The Juaneño or Acjachemen are an indigenous people of California. They traditionally lived along the coast in what is now Orange and San Diego counties. The name "Juaneño" originates from the Spanish Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded to colonize the area in 1776. They traditionally spoke the Juaneño language, a variety closely related to the Luiseño language of the nearby Luiseño people, but this is extinct. In the 20th century, they organized as the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation, which is recognized by the state of California, but is not federally recognized.

Juaneño (or Acagchemem)
Southern California Indian Linguistic Groups - Juaneño
The territorial boundaries of the Southern California Indian tribes based on dialect, including the Cahuilla, Cupeño, Diegueño, Gabrieliño, Juaneño (highlighted), and Luiseño language groups.[1]
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( California)
English, Spanish and Juaneño
traditional tribal religion,


During the late Paleoindian period and continuing into the present day, the southern coastal area was occupied by the Native American society referred to by Spanish colonists as the Juaneño.[2] Spanish priests named them as the people colonized by the nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano.[3] Today many contemporary Juaneño who identify as descendants of the indigenous society living in the local San Juan and San Mateo Creek drainage areas prefer the adopted indigenous term Acjachemen as their autonym, or name for themselves, in an effort to decolonize their history.

Alisocreek Bridge
Aliso Creek (Orange County) which traditionally marked the boundary between the Tongva and the Juaneño.

The Acjachemen territory extends from Las Pulgas Creek in northern San Diego County up into the San Joaquin Hills along Orange County's central coast, and inland from the Pacific Ocean up into the Santa Ana Mountains. Aliso Creek formed the northern boundary. The bulk of the population occupied the outlets of two large creeks, San Juan Creek (and its major tributary, Trabuco Canyon) and San Mateo Creek (combined with Arroyo San Onofre, which drained into the ocean at the same point).

The highest concentration of villages was along the lower San Juan Creek. The Spanish built Mission San Juan Capistrano there.[4] The Acjachemen resided in permanent, well-defined villages and seasonal camps. Village populations ranged from between 35 and 300 inhabitants, consisting of a single lineage in the smaller villages, and of a dominant clan joined with other families in the larger settlements. Each clan had its own resource territory and was "politically" independent; ties to other villages were maintained through economic, religious, and social networks in the immediate region. The elite class (composed chiefly of families, lineage heads, and other ceremonial specialists), a middle class (established and successful families), and people of disconnected or wandering families and captives of war comprised the three hierarchical social classes.[5]

Native leadership consisted of the Nota, or clan chief, who conducted community rites and regulated ceremonial life in conjunction with the council of elders (puuplem), which was made up of lineage heads and ceremonial specialists in their own right. This body decided upon matters of the community, which were then carried out by the Nota and his underlings. While the placement of residential huts in a village was not regulated, the ceremonial enclosure (vanquesh) and the chief's home were most often centrally-located.[6] Fray Gerónimo Boscana, a Franciscan scholar who was stationed at San Juan Capistrano for more than a decade beginning in 1812, compiled what is widely considered to be the most comprehensive study of prehistoric religious practices in the San Juan Capistrano valley. Religious knowledge was secret, and the prevalent religion, called Chinigchinich, placed village chiefs in the position of religious leaders, an arrangement that gave the chiefs broad power over their people.[7]

Boscana divided the Acjachemen into two classes: the "Playanos" (who lived along the coast) and the "Serranos" (who inhabited the mountains, some three to four leagues from the Mission).[8] The religious beliefs of the two groups as related to creation differed quite profoundly. The Playanos held that an all-powerful and unseen being called "Nocuma" brought about the earth and the sea, together with all of the trees, plants, and animals of sky, land, and water contained therein.[9] The Serranos, on the other hand, believed in two separate but related existences: the "existence above" and the "existence below". These states of being were "altogether explicable and indefinite" (like brother and sister), and it was the fruits of the union of these two entities that created "...the rocks and sands of the earth; then trees, shrubbery, herbs and grass; then animals..."[10]

The Acjachemen were designated as Juaneño's because they were in the general area of Mission San Juan Capistrano and the mission is named after St. Juan Capistran in Spain. So because they were in the area of San Juan Capistrano, they were named Juaneño's, children of Juan. Many other local tribes were named in Spanish because of they were in the general area of a mission (Tovnga - Gabrielino; named after Mission San Gavriel).


Their language is related to the Luiseño language spoken by the nearby Luiseño tribe located to the interior.[11] Considered to speak a dialect of Luiseño, the Juaneño were part of the Cupan subgroup of the Uto-Aztecan languages.

Their language became extinct by the early 20th century. The tribe is working at reviving it, with several members learning it. Their studies are based on the research and records of Anastacia Majel and John P. Harrington, who recorded the language in 1933. (The tape recordings resurfaced around 1995).


The Juaneño Band of Mission Indians has organized a government. It elects a tribal council, assisted by tribal elders. The Juaneño Band headquarters is in San Juan Capistrano. There are more than 2,800 enrolled members.

It is recognized as a tribe by the state of California. They filed a petition in 1982 to seek federal recognition as a tribe, and are working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on documentation.

In the 21st century, the tribe filed a land claim, seeking to regain the territory of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. This had been held by them as an Indian Rancheria until the 1930s. At that time, the US government bought the land for use as a defense facility.

In May 2013, Acjachemen voters elected the first all-female Juaneño tribal council in its history.[12]

Notable Acjachemen

  • Thomas "Happy" Hunn, elder and San Juan Capistrano patriarch.
  • Bobbie Banda, elder who established Native American education programs in public schools.[12]

See also


  1. ^ After Kroeber, 1925
  2. ^ Kroeber 1925, p. 636
  3. ^ The appellation Juaneño does not necessarily identify a specific ethnic or tribal group, as the Spanish sometimes gathered diverse peoples to live and work as servants and slaves at their missions.
  4. ^ O'Neil, pp. 68–78
  5. ^ Bean and Blackburn, pp. 109–111
  6. ^ Boscana, p. 37
  7. ^ Kelsey, p. 3
  8. ^ Hittell, p. 746
  9. ^ Hittell, p. 749
  10. ^ Hittell, pp. 746-747
  11. ^ Sparkman, p. 189: Linguistically, the Acjachemen tongue is a dialect of the larger Luiseño language, which is derived from the Takic language family (Luiseño, Juaneño, Cupeño, and Cahuilla Indians all belong to the Cupan subgroup), a part of the Uto-Aztecan (Shoshone) linguistic stock (this language is sometimes referred to as "Southern California Shoshonean"). But the language at Capistrano and Soboba differed "considerably from that of the remainder of the s, and by some the people of these places are not included among the Luiseños."
  12. ^ a b Park, Brian (2013-05-08). "Bobbie Banda, Juaneño Tribal Elder, Dies at 66". Capistrano Dispatch. Archived from the original on 2013-06-15. Retrieved 2013-06-04.


  • Boscana, Gerónimo, O.F.M. (1933). Chinigchinich: A Revised and Annotated Version of Alfred Robinson's Translation of Father Gerónimo Boscana's Historical Account of the Belief, Usages, Customs and Extravagancies of the Indians of this Mission of San Juan Capistrano Called the Acagchemen Tribe. Phil Townsend Hanna, ed. Fine Arts Press, Santa Ana, CA.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Bean, Lowell John and Thomas C. Blackburn (eds.) (1976). Native California: A Theoretical Retrospective. Ballena Press, Socorro, New Mexico.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Feinberg, Leslie (1996). Transgender Warriors. Beacon Press, Boston, MA. ISBN 0-8070-7940-5.
  • Hittell, Theodore H. (1898). History of California, Volume I. N.J. Stone & Company, San Francisco, CA.
  • Kelsey, Harry (1993). Mission San Juan Capistrano: A Pocket History. Interdisciplinary Research, Inc., Altadena, CA. ISBN 0-9785881-0-X.
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. (1907). "The Religion of the Indians of California". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology. 4 (6): 318–356.
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. (1925). Handbook of the Indians of California. Dover Publications, Inc., New York, NY.
  • O'Neil, Stephen (2002). "The Acjachemen in the Franciscan Mission System: Demographic Collapse and Social Change". Master's thesis. Department of Anthropology, California State University, Fullerton.
  • Sparkman, Philip Stedman (1908). "The Culture of the Luiseño Indians". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology. 8 (4): 187–234.

External links

Alfred Robinson (businessman)

Alfred Robinson (1806–1895) was an American businessman and author in 19th century Alta California of Mexico and California of the United States. Robinson wrote Life in California in 1846, an influential early description of the region, and Juaneño Native American people.

Aliso Creek (Orange County)

Aliso Creek is a 19.8-mile (31.9 km)-long, mostly urban stream in south Orange County, California. Originating in the Cleveland National Forest in the Santa Ana Mountains, it flows generally southwest and empties into the Pacific Ocean at Laguna Beach. The creek's watershed drains 34.9 square miles (90 km2), and it is joined by seven main tributaries. As of 2018, the watershed had a population of 144,000 divided among seven incorporated cities.Aliso Creek flows over highly erosive marine sedimentary rock of late Eocene to Pliocene age. What would become the Aliso Creek watershed originally lay at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, before being uplifted as recently as 10 million years ago. About 1.2 million years ago, the San Joaquin Hills began to uplift in the path of Aliso Creek. Occasionally swollen by wetter climates during glacial periods, the creek carved the deep water gap known today as Aliso Canyon, the main feature of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.

Historically, Aliso Creek served as the boundary between the Acjachemem (Juaneño) and Tongva (Gabrieleño) Native Americans. Spanish explorers and missionaries reached the area in the 1700s and established Mission San Juan Capistrano, whose lands included part of the Aliso Creek watershed. In the 1840s the watershed was divided between several Mexican land grants. After California became part of the United States, the ranchos were gradually partitioned and sold off to farmers and settlers; starting in the 1950s, real estate companies acquired most of the land for development.

By the 21st century, more than 70 percent of the Aliso Creek watershed was urbanized. Most of the creek's course has been channelized or otherwise impacted by development. Pollution and erosion from urban runoff have become chronic issues. However, parts of the creek remain free flowing and provide important regional wildlife habitat, especially in the Aliso Canyon section. The creek has recently been the focus of projects to restore the stream channel and improve water quality.

Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis

The basilica and the monastery of San Francisco de Asis were built in Havana, Cuba at the end of the sixteenth century (1580–91) as the home of the Franciscan community in Havana. The basilica was altered in 1730.

This church was used for their worship by the English during the year in which they ruled Havana. The Siege of Havana was a military action that lasted from March to August of 1762, and was a part of the Seven Years' War. British forces besieged and captured the city of Havana, which at the time was an important Spanish naval base, the Brirish dealt a serious blow to the Spanish Navy. Havana was subsequently returned to Spain under the 1763 Treaty of Paris that formally ended the war. When it returned to Spanish rule, they chose not to use it as a church. It is now used for concerts. Attached to the Basilica is a bell tower (138-ft). Originally a statue of St. Francis of Assisi stood on the top of the bell tower but it was destroyed by a cyclone in 1846. Today a statue of Fray Junípero Serra with Juaneño Indian boy stands next to the basilica.

The cloister of the adjacent monastery which dates back to 1739 now houses a museum of sacred art. In front of the Basilica on the sidewalk stands a bronze life-size statue by Jose Villa Soberon of José María López Lledín known as El Caballero de Paris (1899–1985) is buried inside the Basilica.

Bobbie Banda

Barbara "Bobbie" Lucille Banda (c. 1947 – May 4, 2013) was an American Juaneño tribal elder, activist, and a member of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians. Banda successfully championed efforts to introduction Native American curriculum, including Juaneño language courses, into the public school systems around San Juan Capistrano, California, during the 1970s. The curriculum is still taught in California public schools today.Banda was a ninth generation member of the Rios family. The Rio family has lived in the area since before the establishment of the Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1776. Banda was raised in the Little Hollywood neighborhood, located within San Juan Capistrano's Los Rios Street Historic District. She attended the city's San Juan Elementary School. Banda was a member of the now defunct Capistrano Union High School class of 1964, which was the last class to graduate from the high school.Banda was hired by the Capistrano Unified School District as a teacher's aide immediately after her high school graduation. She later worked for Endevco Aerospace for twenty-eight years.Bobbie Banda actively campaigned for the creation of Native American courses and programs at the Capistrano Unified School District during the 1970s. She successfully lobbied for U.S. federal funding to establish the educational programs. The programs created by Banda represented a major step toward Native American education in Southern California. The programs, led by her son, Nathan Banda, are still taught as part of the curicullum today.Banda was active in Juaneño politics as well. She served as the co-director of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians' elders committee for six years, until her death in May 2013. In 2013, Banda campaigned on behalf of the six candidates for the Juaneño tribal council. All six candidates endorsed by Banda were elected, leading to the first all female tribal council in Juaneño history.Bobbie Banda died from a series of strokes on May 4, 2013, at the age 66. She was survived by her husband, Frank, whom she had been married to for 48 years, as well as their four children - Frank Jr., Monica Clifton, Erika Zammoron and Nathan. Her funeral was held at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano.


Chingichngish (also spelled Chinigchinix, Chinigchinich, Changitchnish, etc.) also known as Quaoar (also Qua-o-ar, Kwawar, etc.) and by other names including Ouiamot, Tobet and Saor is the name of an important figure in the mythology of the Mission Indians of coastal Southern California, a group of Takic-speaking peoples, today divided into the Payomkowishum (Luiseño), Tongva (Gabrieliño and Fernandeño), and Acjachemem (Juaneño) peoples.

Chinigchinix was born, or first appeared, after the death of Wiyot, a tyrannical ruler of the first beings, who was poisoned by his sons.

Wiyot's murder brought death into the world, and as a consequence, the male creator Night divided the first human ancestors into distinct peoples, assigning them languages and territories.In June 2002, 50000 Quaoar, a large Trans-Neptunian object, was discovered and named after this deity.

Gerónimo Boscana

Gerónimo Boscana (Jerónimo Boscana) was an early 19th-century Franciscan missionary in Spanish Las Californias and Mexican Alta California. He is noted for producing the most detailed ethnographic picture of the cultures of Native Americans in California to come out of the missionary period, an account that "...for his time and profession, is liberal and enlightened" (Kroeber).

History of Newport Beach, California

The recorded history of the Newport Beach, California, region began when the area was first explored by Europeans in the 1500s. Prior to that time, Native Americans such as the Tongva and Juaneño/Luiseño people had been living in the area for thousands of years. Explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo mapped the coastline in 1542, but it was 200 years before Europeans settled the area. In 1769, Newport was a small portion of the land grant of Don José Antonio Yorba I, first under Spanish and then Mexican rule. After the Civil War, the land was developed by American settlers: for ranching by James Irvine and for shipping by James McFadden. A small settlement was built around McFaddens’ Wharf (at the location where the Newport Pier is today) and it became the largest business of Orange County, California. Following the opening of the San Pedro Harbor in Los Angeles in 1899, the commercial shipping industry in Newport declined. Newport Beach developed into a tourist and recreational boating community. in August 1906, Newport Beach became incorporated as a city.

JSerra Catholic High School

JSerra Catholic High School is a private coeducational Catholic high school located in San Juan Capistrano, California. Named after now-Saint Junípero Serra, the school was founded by parents in 2003 and is independent of, though sanctioned by, the Diocese of Orange. Total enrollment as of 2015 was 1225.

The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 the school was named as one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the United States by the Catholic High School Honor Roll of the Cardinal Newman Society.

Las Flores Estancia

The Las Flores Estancia (also known as Las Flores Asistencia) was established in 1823 as an estancia ("station"). It was part of the Spanish missions, asistencias, and estancias system in Las Californias—Alta California. Las Flores Estancia was situated approximately halfway between Mission San Luis Rey de Francia and Mission San Juan Capistrano. It is located near Bell Canyon on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base ten miles south of the City of San Clemente in northern San Diego County, California. The estancia is also home to the architecturally significant National Historic Landmark Las Flores Adobe, completed in 1868.

List of indigenous peoples in California

The indigenous peoples of California are the indigenous inhabitants who have previously lived or currently live within the current boundaries of California before and after the arrival of Europeans.


The Luiseño, or Payómkawichum, are a Native American people 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."The tribe was named Luiseño by the Spanish due to their proximity to the Mission San Luís Rey de Francia (The Mission of Saint Louis King of France.) Known as the "King of the Missions," it was founded on June 13, 1798 by Father Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, located in what is now Oceanside, California, in northern San Diego County. It was the Spanish First Military District.

Today there are six federally recognized tribes of Luiseño bands based in southern California, all with reservations. Another organized band has not received federal recognition.

Luiseño language

The Luiseño language is a Uto-Aztecan language of California spoken by the Luiseño, a Native American people 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 (80 km) from the southern part of Los Angeles County, California, to the northern part of San Diego County, California, and inland 30 miles (48 km). The people are called "Luiseño" owing to their proximity to the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.

The language is highly endangered, but an active language revitalization project is underway, assisted by linguists from the University of California, Riverside. The Pechanga Indian Reservation offers classes for children, and in 2013, "the tribe ... began funding a graduate-level Cal State San Bernardino Luiseño class, one of the few for-credit university indigenous-language courses in the country."As of 2012, a Luiseño video game for the Nintendo DS is being used to teach the language to young people.The dialect spoken by the Juaneño people is extinct.

Mission Indians

Mission Indians are the indigenous peoples of California who lived in Southern California and were forcibly relocated from their traditional dwellings, villages, and homelands to live and work at 15 Franciscan missions in Southern California and the Asisténcias and Estáncias established between 1796 and 1823 in the Las Californias Province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano was a Spanish mission in colonial Las Californias. It is located in present-day San Juan Capistrano, Orange County, southern California.

Olive, California

Olive is an unincorporated parcel of about 25 acres (100,000 m2) located along Lincoln Avenue between Eisenhower Park and Orange Olive Road, and surrounded by the city of Orange, Orange County, United States.


Panhe, was one of the largest Acjachemen villages, that is over 8,000 years old and a current sacred, ceremonial, cultural, and burial site for the Acjachemen people. The site of Panhe, is now within San Onofre State Beach, San Diego County, California, located at the confluence of San Mateo Creek and Cristianitos Canyon, approximately 3.7 miles (6.0 km) upstream from the Pacific Ocean. The Acjachemen's fished in San Mateo Creek's extensive freshwater marshes, and practiced a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The village of Panhe is estimated to have had a population of 300 or so before the first Spanish explorers came to the area, and is still a sacred site for the Native Americans.Panhe is the site of the first baptism in California, and in 1769 saw the first close contact between Spanish explorers, Catholic missionaries, and the Acjachemen people.

The United Coalition to Protect Panhe and The City Project advocate for the preservation of the site.


Putiidhem was a large native village of the Acjachemen people, today the Mission Indians tribe goes by the name Juaneño. It is situated in San Juan Capistrano, California just off Interstate 5, about a mile north of the mission.

Sulphur Creek (California)

Sulphur Creek is a 4.5-mile (7.2 km) tributary of Aliso Creek in Orange County in the U.S. state of California. The creek drains about 6 square miles (16 km2) of residential communities and parks in the southern San Joaquin Hills.

The Sulphur Creek watershed was once part of the territory of the semi-nomadic Acjachemen Native Americans, who were conquered by Spanish conquistadors in the 17th and 18th centuries and called the Juaneño after nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano. During the 19th century, the watershed became part of a rancho and was mostly agricultural and range land until the 1960s, when suburban residential development began in the watershed. Sulphur Creek Dam was built in 1966, forming Laguna Niguel Lake.

Today, the Sulphur Creek drainage basin includes parts of Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, and San Juan Capistrano. The creek also flows through parts of Laguna Niguel Regional Park and Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park. Urban runoff has changed the once seasonal creek into a permanent stream. Most of the creek has been channelized to control flooding and prevent erosion, although some sections still include riparian habitat.

Takic languages

The Takic languages are a putative group of Uto-Aztecan languages spoken by Californian Native Americans in southern California. The Takic languages appear to be two distinct branches of Uto-Aztecan, Serran and Cupan, with similarities due to borrowing.

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