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Luiseno Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Luiseno Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Luiseno 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 Luiseno pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Luiseno Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Luiseno"? What does it mean?
Luiseno, also spelled Luiseño, is pronounced loo-ee-sane-yoh. This was the Spanish name for the tribe. The Spanish had the habit of naming the so-called "Mission Indians" of southern California after the nearest Catholic mission, in this case, San Luís Rey. Their own name for themselves was Payomkawichum, which means "Western people," but most modern tribal members prefer Luiseno today.

Where do the Luisenos live?
The Luiseno are a Southern California tribe, located on the West Coast around what is now Oceanside. Most Luiseno people still live in this area today.

How is the Luiseno Indian nation organized?
Like many California Indians, the Luisenos were placed in reservations together with other Mission Indians from different tribes. A reservation is land that belongs to an Indian tribe and is under their control. However, since most Luiseno people share reservations with people from other tribes, they have to share that control as well. Each Mission Indian reservation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country.

In the past, each Luiseno village had its own chief, who usually inherited the position from his family. The chief was supported by a tribal council of local clan leaders, who worked together with him to make important decisions. Today, Luiseno tribes are led by council members elected by all the people on the reservation (both Luiseno and non-Luiseno.)

What language do the Luisenos speak?
Luiseno people all speak English today, but there are some people, especially elders, who also speak their native Luiseno language. If you'd like to know an easy Luiseno word, míyu (pronounced similar to "mee-yoo") is a friendly greeting.

What was Luiseno culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. On their site you can find information about the Luiseno people in the past and today.


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How do Luiseno 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 Luiseno 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. Luiseno kids enjoyed footraces and dice games. A Luiseno mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back. Here is a website with pictures and information about cradleboards.

What were Luiseno men and women's roles?
Luiseno men were hunters and warriors, responsible for feeding and defending their families. Luiseno women did most of the child care and cooking, and gathered herbs and food from the wilderness. Only Luiseno men became chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, arts and crafts, music, and traditional medicine.

What were Luiseno homes like in the past?
Most Luiseno people lived in earthen houses, which are made of an undergound room covered by a wooden frame packed with clay and brush. The thick earth walls kept this kind of house cool in the heat and warm in the cold, making it good shelter in the desert.

Luiseno people do not live in these old-fashioned dwellings today, any more than other Americans live in log cabins. Luiseno families live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Luiseno clothing like? Did the Luisenos wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Originally, Luiseno people didn't wear much clothing-- men wore only American Indian loincloths, and women wore knee-length skirts. Shirts were not necessary in Luiseno culture, but the Luisenos sometimes wore rabbit-skin robes at night when the weather became cooler. Unlike most Native American tribes, the Luisenos rarely wore moccasins. They either went barefoot or wore sandals. Here are some photos and links about traditional Indian dress in general.

Luiseno men did not originally wear Indian feather headdresses like the Sioux. Luiseno women wore basket hats, and men went bare-headed. Traditionally, Luiseno men and women both wore their hair long. The Luisenos wore native tattoos that showed their clan affiliations, and they also painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.

Today, Luiseno people 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 Luiseno transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Luisenos built canoes for fishing and traveling along the sea coast. They used two different kinds of canoes: tule boats, which were made of bundled reeds and were very light, and dugout canoes, which were made of hollowed-out logs and were much heavier. The dugout canoes were better for going out to sea, while the reed canoes were better close to shore. Here is a website showing Native American boat types. Over land, the Luisenos usually just walked. Once Europeans introduced horses to North America, the Luisenos could travel quicker and further.

What was Luiseno food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Luisenos were hunter-gatherers, and moved from place to place frequently as they gathered food for their families. Luiseno men hunted deer, rabbits, and small game, and went fishing in the rivers and ocean. Luiseno women gathered acorns, nuts, beans, and fruits. They baked bread from specially prepared acorn flour, or sometimes from corn they got in trade. Here is a website with more information about Native American foods.

What were Luiseno weapons and tools like in the past?
Luiseno hunters used bows and arrows or throwing sticks, and sometimes built wooden traps. Fishermen used nets and harpoons. Luiseno warriors fired their arrows or used war clubs. Here is a website with pictures of Native American Indian weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Luiseno tribe interact with?
The Luisenos traded frequently with neighboring tribes, such as the Cahuilla, Kumeyaay, and and Gabrielino tribes. The Southwest Indian trade routes ran from Southern California all the way east to Santa Fe, so the Luisenos were able to trade for many items that were not available in their own environment.

What are Luiseno arts and crafts like?
Luiseno artists are famous for their Indian baskets and clay pottery. Here is a museum website showing photographs of Luiseno and other Mission Indian baskets from the Morongo Reservation.

What kinds of stories do the Luisenos tell?
There are lots of traditional Luiseno legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Luiseno Indian culture. Here is one story about a man-eating monster. Here's a website where you can read more about Luiseno mythology.

What about Luiseno 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 Luiseno beliefs or this site about Indian beliefs in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
We don't know of any good children's books about the Luisenos. Older kids might be interested in Pablo Tac, an interesting account of colonial California by a 19th-century Luiseno writer. Life of the California Coast Nations is a good kids' book about coastal California tribes in general, including information about the Luisenos and Juanenos. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended books about Native Americans.

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 Luiseno Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Luisenos

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

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

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

Luiseno Words
Luiseno Indian vocabulary lists.



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