Extinct Ancient Societies Gabrielino American Indians Part 1

About the Gabrielino Native Americans, history of the extinct society, how they were destroyed and the last of them.



Their Society: An American Indian tribe living along the Pacific Ocean, the Gabrielino occupied the Los Angeles Basin area, which today includes Los Angeles County, the northern half of Orange County, and some eastern parts of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The Gabrielino also inhabited the islands of San Clemente and Santa Catalina. The Gabrielino were a Shoshone people who migrated west from the regions of Nevada and Utah around 500 B.C. Belonging to the Uto-Aztecan language group, the Gabrielino were related to the Ute, Hopi, and Comanche.

The Gabrielino homeland was a varied region with sandy beaches and coastal marshes, grassy prairies, chaparral-covered foothills, and pine-covered mountains. It is estimated that 100 permanent Gabrielino villages dotted the landscape from the San Bernardino Mountains to Catalina Island. This was a nation of fishermen, hunters, and gatherers. The coastal Gabrielino, who had major villages at what are now Newport Beach, San Pedro, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu, and Catalina, fished for shark, rays, abalone, and swordfish. Those on the islands hunted sea otters, seals, and sea lions. Other Gabrielino Indians lived inland in such villages as Cucamongna, Tuhungna, and Yangna. (Yangna, the precursor of modern Los Angeles, lies beneath what is now know as Union Railway Station.) The land-oriented Gabrielino hunted deer, small rodents, and birds. They also moved to temporary mountain camps during certain seasons to gather acorns, sage, yucca, and cacti.

The Gabrielino were one of the most culturally and economically advanced tribes in southern California. On Catalina, Gabrielino mined soapstone--steatite--which they carved into ornaments and eating and cooking utensils. The Gabrielino traded their valuable soapstone products with neighboring tribes. They plied their carved wares as far east as the villages of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico. Since trade was important to the Gabrielino, they eventually developed a monetary system and used strings of various shell beads as legal tender.

The chiefs and their extended families acted as the aristocracy and ruled a village or a confederation of villages. Although a male-oriented society, the Gabrielino sometimes had female chiefs. Often the chief's powers were eclipsed by the village's shaman, or priest. The Gabrielino shamans belonged to the jimsonweed religious cult, which worshiped the god Chingichngish. Supposedly, the shamans, after drinking a jimsonweed (a powerful hallucinogenic drug) and saltwater concoction, could foresee the future and will death on enemies of the village. Often a shaman would fall victim to the evil spirits and turn on his own people, in which case other shamans had to be brought in to strip the malevolent shaman of his power.

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