The Payómkawichum are an Indigenous peoples of California 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." After the establishment of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia (The Mission of Saint Louis King of France), "the Payómkawichum began to be called San Luiseños, and later, just Luiseños by Spanish missionaries due to their proximity to this San Luis Rey mission.
The Payómkawichum were successful in utilizing 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. The Luiseño used toxins leached from the California buckeye to stupefy fish in order to harvest them in mountain creeks.
Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. In the 1920s, A. L. Kroeber 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 proposed a historic population of 10,000 in his work of the 1960s.Pablo Tac, born in 1820, recorded, "perhaps from oral history and official records" that approximately five thousand people were living in Payómkawichum territory prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
Luiseño home in 1900 in the Temescal valley
The first Spanish missions were established in California in 1769. For nearly 30 years, Payómkawichum "who lived in the autonomous territories on the mesas and coastal valleys" in the western region of their traditional territory, "witnessed the constant incursion of caravans that moved north and south through their land on El Camino Real."
The Luiseño language belongs to the Cupan group of Takic languages, within the major Uto-Aztecan family of languages. 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 language. Pablo Tac, born at San Luis Rey in 1820, devised the written form of Luiseño language through "his study of Latin grammar and Spanish" while working "among international scholars in Rome." Although Tac had to conform to "Latin grammatical constructions, his word choice and his narrative form, along with his continual translation between Luiseño and Spanish, establish an Indigenous framework for understanding Luiseño."
'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.
Hinton, Leanne. Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1994. ISBN0-930588-62-2.
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Kroeber, A. L. (1925) Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.
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White, Raymond C. (1963) "Luiseño Social Organization", in University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 48:91-194.
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