The Cochimí were the aboriginal inhabitants of the central part of the Baja California peninsula, from El Rosario in the north to San Javier in the south.

They spoke a set of dialects or closely related languages that have been classified in a variety of ways. The most prominent division, between Northern Cochimí and Southern Cochimí, has generally been put to the south of San Ignacio (Mixco 1978, 1979, 2006; Laylander 1997). At one time designated "Peninsular Yuman", Cochimí bears an evident relationship to the Yuman languages of northern Baja California, southern California, and western Arizona. Mauricio J. Mixco (1978, 2006) reassessed this relationship and judged it to be too distant for Cochimí to be included within the Yuman family proper. He placed Cochimí as a sister language to the Yuman family, thus forming the Yuman–Cochimí family.

The Cochimí were first encountered by Spanish seaborne explorers during the sixteenth century, including Ulloa, Cabrillo, Vizcaíno, and others. Sporadic encounters continued until the Jesuits established missions on the peninsula in the late seventeenth century. Eusebio Francisco Kino made an abortive foundation at San Bruno, to the north of Loreto, in 1683-1685. Juan María de Salvatierra began the first successful mission in 1697 at Loreto among the Monqui, who were southern neighbors of the Cochimí. This was quickly followed by Francesco Maria Piccolo's Cochimí mission at San Javier in 1699. Over the next seven decades, the frontier of Jesuit control over the Cochimí gradually extended northward, with missions at Mulegé (1705, Comondú (1708), La Purísima (1720), Guadalupe (1720), San Ignacio (1728), Santa Gertrudis (1751), San Borja (1762), and Santa María (1767). After the Spanish crown expelled the Jesuits from Baja California in 1768, the Franciscans under Junípero Serra established an additional mission at San Fernando Velicatá (1769) on their way north to Alta California. The Franciscans' successors in Baja California, the Dominicans, created the final new mission among the Cochimí at El Rosario (1774). Decimated by epidemics of Old World diseases, the Cochimí population declined, until sometime in the nineteenth or possibly the early twentieth century their language and traditional culture became extinct.

The Cochimí were hunter-gatherers, without agriculture or metallurgy. Pottery-making may have reached the northern Cochimí before Spanish contact (Rogers 1945). Their material culture was generally simple, but it suited their arid environment and mobile lifestyle. The highest level of social organization was the autonomous local community, and inter-community conflicts appear to have been frequent. Among the unusual cultural traits noted for the Cochimí and some of their neighbors were the second harvest of the pitahaya, the maroma, wooden tablas, and human-hair capes:

  • The fruit of pitahaya cactus provided a highly valued but short-lived seasonal food resource. Subsequent to the pitahaya harvest, Baja Californians winnowed undigested pitahaya seeds from their own dried excrement and then roasted and ate this "second harvest".
  • Another unusual food trait was the maroma. A valued morsel of meat was tied with a string, swallowed, then pulled back up and passed to the next person in a circle of consumers, until the meat finally disintegrated.
  • Tablas were wooden tablets with painted designs and/or drilled holes, used in religious ceremonies. Some of these artifacts have been found archaeologically (Massey 1972; Hedges 1973; Meigs 1974).
  • Capes made from donated human hair were worn by shamans on ceremonial occasions (Meigs 1970).

Information on Cochimí customs and beliefs has been preserved in the brief observations by explorers but, above all, in the writings of the Jesuits (Aschmann 1959; Laylander 2000; Mathes 2006). Particularly important and detailed are the works of Miguel Venegas (1757, 1979) and Miguel del Barco (1973).

Cochimi map


The Cochimí language was part of the Yuman–Cochimí family.


  • Aschmann, Homer. 1959. The Central Desert of Baja California: Demography and Ecology. Iberoamericana No. 42. Berkeley, California.
  • Barco, Miguel del. 1973. Historia natural y crónica de la antigua California. Edited by Miguel León-Portilla. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City.
  • Hedges, Ken. 1973. "Painted tablas from northern Baja California". Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 9(1):5-20.
  • Laylander, Don. 1997. "The linguistic prehistory of Baja California". In Contributions to the Linguistic Prehistory of Central and Baja California, edited by Gary S. Breschini and Trudy Haversat, pp. 1–94. Coyote Press, Salinas, California.
  • Laylander, Don. 2000. Early Ethnography of the Californias: 1533-1825. Coyote Press, Salinas, California.
  • Massey, Lee Gooding. 1972. "Tabla and atlatl: two unusual wooden artifacts from Baja California". Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 8(1):25-34.
  • Mathes, W. Michael. 2006. "Ethnohistoric evidence". In The Prehistory of Baja California: Advances in the Archaeology of the Forgotten Peninsula, edited by Don Laylander and Jerry D. Moore, pp. 42–66. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.
  • Meigs, Peveril, III. 1970. "Capes of human hair from Baja California and outside". Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 6(1):21-28.
  • Meigs, Peveril, III. 1974. "Meigs on tablas". Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 10(1):37-38.
  • Mixco, Mauricio J. 1978. Cochimí and Proto-Yuman: Lexical and Syntactic Evidence for a New Language Family in Lower California. University of Utah Anthropological Papers No. 101. Salt Lake City.
  • Mixco, Mauricio J. 1979. "Northern Cochimí Dialectology and Proto-Yuman". Journal of California and Great Basin Papers in Linguistics 1:39-64.
  • Mixco, Mauricio J. 2006. "The indigenous languages". In The Prehistory of Baja California: Advances in the Archaeology of the Forgotten Peninsula, edited by Don Laylander and Jerry D. Moore, pp. 24–41. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.
  • Rogers, Malcolm J. 1945. "An outline of Yuman prehistory". Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 1:167-198.
  • Venegas, Miguel. 1757. Noticia de la California y de su conquista temporal, y espiritual hasta el tiempo presente. 3 vols. M. Fernández, Madrid.
  • Venegas, Miguel. 1979. Obras californianas del padre Miguel Venegas, S.J. Edited by W. Michael Mathes, Vivian C. Fisher, and Eligio Moisés Coronado. 5 vols. Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, La Paz.
Cochimí language

Cochimí was once the language of the greater part Baja California, as attested by Jesuit documents of the 18th century. It seems to have become extinct around the beginning of the 20th century (Modern "Cochimi"-speakers are actually speakers of Kumiai.) There were two main dialects, northern and southern; the dividing line was approximately at the Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán, in the north of present-day Baja California Sur.

The Jesuit texts establish that the language was related to the Yuman languages of the Colorado River region. It is thought to be the most divergent language of the family, which is generally called Yuman–Cochimí to reflect this. Based on glottochronology studies, the separation between Cochimi and the Yuman languages is believed to have occurred about 1000 BC.

Cocopah language

Cocopah is a Delta language of the Yuman language family spoken by the Cocopah. Cocopah is believed to have derived from the Hokan language, and it is related to the other Native American languages of Mojave and Kumeyaay. Cocopah is considered an endangered language, with fewer than 400 speakers at the turn of the 21st century. However, in an effort to keep the language alive, Yuma County's Cocopah Museum began offering classes teaching Cocopah to children in 1998.

Comondú complex

The Comondú Complex is an archaeological pattern dating from the late prehistoric period in northern Baja California Sur and southern Baja California. It is associated with the historic Cochimí people of the peninsula.

The complex was defined on the basis of investigations at rock shelters near the town of San Jose de Comondú by archaeologist William C. Massey, beginning in the late 1940s. It has been recognized at sites extending from the Sierra de la Giganta (west of Loreto) in the south to Bahía de los Ángeles in the north.

A key characteristic of the Comondú Complex is the presence of small Comondú Triangular and Comondú Serrated projectile points. These points reflect the introduction of the bow and arrow into the peninsula, perhaps around 500-1000 CE, largely supplanting the earlier atlatl and dart. Other traits include grinding basins and slicks, manos, tubular stone pipes, coiled basketry, and square-knot netting. The region's Great Mural rock art may also be associated with the Comondú Complex.

Havasupai–Hualapai language

Havasupai–Hualapai (Havasupai–Walapai) is the Native American language spoken by the Hualapai (also spelled Walapai) and Havasupai peoples of northwestern Arizona. Havasupai–Hualapai belongs to the Pai branch of the Yuman–Cochimí language family, together with its close relative Yavapai and with Paipai, a language spoken in northern Baja California. There are two main dialects of this language: the Havasupai dialect is spoken in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, while the Hualapai dialect is spoken along the southern rim. As of 2010, there were 550 speakers of Havasupai-Hualapai. UNESCO classifies the Havasupai dialect as endangered and the Hualapai dialect as vulnerable. There are efforts at preserving both dialects through bilingual education programs.

Ipai language

Ipai, also known as 'Iipay or Northern Diegueño, is the Native American language spoken by the Kumeyaay people of central San Diego County, California. Hinton (1994:28) suggested a conservative estimate of 25 surviving Ipai speakers.

Ipai belongs to the Yuman language family and to the Delta–California branch of that family. Ipai and its neighbors to the south, Kumeyaay and Tipai, were often considered to be dialects of a single Diegueño language, but the current consensus among linguists seem to be that at least three distinct languages are present within the dialect chain (e.g., Langdon 1990). Confusingly, Kumeyaay is commonly used as a designation both for the central language in this family and for the Ipai-Kumeyaay-Tipai people as a whole.

Published documentation for the Ipai language includes reference and teaching grammars, a dictionary, and several texts (cf. Mithun 1999:578).

Kiliwa language

Kiliwa, alternate Names: Kiliwi, Ko’lew or Quiligua (in Kiliwa: Koléew Ñaja') is a Yuman language spoken in Baja California, in the far northwest of Mexico, by the Kiliwa people.

Kumeyaay language

Kumeyaay (Kumiai), also known as Central Diegueño, Kamia, and Campo, is the Native American language spoken by the Kumeyaay people of southern San Diego and Imperial counties in California. Hinton (1994:28) suggested a conservative estimate of 50 native speakers of Kumeyaay. A more liberal estimate (including speakers of Ipai and Tipai), supported by the results of the Census 2000, is 110 people in the US, including 15 persons under the age of 18. There were 377 speakers reported in the 2010 Mexican census, including 88 who called their language "Cochimi".Kumeyaay belongs to the Yuman language family and to the Delta–California branch of that family. Kumeyaay and its neighbors, Ipai to the north and Tipai to the south, were often considered to be dialects of a single Diegueño language, but the current consensus among linguists seems to be that at least three distinct languages are present within the dialect chain (e.g., Langdon 1990). Confusingly, Kumeyaay is commonly used as a designation both for the central language of this family and for the Ipai-Kumeyaay-Tipai people as a whole. Tipai is also commonly used as a collective designation for speakers of both Kumeyaay and Tipai proper.

Misión La Purísima Concepción de Cadegomó

Mission La Purísima, was founded west of Loreto in Baja California Sur, by the Jesuit missionary Nicolás Tamaral in 1720 and financed by the Marqués de Villapuente de la Peña and his wife the Marquesa de las Torres de Rada. By 1735 it had been moved to a new location at the Cochimí ranchería known as Cadegomó, meaning "arroyo of the carrizos", about 30 kilometers south of the original site. The mission was abandoned in 1822. In the early twentieth century, the church was still in use, but by the start of the following century only a few traces of structures remained...

Misión Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Huasinapi

Mission Guadalupe was established by the Jesuit Everardo Helen in 1720, at the Cochimí settlement of Huasinapí in the Sierra de la Giganta about 40 kilometers west of Mulegé, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

The mission went through a typical trajectory of demographic decline experienced by the Baja California missions, as the neophyte population dwindled under the impact of Old World diseases. The mission was abandoned in the Dominican period, in 1795, when its residents were transferred to La Purísima. Surviving traces of Mission Guadalupe include building walls, dams, and graveyards.

Mission site: 26°55′9.50″N 112°24′20.60″WRoad access: travel west from Mulegé about 25 miles (40 km) [intersection is at 26°45′47.99″N 112°15′43.30″W] then north about 12 miles (19 km). The road is rough but passable.

Misión San Francisco Borja

San Borja was a Spanish mission established in 1762 by the Jesuit Wenceslaus Linck at the Cochimí settlement of Adac, west of Bahía de los Ángeles.

Before becoming a mission, the future site of San Borja served as a visita or subordinate mission station for Misión Santa Gertrudis. The construction of buildings was begun in 1759. A stone church was completed during the Dominican period, in 1801.

The mission was abandoned in 1818, as the native population in this part of the peninsula disappeared. Structures and ruins survive.

As of 2016 an 8th generation family is still caring for the structures on their property. They provide tours and share knowledge.

Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó

Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó was a Spanish mission on the Baja California peninsula in colonial Mexico, the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

The site is in present-day Loreto Municipality of Baja California Sur state. The mission was located at 25°51′38″N 111°32′37″W. San Francisco Javier mission was founded by Jesuits of the Roman Catholic church in 1699 and closed in 1817. The missionary's objective was to convert the local Cochimí Native Americans (Indians) to Christianity. A mission church survives and is in use.

Misión Santa María de los Ángeles

Mission Santa María de los Ángeles was the last of the missions established by the Jesuits in Baja California, Mexico, in 1767. The site chosen was the Cochimí settlement of Cabujakaamung ("arroyo of crags"), west of Bahía San Luis Gonzaga near the Gulf of California coast, about 22 kilometers east of Rancho Santa Inés, and south of Cataviña.

The mission site was visited by the Jesuit missionary-explorers Ferdinand Konščak and Wenceslaus Linck. Victoriano Arnés founded the mission to replace the unsatisfactory site of Calamajué only months before the Jesuits were expelled from Baja California. After the establishment of Mission San Fernando Velicatá, Santa María was reduced to the status of a visita, or subordinate mission station. The visita was abandoned in 1818. Ruined structural walls and rock corrals survive at the site.

Mojave language

Mojave or Mohave is the native language of the Mohave people along the Colorado River in northwestern Arizona, southeastern California, and southwestern Nevada. Approximately 70% of the speakers reside in Arizona, while approximately 30% reside in California. It belongs to the River branch of the Yuman language family, together with Quechan and Maricopa.

The Mojave language became endangered during the 20th century when Mohave children were taken away from their parents to be raised in boarding schools, where they were prohibited to speak the language. They were prohibited from speaking it even with their parents when they occasionally visited home; while many parents did not speak English.

Paipai language

Paipai is the native language of the Paipai. It is part of the Yuman language family. There are very few speakers left because most Paipai now live in Kumeyaay villages.

It is believed that Paipai was separated from the Northern Pai languages many years ago. In oral tradition of most Yuman tribes, the people descended from Avikwame (also known as Newberry Mt.) and went were Kumat directed them. So at one time the Paipai might have been with the other tribes.

The Paipai language was documented by Judith Joël and Mauricio J. Mixco, who have published texts and studies of syntax.

Paipai belongs to the Yuman language family. Within the Yuman family, Paipai belongs to the Pai branch, which also includes the Upland Yuman language, dialects of which are spoken by the Yavapai, Walapai, and Havasupai of western Arizona. The relationship between Paipai and Upland Yuman is very close; some observers have suggested that Paipai and Yavapai are mutually intelligible (i.e., that the Paipai and Upland Yumans spoke dialects of a single language), while other observers have claimed that they are not.

The controversial technique of glottochronology suggests that the Pai branch of Yuman may have separated from the other two branches of Core Yuman (River Yuman and Delta–California Yuman) about 1,000-1,700 years ago. Paipai may have separated from Upland Yuman 1,000 years ago or less.

Quechan language

Quechan or Kwtsaan, also known as Yuma, is the native language of the Quechan people of southeastern California and southwestern Arizona in the Lower Colorado River Valley and Sonoran Desert.

Quechan belongs to the River branch of the Yuman language family, together with Mohave and Maricopa languages. Publications have documented Quechan grammar and texts.In 1980, it was estimated that there were fewer than 700 speakers of the language, including both the elderly and young. Hinton (1994:32) put a conservative estimate of the number of speakers at 150, and a liberal estimate at 400-500. As of 2009, 93 preschoolers were learning Quechan in the Quechan tribe's language preservation program, and the number of fluent speakers was estimated to be about 100. A Quechan dictionary was in progress.Quechan speakers participate in the Yuman Family Language Summit, held annually since 2001.A 2010 documentary, “Songs of the Colorado,” by filmmaker Daniel Golding features traditional songs in the Quechan language. Golding says, "The songs are all sung in the language, so if you're not learning and picking up the language, then you won't be able to understand the songs ... there are actually words telling stories..." Assistance is available for speakers of the language who wish to vote in elections in Imperial County, California and Yuma County, Arizona, under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Tiipai language

Tiipai (Tipay) is a Native American language spoken by a number of Kumeyaay (Kumiai) tribes in northern Baja California and southern San Diego County, California. It is also known as Southern Diegueño. Hinton (1994:28) provided a "conservative estimate" of 200 Tipai speakers in the early 1990s; the number of speakers has declined steadily since that time.

Tipai belongs to the Yuman language family and to the Delta–California branch of that family. In the past, Tipai and its neighbors to the north, Kumeyaay and Ipai, have been considered dialects of a single Diegueño language, but linguists now recognize that they represent at least three distinct languages (for discussion, see Langdon 1990). Tipai itself is not a uniform speech variety, and some suggest that it might be possible to recognize multiple languages within Tipai (Laylander 1985:33; Mithun 1999:577).

Published documentation of the Tipai language includes a descriptive grammar (Miller 2001), a comparative dictionary (Miller and Langdon 2008), a word list (Meza and Meyer 2008), and texts (Hinton 1976, Hinton 1978, see also Miller 2001:331-348).

Visita de San José de Magdalena

The Visita de San José de Magdalena was founded in 1774 by the Dominican missionary Joaquín Valero to serve Cochimí Indians associated with the Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Building a visita, or subordinate mission station, at the site 16 kilometers west of the Gulf of California was initially proposed by the Franciscan missionary Francisco Palóu prior to the Dominicans' assumption of responsibility for the Baja California missions. The visita was terminated when the mission at Mulegé was closed in 1828. Ruined walls of stone and adobe brick survive at the site.

Visita de San Juan Bautista Londó

The Jesuit visita, or subordinate mission station, of San Juan Bautista Londó was founded by Juan María Salvatierra and Francisco María Piccolo in 1699. It was located at the Cochimí settlement of Londó, about 30 kilometers north of Loreto and 13 kilometers west of the Gulf of California coastline, west of the abortive mission site of San Bruno that had been occupied in 1684–1685 by Isidro de Atondo y Antillón and Eusebio Francisco Kino.

Permanent stone structures were begun at Londó in 1705, but by 1750 its Cochimí population had been relocated to Misión San José de Comondú. Ruins now attest to the former presence of the visita.

Yuman–Cochimí languages

The Yuman–Cochimí languages are a family of languages spoken in Baja California, northern Sonora, southern California, and western Arizona. Although only Cochimí is no longer spoken, going extinct in the late 18th century, all other Yuman languages are nearly extinct.

More than 100,000 people
20,000–100,000 people
1,000–20,000 people
Less than 1,000 people

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.