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Chemehuevi Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Chemehuevi Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Chemehuevi Indian homepage for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Chemehuevi pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Chemehuevi Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Chemehuevi"? What does it mean?
Chemehuevi is pronounced cheh-meh-way-vee. The origin of this name isn't completely clear. It was probably a Spanish corruption of the Mojave word for "people who play with fish," Achiimuuev. However, some people believe that it may have come from the Yuman word for "running like a roadrunner" instead. In their own language, the Chemehuevi always called themselves Nw, which means "the people." But today they also call themselves by the name Chemehuevi.

Where do the Chemehuevis live?
The Chemehuevi Indians are native people of California. According to tribal history, the Chemehuevis were once part of the Southern Paiute tribe, which was spread throughout southwestern Utah, southern Nevada, northwestern Arizona, and southeastern California. Today, their main homelands are located in the Chemehuevi Valley area which is named after them, but there are also Chemehuevi people living on the Southern Paiute reservations, among the Mission Indian bands, and in the multi-ethnic Colorado River Indian Reservation in Arizona.

How is the Chemehuevi Indian nation organized?
The Chemehuevi have their own reservation, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control. The Chemehuevi tribe has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Chemehuevis are also US citizens and must obey American law. Not all Chemehuevi people live on the reservation. Many live in neighboring towns, and others live together with Native Americans from other tribes. Originally Chemehuevi government was very loose, with each nomadic band led by an informal headman rather than a ruling chief. Later the Chemehuevis began to choose a tribal chief like some of their neighboring tribes. Today, Chemehuevi tribes are led by council members elected by all the people.

What language do the Chemehuevis speak?
Chemehuevi people all speak English today, but there some people, especially elders, who also speak some of their native Chemehuevi language. If you'd like to know an easy Chemehuevi word, andan (pronounced similar to "ahn-dahn") means "friend."

What was Chemehuevi culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe. On their site you can find information about the Chemehuevi people in the past and today.


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How do Chemehuevi Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Chemehuevi children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Chemehuevi kids especially enjoyed footraces. A Chemehuevi mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradle board on her back--a custom which many American parents have adopted.

What were Chemehuevi men and women's roles?
Chemehuevi men were hunters and warriors, responsible for feeding and defending their families. Chemehuevi women did most of the child care, cooking, and cleaning, and also made most of the clothing and household tools. Only Chemehuevi men became chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Chemehuevi homes like in the past?
Most Chemehuevi Indians lived in wickiups. Wickiups are small round or cone-shaped houses made of a willow frame covered with brush and dirt. This was a good house style for a tribe that moved around a lot like the Chemehuevi, because it was easy for a family to build a new brush house whenever they migrated to a new location. Here are some pictures of wickiup houses.

Today, Native Americans only build a house like this for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for shelter. Most Chemehuevis live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Chemehuevi clothing like? Did the Chemehuevis wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Traditionally, Chemehuevi people did not wear much clothing. Chemehuevi women wore knee-length skirts made from deerskin or woven willow bark. Chemehuevi men wore Indian loincloths. Shirts were not necessary in Chemehuevi culture, but the Chemehuevis did sometimes wear ponchos made of rabbit skins in cooler weather. Chemehuevi people usually went barefoot, but while hunting or traveling would often wear rawhide sandals or moccasins. Here are some photos and links about Indian clothes in general.

Chemehuevi men did not wear Plains Indian war bonnets like the Sioux. Chemehuevi men and women had different kinds of basket caps they wore for special occasions. In the 1800's, many Chemehuevi women began wearing a large cloth kerchief over their hair. Women often braided their hair, and men often matted theirs into dreadlock-like hair rolls. Many Chemehuevis, both men and women, wore tribal tattoos, and men also painted their faces for certain occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.

Today, some Chemehuevi people still have moccasins or a basket hat, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.

What was Chemehuevi transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Chemehuevi Indians were desert people, and did not originally build boats. Later, after they settled by the Colorado River, they began making rafts from bundled reeds like the Mojave and other neighboring tribes. Originally the Chemehuevis would use dogs to help them carry their belongings as they migrated from place to place. Once Europeans introduced horses to North America, the Chemehuevis could travel quicker and further.

What was Chemehuevi food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Chemehuevis were originally hunter-gatherers, and moved from place to place frequently as they gathered food for their families. Chemehuevi men hunted deer, rabbits, lizards, and other small game. Chemehuevi women gathered roots, pine nuts, seeds and fruits. Later, when they became more settled near the Colorado River, Chemehuevi Indians began to do more fishing and grow crops like beans and corn. Here is a website with more information about Native American food sources.

What were Chemehuevi weapons and tools like in the past?
Chemehuevi hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Chemehuevi men fired their arrows or used war clubs and spears. Here are some pictures of American Indian weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Chemehuevi tribe interact with?
The Chemehuevis were kinfolk and allies of the Southern Paiute tribes, who spoke such a closely related language that they could usually understand each other. They also had a close relationship with their neighbors, the Mojave. Sometimes the Mojaves and Chemehuevis were at war with each other, but at other times they traded, intermarried, and shared technology.

What are Chemehuevi arts and crafts like?
Chemehuevi artists are famous for their native basket weaving. Here is a museum website showing photographs of different kinds of Chemehuevi baskets. Some Chemehuevi people also made beaded jewelry and pottery.

What kinds of stories do the Chemehuevis tell?
There are lots of traditional Chemehuevi legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Chemehuevi Indian culture. Here is one story about the creation of the Chemehuevi people. Here's a website where you can read more about Chemehuevi mythology.

What about Chemehuevi religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Chemehuevi beliefs or this site about Native American religion in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
We don't know of any children's books for kids about the Chemehuevi Indians. There is a very good collection of Chemehuevi legends which older kids may enjoy, Mirror and Pattern. Younger children may enjoy the picture book Coyote Steals the Blanket, based on a Ute folktale. The Chemehuevis tell versions of the same story. If you'd like to learn more about Chemehuevi culture and history, one great source is Chemehuevis. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2015.

Thanks for your interest in the Chemehuevi Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Chemehuevis

Chemehuevi Indian Tribe
An overview of the Chemehuevi people, their language and history.

Chemehuevi Language Resources
Chemehuevi language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Chemehuevi Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Chemehuevi tribe past and present.

Chemehuevi Indian Words
Chemehuevi Indian vocabulary lists.



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