Indian Tribes of San Bernardino County, California

The Indian Tribes that inhabited San Bernardino County were not a few, and several of them have representatives at the present day. There are the Yuma, who dwell along the Colorado River, from its entrance into Arizona to its outlet, occupying only the river bottoms; the Yuma are so far removed from the settled districts as to belong practically to Arizona. The Serrano and Cahuilla Indians have intermarried for so long a time that now the separate tribes can hardly be distinguished. They occupy divers fruitful valleys in the vicinity of San Bernardino. The Chimehuera and Pah-ute inhabit the sterile desert country north of the San Bernardino valley, rarely visiting the settlements. Already very few in number, they are rapidly becoming extinct. In the early days of San Bernardino these two tribes were very troublesome to the settlers, miners, and particularly to the stockmen, owing to their predilection for stock stealing. Hence resulted contests in which no little blood was shed on both sides. During the civil war these tribes became thoroughly imbued with the spirit of outlawry, and, reinforced by renegade whites, their menaces caused serious fears of a regular attack upon the town of San Bernardino. The Mission Indians, accustomed to whole-some restraints and guidance under the rule of the padres, found themselves homeless, helpless, and without resources or direction, on the carrying into effect of the laws of secularization. No other influence or provision was substituted for those which they then lost, and they were left in the situation of grown-up and untrained children, so that they have for the most part lapsed into the lives of vagrants and outcasts.

The agency for the Mission Indians in this county was established in 1878, with Colonel S. S. Lawson as agent. In 1879-’80 there was great distress among them because of a failure of crops and scarcity of work. The agent rep-resented to the Government the imminent approach of famine among them, and provision was accordingly made for feeding them until after the crisis. Of the six or eight schools established under the agency one is in this county, at the Potrero near Banning. The teacher reports encouraging progress by the pupils. The first census of the Indians in this county seems to have been taken about 1880, under the superintendence of Indian Agent Lawson, who ascertained as nearly as possible the number in each tribe. Of the Serrano, living chiefly at the Potrero, on the Colorado Desert, he found only 212, all told; of the Cahuilla, living mostly in the valleys, he found 204. This is a very small proportion of the tribes, as they mostly live in San Diego County. About the only possession of value in the hands of the Indians of San Bernardino at present is a limited number of horses. Yet there has been a marked improvement in their condition since the establishment of the agency. The Indians of the various tribes in these counties have mostly embraced Christianity, and they attend religious services at the mission chapel when they have an opportunity. The Mission Indians’ Consolidated Agency, a Federal institution, comprising some twelve Government employees, has its headquarters at Colton. The only Indian reservation in the county is the one at Banning, which contains about 200 Indians, being known as the Morongo reservation. The Government school here contains about twenty-two pupils, which is about the usual number belonging to these schools. The whole number of Mission Indians in the county at present is about 300. The training in the Indian schools of this agency reach about that grade corresponding to the intermediate grade of the public schools. The division comprehended in San Diego, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties contains eight day schools for Indians, averaging a daily attendance of eight pupils. The remnant of the Cahuilla are mainly engaged in stock-raising, the other tribes in agriculture, independently on their own lands, or as farm laborers. These Indians are almost self-sustaining. Once yearly the agency issues farming implements, distributed among the various reservations, seventeen in number, the issue not exceeding a value of $6,000, and about $600 are expended annually in relieving the institution comprises sixty acres of land, set to various kinds of trees, and it is a beautiful and valuable property.

Source: An Illustrated History of Southern California: embracing the counties of San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange, and the peninsula of lower California.

6 thoughts on “Indian Tribes of San Bernardino County, California”

  1. Hello, my name is Samuel Roy.

    I am an independent filmmaker.

    I would like to see if I can get in contact with someone to have an interview with.

    I am trying to raise awareness about the lives of current day Native Americans.

    Please help me get in contact with someone who would like to meet with me.

    Thank you.

  2. This is very interesting! we the people
    of Mentone would like to do a documentary or video on the Cahuilla Indians who had a great influence on our ZANJ A creek which we call the “Sankey” here in Mentone ,CA it’s the 200th anniversary this year of the Zanja

  3. I’m planning to visit “San Manuel Pow-Wow 2019” on October 11 so I watched the previous year’s activity Youtube and found it interesting. However, if I may comment, it’d be nicer if the Drummers also wear the tribe costume?

    Looking forward to an impressive event ahead.

    Prachana Unakul

    1. Hi prachanda,
      There are many websites to get educated before attending such an event, not to affend you, but these events are held with GREAT RESPECT FOR our CREATER, proper terms should be used in respect For ALL things,for example COSTUME = REGALIA,.I wish you all that is good and hope you had a wonderful time. POWWOWS.COM

  4. In the seventies a coworker gave me a string of heishi worked shell beads that had been collected individually, by her grandmother in the early nineteen hundreds, “around Riverside.” I strung them on a necklace that I cherished for a long time, until it broke, and until now I have been holding on to the beads thinking I would rework them. I now know that these would be best utilized going back to the descendants of their makers.

    There are about 65 of them, maybe 7 or 8 inches when strung. How do I get them back to you?

    1. Hi, Professor Long at CSUSB specializes in this sort of thing. You might contact him at the university or you can contact me – Gary Crethers

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