Comunidad works with ten tribal communities affiliated with the Kumeyaay, Pai Pai, Cucapah and Kiliwa tribes. Tribes in Baja California are distinguished by their language, not location. All are located in the northern part of the Baja state and belong to the larger Yuman family of cultures and languages that also includes groups from southern California and Arizona.
Pai Pai territory originally extended from the Gulf of California coast, through the mountain and desert interior to the Pacific. Some Pai Pai elders still recall making the trip by foot from their community high in the mountains down to the Pacific coast beyond San Vicente to collect abalone, or east to work in the cotton harvest in the Mexicali Valley. Today some 350 Pai Pai (or “Jaspuy paium” as they call themselves) live in two distinct communities: Santa Catarina in the Sierra Juarez mountains, and San Isidoro near Trinidad Valley. Many Pai Pai make a living raising livestock, harvesting the natural resources of their land (such as yucca, pine nuts, honey, and firewood), raising crops and making hand-crafts such as pottery, bows and arrows and agave fiber carrying nets. The language of the Pai Pai is closely related to the languages of the Yavapai, the Hualapai, and the Havasupai of Arizona, with whom they also share many other cultural similarities.
Kumeyaay historic territory extended from Santo Tomas in Baja California, across much of the Sierra Juarez to as far north as Escondido, in California. This territory is now divided by the international border, with 15 reservations located in San Diego county and four indigenous communities in Baja California: Juntas de Neji, San Jose de la Zorra, San Antonio Necua, and La Huerta. In these last two communities, a dialect of the Kumeyaay language sometimes referred to as Cochim’ is spoken. Most Kumeyaay communities are located near large stands of live oak trees which have long provided acorns, an important food in the Kumeyaay diet. Today, many Kumeyaay work as wage laborers in the wine producing industry of the Guadalupe Valley, in the agricultural fields of the Ojos Negros Valley, as cowboys or farmers, or in the elaboration and sale of traditional handcrafts such as willow and juncus baskets.
HELPING ACHEIVE LIFELONG VALUE
Cucapah territory, at least during the last 400 years, included the slopes of the sierra Cucapah, the Rio Hardy, and the lower delta of the Colorado River. The rivers and their flood plains have long provided the Cucapah with a rich environment for planting corn, beans and squash, as well as for hunting, fishing and gathering a wide variety of wild foods such as mesquite pods, wild wheat and other wild grassed, tule roots, amaranth and other greens. Their unique position at the base of the Colorado River has made the Cucapah an important link between the native people of Baja California and other Indigenous groups of Arizona and Sonora, introducing new ideas in such areas as pottery making, music and religious concepts. Today, due to the reduction and environmental devastation of ancestral Cucapah territory, only a few settlements remain, some north and some south of the International border. Approximately 250 Cucapah live in Baja California, most of them in and around El Mayor Cucapah. Cucapah artisans are famous for creating magnificent bead collars, bark skirts and other traditional handcrafts.
The Kiliwa, (or kolew, as they call themselves) originally inhabited a wide territory including much of the Sierra de San Pedro Martir, Baja California’s highest mountain range. The most isolated and southernmost of all the Yuman groups, the Kiliwa probably represent one of the earliest branches to separate from the Yuman family of languages and cultures. Today approximately 50 Kiliwa live in the area known as Arroyo de Leon, not far from Trinidad Valley, at the foot of the sierra. Like their ancestors before them, many Kiliwa still hunt rabbits, quail, deer and other animals, gather wild plant foods such as prickly pear or barrel cactus fruits, and grow crops on small family plots for their own use. Some raise cattle or goats, or harvest plant resources from their land such as honey and yucca, which can be sold for extra income. Many Kiliwa live outside of their indigenous community in neighboring towns and ranches. There they find more opportunities to find work as cowboys or in agriculture.