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Luiseno drawing early 1800s.jpg
Drawing of Luiseño men in traditional dance regalia, by Pablo Tac (Luiseño, 1822–1844)
Total population
2,500 (including Ajachmem people)[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States United States California (California)
Luiseño, English, and Spanish
Traditional tribal religion, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Ajachmem (Juaneño),[2] Cupeño, Cahuilla, Serrano, Gabrielino-Tongva, Kumeyaay Kumeyaay, and Chemehuevi[3]

The Luiseño, or Payómkawichum, are a Native American people who at the time of the first contacts with the Spanish in the 16th century inhabited the coastal area of southern California, ranging 50 miles from the present-day southern part of Los Angeles County to the northern part of San Diego County, and inland 30 miles. In the Luiseño language, the people call themselves Payómkawichum (also spelled Payómkowishum), meaning "People of the West."[3]

Luiseño basket maker outside of her home

The tribe was named Luiseño by the Spanish due to their proximity to the Mission San Luís Rey de Francia (The Mission of Saint Louis King of France.)[4] Known as the "King of the Missions," it was founded on June 13, 1798 by Father Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, located in what is now Oceanside, California, in northern San Diego County, it was the Spanish First Military District.

Group of Luiseño men at Pala

Today there are six federally recognized tribes of Luiseño bands based in southern California, all with reservations. Another organized band has not received federal recognition.


The Luiseño language belongs to the Cupan group of Takic languages, within the major Uto-Aztecan family of languages.[5] About 30 to 40 people speak the language. In some of the independent bands, individuals are studying the language, language preservation materials are being compiled, and singers sing traditional songs in the luiseno language.[2]


Richard Bugbee (Luiseño), curator, museum director, and California language advocate[6]

Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. In the 1920s, A. L. Kroeber[7] put the 1770 population of the Luiseño (including the Juaneño) at 4,000-5,000; he estimated the population in 1910 as 500. The historian Raymond C. White[8] proposed a historic population of 10,000 in his work of the 1960s.

Prehistoric culture[edit]

The Luiseño people were successful in exploiting a number of natural resources to provide food and clothing, they had a close relationship with their natural environment. They used many of the native plants, harvesting many kinds of seeds, berries, nuts, fruits, and vegetables for a varied and nutritious diet; the land also was inhabited by many different species of animals which the men hunted for game and skins. Hunters took antelopes, bobcats, deer, elk, foxes, mice, mountain lions, rabbits, wood rats, river otters, ground squirrels, and a wide variety of insects;[9] the Luiseño used toxins leached from the California buckeye to stupefy fish in order to harvest them in mountain creeks.[10]


  • 'ahúuya, near the upper course of San Luis Rey River.
  • 'akíipa, near Kahpa.
  • 'áalapi, San Pascual south of the middle course of the San Luis Rey River.
  • 'áaway, on a head branch of Santa Margarita River.
  • Hurúmpa, west of Riverside.
  • Húyyulkum, on the upper course of San Luis Rey River.
  • 'ikáymay, near San Luis Rey Mission.
  • Qáxpa, on the middle course of San Luis Rey River.
  • Katúktu, between Santa Margarita and San Luis Rey Rivers, north of San Luis Rey.
  • Qée'ish, Qéch, south of San Luis Rey Mission.
  • Qewéw, on the upper course of San Luis Rey River.
  • Kóolu, near the upper course of San Luis Rey River.
  • Kúuki, on the upper course of San Luis Rey River.
  • Kwáa'alam, on the lower course of San Luis Rey River.
  • Maláamay, northeast of Pala.
  • Méexa, on Santa Margarita River northwest of Temecula.
  • mixéelum pompáwvo, near Escondido.
  • Ngóoriva
  • Pa'áa'aw, near Tái. Palomar mountain
  • Páayaxchi, on Elsinore Lake.
  • Páala, at Pala.
  • Páalimay, on the coast between Buena Vista and Agua Hedionda Creeks.
  • Panakare, north of Escondido.
  • Páașuku, near the headwaters of San Luis Rey River.
  • Páawma, east of Pala. Pauma
  • Pochóorivo, on the upper course of San Luis Rey River.
  • Sóowmay, south of the middle course of San Luis Rey River.
  • Șakíshmay (Luiseño or Diegueño), on the boundary line between the two peoples.
  • Șíikapa, Palomar.
  • Șuvóowu Șuvóova, east of San Jacinto Soboba.
  • Táaxanashpa, La Jolla.
  • Táa'akwi, at the head of Santa Margarita River.
  • Táakwish poșáppila, east of Palomar Mountain.
  • i, close to Palomar Mountain.
  • Tapá'may, north of Katúktu.
  • Teméeku, east of Temecula.
  • Tómqav, west of Pala.
  • 'úshmay. at Las Flores
  • Waxáwmay, Guajome on San Luis Rey River above San Luis Rey.
  • Wiyóoya, at the mouth of San Luis Rey River.
  • Wi'áasamay, east of San Luis Rey.
  • Wáșxa,Rincon near the upper course of San Luis Rey River.
  • Yamí', near Húyyulkum.[11]


Today Luiseño people are enrolled in the following federally recognized tribes:

Additionally, the San Luis Rey Band of Luiseños is organized and active in northern San Diego County, but is not currently recognized by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Notable Luiseños[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "California Indians and Their Reservations: P. SDSU Library and Information Access. (retrieved 18 July 2010)
  2. ^ a b Hinton, 28-9
  3. ^ a b Crouthamel, S. J. "Luiseño Ethnobotany." Palomar College. 2009 (retrieved 18 July 2010)
  4. ^ Pritzker, 129
  5. ^ Pritzker, 130
  6. ^ "Board of Directors." Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival. (retrieved 21 Dec 2009)
  7. ^ A.L.Kroeber, 1925: p 649, 883
  8. ^ R.C. White, 1963, p.117, 119
  9. ^ J.S. Williams, 2003
  10. ^ C.M. Hogan, 2008
  11. ^ John R. Swanton (1953). The Indian Tribes of North America - California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin. 145. Retrieved 2012-09-04.
  12. ^ Pritzker, 131


  • Hinton, Leanne. Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1994. ISBN 0-930588-62-2.
  • Hogan, C. Michael. (2008) Aesculus californica,, ed. N. Stromberg [1]
  • Kroeber, A. L. (1925) Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.
  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.
  • White, Raymond C. (1963) "Luiseño Social Organization", in University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 48:91-194.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bean, Lowell John and Shipek, Florence C. (1978) "Luiseño," in California, ed. Robert F. Heizer, vol. 8, Handbook of North American Indians (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, pp. 550–563.
  • Du Bois, Constance Goddard. 1904-1906. "Mythology of the Mission Indians: The Mythology of the Luiseño and Diegueño Indians of Southern California", in The Journal of the American Folk-Lore Society, Vol. XVII, No. LXVI. pp. 185–8 [1904]; Vol. XIX. No. LXXII pp. 52–60 and LXXIII. pp. 145–64. [1906].
  • Sparkman, Philip Stedman (1908). The culture of the Luiseño Indians; the University Press. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  • Kroeber, Alfred Louis; Philip Stedman Sparkman; Thomas Talbot Waterman; Constance Goddard DuBois; José Francisco de Paula Señán; Vicente Francisco Sarría (1910). The religion of the Luiseño Indians of southern California; the University Press. Retrieved 24 August 2012. Volume 2

External links[edit]