War and the Cahuilla People

The Cahuilla, like most of the California Indians, have been a very peaceful people. Their main troubles were between villages, and were caused by boundary disputes. Each village had definite boundaries, within which the inhabitants lived, hunted, and gathered mesquite and other food products. Food was very scarce in the old days and any infringement of one group on the land of the adjacent group was considered grounds for enmity and often subsequent war.

Poisoned arrows were used when it was considered necessary. A small strip of flesh which is connected with the lungs of animals was dried and softened in water. It was then soaked in a concoction made of poisonous herbs, ants, and tarantulas. A tiny particle of this was then placed on the tip of the flint arrowhead.

I shall now relate a few tales which were told me of war with foreign groups. Whether they are authentic or mythical I could not determine.

Long ago, there was a clan or village called Simotakiktem about six miles south of Agua Caliente. There was one man in the clan who caused a great deal of trouble for the surrounding groups. So these got together and decided to make war on the entire group. When the Simotakiktem saw the other Cahuilla coming, they hid in a big round rock which was just like a room and had a stone door. The Cahuilla surrounded them, forced the door, and threw firebrands inside, and then closed the door. They were all suffocated.

There was a village by the name of Sewekiktem. The people there were very wicked. Once, while they were in the big house, the Cahuilla surrounded them and killed them all.

At one time, when the Mexicans were living near Los Angeles, a great many Indians from Yuma came and stole their horses. The Mexicans asked the Cahuilla to help get them back. They all started out determined to annihilate the Yuma Indians. On the way they got lost in the desert and most of them died from lack of water. Those who survived returned to their homes.


Hooper, Lucile. The Cahuilla Indians. Berkeley, California: University Of California Press. 1920.

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