The San Diego Museum of Man recognizes that the Museum, Balboa Park, and the city of San Diego reside on the ancestral territory and homeland of the Kumeyaay, past and present.
The Kumeyaay are the Indigenous people of present-day Southern California (San Diego and western Imperial Counties) and Northern Baja California. For many generations before the arrival of the Spanish, they have 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 were forced to change. Today, the Kumeyaay are present in thirteen bands located on reservations throughout San Diego County, with four additional bands in present-day Baja California, Mexico:
- Campo Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
- Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
- Barona Band of Mission Indians
- San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians
- Inaja-Cosmit Reservation
- Capitan Grande Indian Reservation
- Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel
- Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians aka Cuyapaipe
- Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
- La Posta Band of Diegueno Mission Indians
- Jamul Indian Village of California of the Kumeyaay Nation
- Mesa Grande Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
- Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
In Baja California, Mexico: La Huerta, Juntas de Nejí, San Antonio Necua, and San José de la Zorra.
The exhibit explores traditional and contemporary Kumeyaay lifeways, featuring the art of pottery and basket making, food procurement, dress and adornment, traditional medicine, games, and ceremonies. Objects and photographs from the museum’s cultural resources highlight the rich cultural heritage and living traditions of the Kumeyaay.
See the extension of Kumeyaay: Native Californians/Iipai-Tipai.
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)?
They 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.