rey IndiansAnonymous1889
Eagle Dance of the Mesa Grande TribeAnonymous1907
A Diegueno Fiesta at Mesa GrandeC G DuBois1900
A Fiesta at Warner's RanchH N Rust1899
Indian Reservation in San Diego County1870
A Tragic Sequel to RamonaE E Howell1894

Coahuilla Indians

Coahuilla Indians
Their Artistic Sense Well Developed: Peculiarities of the Desert Dwellers
San Francisco Chronicle, February 21, 1892, J H Gilmour

There is mention of J H Gilmur here.

Affections Divided Between Trees and Whisky -- The Legend of Tahquitch. Correspondence of the CHRONICLE.

Have the Indians a political side? Do they appreciate the beauties of nature or are they purely animal and practical? These are questions not easily answered. Many who confess to a knowledge of the Indian say that for him there are no charms except or the grossest ones, and that huge quantities of the coarsest food are his chief delight, meat having but one rival, and that one intoxicating drink. Fortunately the paternal care which the Government takes of the Indians gives them little opportunity to exercise their bibulous tastes.

If the Indian is essentially material and has no eye for that which is beautiful, it is exceedingly strange that he should invariably select picturesque surroundings and should bosom his habitations in stately groves. There is no Indian on the desert who does not place a value upon the presence of trees and who does not plant them. In this respect the Coahuillas (pronounced Ka-whee-yah, with the accent on the second syllable) make a striking contrast to some of the rancheros, who only put in shade trees when urged to do so by their more artistic neighbors, and a stronger contrast to those vandals who ruthlessly hew down huge trees because somebody or other has told them that their roots impoverished the soil of the Colorado desert.

The Indian's love for arborescence is not only noticeable at Palm Springs -- a valley incomparably beautiful -- but also at Indio, Fig Springs, Martinez, and Torres. An Indian is supposed never to get enthusiastic, but whenever Willie Cabazon, a stalwart young Coahuilla in the employ of G.W. Durbrow at Salton, is asked whether the above-named villages are pretty he replies in a delighted way:

"Oh, yes! Lots of trees there and lots of water. The fellows there like lots of them. Keeps the place cool in summer."

In Indio the Indian houses and wickiups nestle close to the giant mesquite groves, and give to that settlement a deliciously picturesque appearance. I know of no lane more lovely than that which leads from the utterly ugly collection of railroad workshops and section houses to Captain Bill's house. The arching boughs of the mesquite embrace each other overhead, and the entire journey can be almost made under a leafy canopy. In the spring time the mesquite gives a faint sweet smell like that of heliotrope, and one cannot but be impressed with the thought that it was not pure accident which led the village to be there located.

At Palm Springs enormous cottonwoods shield the Indian fields from the sun's fierce glare and form admirable windbrakes. The new irrigation ditches are lined with slips of these trees. Whatever may be their reason it cannot be denied that it enhances the artistic value of their places and rather upsets the theory that the Indian has no love for the beautiful.

Andreas Canyon has at its opening the vestiges of an Indian establishment. It is named after a chieftain of that name. Andreas had within him all the elements of a great man. The site on which he built his house is picturesque in the extreme. The wild vines make fantastic curtains of greenery, and so closely are their limbs matted together that in summer there seems to be a broad, thick swaying wall of dense leafage encircling the many cup-like pools in the glistening white rocks. Andreas here laid out a vineyard and cultivated peach trees, but against the peach he one day took a grudge and chopped them down, for, said he:

"The birds come here and nest and tell one to another that soon the grapes will be ripe, and they come and eat them."

Now, Andreas loved the grape, and so shrewd was he that he managed to make a still and distilled a strong and fiery brandy, fro which several drunken orgies were held. A white man attended one of these general "drunks", and from an account he gave a friend, I am enabled to describe it.

There were no white men then in the valley, and Andreas, who was of an extremely friendly nature, asked him to be present. Knowing that there was to be a grand drinking bout, he refused, but Andreas would not take "no" for an answer, and sent down to Agua Caliente, as the place was then called, two of his staunchest friends, also a horse for him to ride. He was told no harm would come to him, and therefore went.

The Indians were gathered in a circle, and in the center was the corpse of a child. A large barrel of brandy or wine was near the chief, also a tin dipper. Andreas received his white friend with great dignity and placed him by his side. He was asked to drink, but refused. Then Andreas, after long deliberation, appointed his white friend as guardian of the cask, with instructions not to refuse a drink to anyone who should ask. This, it seemed, is customary among the Indians -- to have one man sober at a drinking festival. Everybody was soon intoxicated -- men, women, and children -- and the dancing was as vigorous as the singing. Suddenly there was a cessation and some chickens were killed, barely cooked and devoured, and afterward the child was buried. Then when the liquor was all consumed they laid themselves down to sleep off the effects of their debauch. There were no quarrels and the funeral had certainly for the white man the charm of novelty.

At Palm Springs the Indians used to make a wine from the grape, treading out the juice with their feet, but last year none was made. Captain Joe has a knowledge of wine making, and if report does not calumniate him the captain has a weakness for strong waters. I wished the captain a merry Christmas on that day, and was rather surprised to have him grunt out in reply:

"No whisky, no vino, no merry Christmas." The Captain's knowledge of Christmas celebrations had been gleaned by a residence at Banning and San Bernardino, where the great day is observed with much enthusiasm by the chaste residents.

It is a great pity that the jealous secrecy of the Indians prevents them from disclosing their traditions, for many an ancient legend could be unfolded if they would but put away their distrust of the white man. Dr. Welwood Murray, who knows these Indians well, tells a remarkably pretty story of the demon Tahquitch, of whom the Indians are in constant fear. Tahquitch, it appears, was a chief of gigantic proportions. He was famed for many miles for the graces of his body, the majesty of his face, and his wondrous strength. His staying with the Indians at Agua Caliente was a matter of much pride, for who could have so noble a chief and not be pleased? It filled the other villages with jealousy. Tahquitch was a gallant. He essayed conquests in love as well as in war, and was smitten with an unfortunate affection for a maiden whose beauty and virtue was much praised. From what transpired, the maiden must have been coy or rather resisted the amorous advances of the giant chief, or, perhaps, she was a wife or betrothed. Like all border chieftains, Tahquitch would not be repulsed, and seized upon the girl and carried her off toward the mountains.

When the villagers heard of the abduction they gathered themselves together and commenced pursuit. But the giant Tahquitch was not dismayed, and held steadily on his way toward the yawning canyon which now carries his name. The chase grew closer. But when the giant was almost within their grasp he and the girl disappeared in a thunder storm.

And in these high hills is Tahquitch supposed to live; and when the thunder rolls over the mountains or the clouds look black the Coahuillas tremblingly say Tahquitch is threatening them with awful punishments if they still think of pursuit

This mountain at night has for the Indians an indescribable terror, and there is possibly not one who would pass the dark hours in Tahquitch canyon. They are stanch [ed note: not staunch] in the belief that Tahquitch would do them harm, and are devoted in their endeavor to let the demon know that nothing is further from their thoughts than the rescue of the abducted maid.

J.H. Gilmour.

Palm Springs, February 12, 1892.

An Indian Prophet

An Indian Prophet
A Banning Witch Doctor's Forebodings
He Says the Earth is Coming to an End
Many of the Cahuillas Believe Him and Are Preparing for the Worst
J H Gilmour, 1892

Correspondence of the Chronicle

Palm Springs, June 17. --