Monterey County History


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California Indians Daily Life

12,000 - 2000 B.C.
The Indians
T
he indians that once lived in Monterey County were well established by the time the Spanish explorers documented them in the late 1760s. The major Monterey County indian groups were the Ohlone (formerly Costanoan), Esselen, and Salinan.
The indians occupied all of California in well defined provinces or territories. The provinces were defined by natural topographies such as rivers and mountains. These provinces provided a sense of security so there was little need for warfare and most tribes lived a peaceful and harmonious existence. There are no clear records of the number of indians living in the county at the time.

Ancestral Homelands of the early Peoples

Traded items among the indians were for things such as obsidian used for arrowheads and sea shells. Shells provided an artistic avenue and a useful currency. The main diet of the indians was a mush made of acorns. The acorns needed to be leached of the tannic acids and ground into meal before cooking the mush with hot stones in a water proof basket. Grinding rocks used in the preparation of acorn meal still exists today in spots around
county (in the Monterey Presido, and in Carmel Valley on the Esselen tribe land)

A favorite fish was salmon, folk lore mentions that the salmon was plentiful in those days. Salmon swam in most streams, some times twice a year. According the first European account the indians wore very little clothing, not unusual considering the Monterey Countys mild climate and the generations of indians acclimating to the weather.

The darkest time in the indian civilization was the California Mission Era. When most of the indians were rounded up and forced to serve in the Missions. Not allowed to speak their native tongue, not able to practice their customs and living in separate male and female quarters the indians suffered. During the gold rush the indians suffered another dark time when miners having quit the search for gold settled down to farming on indian land by either killing the inhabitants or running them off their land.

Today the only large indian owned land is the 1200 acres of Esselen land privately owned since the Mission era.

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