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The Indigenous Tribes of Baja

Which Indigenous tribes are from Baja California and Baja California Sur? Mexico has a rich history, but much of that history isn’t known to the general public. The Baja Peninsula—the northwestern part of Mexico near the Gulf of California—has a particularly rich history. There are several tribes that played a large role in the early history of the Baja Peninsula, southern California, and Mexico as a whole.

Primitive Cave paintings in Baja California Sur

Paipai

Somewhere between the Kiliwa, Kumeyaay and Cocopa in northern Baja California are the Paipai. The Paipai first encountered Europeans when Sebastián Vizcaíno‘s expedition mapped the northwest coast of Baja California in 1602. Paipai focused more on hunting and gathering than agriculture, as was the case for many indigenous tribes in this area. The main Paipai settlement is located in Santa Catarina, a community which is also shared by the Kumeyaay and Kiliwa. Unfortunately, the Paipai language has all but faded.

Kumeyaay

The Kumeyaay live right at the border of Baja California and southern California. Actually, the Kumeyaay are made up of two separate groups: the Ipai and Tipai. These two groups are divided by the San Diego River. According to some evidence, the Kumeyaay settlement may be as old as 12,000 years. While the population was once believed to be over ten thousand, there are only a few thousand Kumeyaay left today.

Cochimi

As far as the central Baja California peninsula goes, the Cochimi were the original settlers of the area. The Cochimi language bears a resemblance to the Yuman language of the area. As far as the indigenous Mexican tribes go, the Cochimi were very unique in the food they ate and the practices they followed.

Cucapás

The Cucapás are a group of Native Americans from the Baja California, Sonora and Arizona. The name translates to “cloud people,” which originated from the fog on the Colorado River. Cucapás were originally a part of Patayan culture, which is why they were big on agriculture in addition to relying on hunting and gathering food.

Kiliwa

The Kiliwa live between the Cochimi and the Pai Pai in northern Baja California. While the Nakipa group is often considered separate from Kiliwa, there is also evidence to suggest that both groups spoke the same Kiliwa language. While the Kiliwa were believed to have been a large group at one point, the population had severely declined by the time of Mexican independence in 1821.

Guaycura

Natives of Baja California Sur, the Guaycura are one of the oldest groups in Baja California. The Guaycura were nomadic hunter-gatherers, with a language that can’t be linked to any Native American languages. Because of this, some believe the Guaycura have been in the Baja California Sur area for thousands of years. Just like the Cochimi, the Guaycura ate the fruit of the pitahaya for a few months during the year.

Pericú

Occupying the southernmost point of Baja California Sur, the Pericú were the original inhabitants of the area. While the Pericú once had a rich culture that included its own unique language, the group has been both culturally and linguistically extinct for hundreds of years now. Unlike many of the other groups in this area, the Pericú were largely focused on maritime activities such as fishing. Agriculture wasn’t practiced by the Pericú.

Mexico has a rich and storied history that goes far beyond a single group of people. If you want to learn more about some of these indigenous tribes, to learn more about the mainland Mexico indigenous tribes see this article here.

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