Southern California Macro-Culture

HOME California Indians Main Page California Cultures Page



Cahuilla, Chumash, Cupeno, Diegueno, Gabrielino, Juaneno, Kamia, Kitanemuk, Luiseno, Serrano

Transition ethnies Esselen, Kawaiisu, Salinan, Tubatulabl
Shared Elements
Economy Communal
Government Autonomous villages with head man
Shamanism Male or female, broad knowledge of natural cures
Marriage Exogamy without moiety and village
Ceremonies Annual mourning ceremony, toloache male puberty ceremony, female heating puberty ceremony, sand painting, bird songs (social)
Creation Story Motif (coast) Mother Earth, Father Sky; (inland) Quarreling Brothers, (Chumash) Rainbow Bridge
Basketry High quality coiled
Primary Food Acorns
Note:  The inclusion of the Chumash in this macro-culture is speculative.  It is known, however, that the Chumash embraced at least some elements of the Southern California macro-culture.


     The Southern California macro-cultural tenets were key to successful economic and social aspects of the adhering ethnies.  Marrying outside of one's moiety and village ensured close blood relationships with all neighboring villages.  This not only therefore ensured peace, but it also ensured economic assistance in times of famine or disaster.  The relatively dense hunter/gatherer population that existed in Southern California necessitated the order the macro-culture provided.

     The Southern California macro-culture is often referred to as a toloache culture.  This is a result of the practice of using the hallucinogen datura (toloache) in the male puberty ceremonies.  Though datura was indeed used for these rites, male puberty rites were not the most important of the Southern California macro-culture and the general use of toloache was by no means reflective of the nature of the culture since it was used for no other reason.

     The most important rite of the Southern California macro-culture was indeed the annual mourning ceremony for the dead.  The complex social obligations of this rite resulted in important inter-village fellowship providing a vehicle for family reunions, friendship revival, and mutual aid in times of disaster or famine.  This contact vitalized trade, ensured peace, and provided the occasion for the retelling of the stories and the singing of the songs ... the Bird Songs.