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Finding Aid for the Baja California (Paipai) Indian Archaeological and Ethnographic Collections, 1955-1959
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • History
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Baja California (Paipai) Indian Archaeological and Ethnographic Collections
    Date (inclusive): 1955-1959
    Collection number: n/a
    Collector: University of California, Los Angeles. Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Archaeology Collections Facility
    Extent: n/a
    Abstract: The Paipai Indians continue in present day to live in Baja California, Mexico in an area south-east of Ensenada. Materials in the Paipai collection were field collected from 1955 to 1959 and consist of ethnographic as well as archaeological pieces.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Archaeology Collections Facility
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1549
    Language: English.


    The Paipai Indians of Baja California are linguistically related to a number of Yuman language speaking bands known collectively as Kumeyaay or Tipai-Ipai (meaning "people"). The Spanish referred to them as Diegueno, after the Mission San Diego (literally meaning "little people of Diego.")
    In the sixteenth century at the time of first European contact, the Tipai-Ipai occupied nearly the entire southern portion of present state of California and portions of northern Baja California Mexico. These autonomous, semi-nomadic bands were comprised of over 30 patrilineal, named clans, some hostile to one another, but with no single tribal name. Each band had a clan chief and at least one assistant chief. Positions, where inherited, went to eldest sons, or if none, to brothers or, rarely to widows. The chief directed clan and inter-clan ceremonies, admonished people on behavior, advised about marriage, family differences, and appointed a leader for an agave expedition or a fight.
    The Paipai band, the southern most band in the tribal territories, continue in present day living in Baja California, Mexico in an area south-east of Ensenada.
    Landscape shaped the travel of the traditional bands with seasonal changes from valley and canyon floors to mountain slope. The region is arid or sub-arid with winter rains, mountain snow, and summer drought. A band's seasonal travel followed the ripening of major wild plants that provided varied food and raw materials.
    Campsites were chosen for access to water, drainage, boulder outcrops or other natural protection from weather and ambush, and abundant flora and fauna. Summer villages needed a windbreak, trees, or a cave fronted with rocks. Winter villages were well sheltered at lower elevation, with a cluster of dwellings separated for privacy, belonging to a man and his married sons. The dwellings had slightly sunken floors with a dome or gable set on the ground. The pole framework had brush thatch covered with grass and earth.
    Two or three families would arrive at a campsite, joined later by others, to gather, process, and cache seasonal vegetal foods. Their diet consisted traditionally of wild plants which included cactus fruits, agave, mesquite pods, seeds (sage, acorns, pinon pine nuts), grasses (pigweed, peppergrass, flax, and buckwheat), berries (manzanita elderberry, juniper) and wild plums; supplemented with game such as hare, rodents, birds, and occasionally deer.
    Through historic times, the Paipai retained their ancestral boundaries during successive Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American control. The community first formed as a permanent settlement in 1797 when the Dominican order established the mission overlooking a wide valley near a permanent stream.
    The Dominicans attempted to settle the Paipai into a permanent settlement based on an economy of agriculture and livestock. Of all mission tribes in the Californias, Tipais and Ipais most violently resisted Franciscan and Dominican control. When the mission regimen disrupted their semi-nomadic routine and familiar microhabitats, uprisings were staged. The Santa Catarina mission was destroyed in 1840 by an alliance of Indian groups.
    Agriculture and livestock however remained an important part of Paipai subsistence along with wage labor and utilization of natural resources. The nucleus of today's Paipai community today is centered around the former Dominican mission site, with outlying ranches located around permanent streams or springs throughout the 67,828 hectares of high plain, mountain and desert terrain. A growing number of artisans in the community generate a significant amount of income through the making of traditional paddle and anvil coil pottery.
    Materials in the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History's Paipai collection were field collected 1955 - 1959, by UCLA Department of Anthropology and Sociology research teams directed by Thomas Hinton and Dr. Joseph B. Birdsell. Dr. Birdsell's multi-disciplinary project involved: ethnology (Roger Cory Owen); archaeology and ethno-history (Frederick Hicks); linguistics (Judith Joel); and physical anthropology and serology (Ernest Goldschmidt).
    Roger Cory Owen's UCLA dissertation (The Indian of Santa Catarina, Baja California Norte, Mexico: Concepts of Disease and Curing; January, 1962) documents, "The field camp consisted on two wattle and daub huts and two large tents. Our camp was visited by all of the Indians at one time or another, and many came daily for at least brief periods. Mealtimes frequently included one or more Indian guests. We served as hosts for dances and barbecues, and our camp became one of the point of interest in the village which an otherwise unoccupied Indian might visit to pass time. ... I was welcomed at tribal council meetings and was asked to speak at a few. I was also invited to curing ceremonies, to go on hunting trips, and was generally made to feel welcome at any gathering or people. I had friendly relations with all of the men over thirty most of the time, but little rapport with adolescents and the younger men. One of my principal informants was a woman over sixty, and though I had frequent contact with females of all ages, their reticence with anyone not of their immediate family generally precluded very much with them.
    The basic techniques employed during the year were participation, observation, and informal and formal interviews. Additional data were collected by a thorough house-to-house census, through genealogical research, and by means of other standard techniques."
    The collection at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History consists of ethnographic, as well as archaeological pieces. The ethnographic collections include carved wooden objects (cradle boards with mule deer skin; pottery tools; warfare and hunting clubs; a prickly pear harvesting stick; a throwing stick for hunting rabbits); hand built ceramics (water jars or ollas; a seed jar; bowls; a water dipper; a cream pitcher; a cup; an anvil); a hand woven yucca fiber (a carrying net; baskets; a bag; a lariat with twined cow hide); and multi-media (sewn stuffed, assembled dolls). Artifacts from pre-historic and Hispanic times include spindle whorls, bone awls, scrapers for harvesting agave fiber, and ceramic pottery shards (fragments). Other objects in the collection show the influence of outside cultural contact. The lariat shows the influence of the Mexican cattle ranching. The Paipai dolls and cradle boards show the Spanish influence during the Mission period.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Paipai Indians --History.