Due to the seismic retrofit of the California Tower, the Kumeyaay: Native Californians gallery will be closed from Monday, March 18 to Saturday, June 8. We apologize for any inconvenience. Learn more about the California Tower seismic retrofit project here.

The Kumeyaay, or Diegueño (as they were later called by the Spanish), are the Native American people of present-day Southern California (San Diego and western Imperial Counties) and Northern Baja. For many generations before the arrival of the Spanish, they occupied the deserts, mountains, and coasts, developing sophisticated means of adapting to the diverse environments.

With the arrival of Spanish settlers in the mid-1700s, Kumeyaay lifeways had to change and adapt, often by force. Today, the Kumeyaay are present in thirteen bands located on reservations throughout San Diego County, with four additional bands in present-day Baja, Mexico:

  • Campo Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
  • Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians
  • Barona Band of Mission Indians
  • San Pasqual Band of Indians
  • Inaja Cosmit Indian Reservation
  • Capitan Grande Indian Reservation
  • Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueño Indians, aka Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel
  • Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians aka Cuyapaipe
  • Manzanita Indian Reservation
  • La Posta Indian Reservation
  • Jamul Indian Village A Kumeyaay Nation
  • Mesa Grande Indian Reservation
  • Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation

In Baja, Mexico: La Huerta, Juntas de Nejí, San Antonio Necua, and San José de la Zorra

The exhibit explores traditional Kumeyaay lifeways, featuring the art of pottery and basket making, food procurement, dress and adornment, traditional medicine, games, and ceremonies. Artifacts and photographs from the museum’s collection highlight the rich cultural heritage of the Kumeyaay, offering a glimpse of the life of the ancestors of today’s present-day people. The exhibit remains popular with school groups from throughout the county.

See the extension of Kumeyaay: Native Californians.

Naka_Shin_Panelsv5-01bWhat do you see when you gaze up at the night sky? Do you look for familiar shapes in the stars like Orion’s Belt or the Big Dipper? What do the Kumeyaay see when they look at the stars?

For generations, the Kumeyaay have studied the night sky, developing a deeply-rooted cosmological belief system that centers on the Kumeyaay Mat’taam (calendar year), My Uuyow (sky knowledge), and constellation map.

This extension of the main Kumeyaay gallery explores the traditions and meanings of these cosmological beliefs, like how the Kumeyaay have different names and forms for constellations than those given to them by Europeans.

Did you know that when the Kumeyaay spot Orion’s Belt or the Big Dipper, they actually see the constellations ‘Emuu (Mountain Sheep) and Selq Hatun (Arm)?

Naka_Shin_Panelsv5-04cThey also see Kwellyap Ketull (North Star) at the center of the night sky, keeping watch over all human activities, surrounded by Hutcha (6 Laughing Girls) and Shaii (Buzzard), Hechkulk (Wolf) and Nemuuly (Bear), and Awii (Rattlesnake), the conveyor of punishment for improper deeds. See if you can spot these constellations and many others on the exhibit’s giant constellation map – or better yet, the next time you’re looking up at the night sky!

This exhibit – the first-ever museum exhibit about Kumeyaay astronomy – was developed by curator and Kumeyaay scholar, Michael Connolly Miskwish, and Mataam Naka Shin, the San Diego-Panama Exposition Centennial Intertribal Committee.

Photo at top by Stacy Keck.