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chapter 1 Native Histories and the Interior World The first aspect one should become aware of in terms of California orality is the notion among Native communities that these stories are true. The Chumash, for example, use the term “timoloquinash’” to refer to these stories; it means “stories that are true.”. . . These tales tell of the ongoing experience of their human community and its interaction with the other communities of their landscape. —Suzanne Crawford and Dennis Kelley, American Indian Religious Traditions By the time Alarcón encountered the Cocopahs on the Colorado River in 1540, Native communities across thousands of square miles had already undergone a century of political-economic reconfigurations that in significant ways converged through the trade networks of the interior world.1 Thus, like Anishinaabewaki or Comanchería, pre-Columbian history was not static, and it continued to evolve during the Columbian exchange in a period of regenesis. Thus the timoloquinash’ of vastly different Indigenous communities meshed over a period of about two centuries that saw the rise of Limuw around the fourteenth century, a period of severe droughts and migrations between 1275 and 1450, and the resettlement of the Colorado River by 1500. Alarcón arrived at the middle—not the beginning—of an Indian chapter, one of many unfolding across the continent in the three centuries before 1540. For the Quechans, Mojaves, and Cocopahs of the Colorado River region, it was indeed a turbulent time. But it also coincided with the arrival of their creator, Kwikumat, who entered the interior world from the Colorado River. Other kin, villages, and cultures held their own timoloquinash’ within the San Joaquin Valley, Gila River, Great Basin, northern Baja Peninsula , and Colorado/Mojave Deserts. Natives also evinced varied pasts, values, labor regimes, food systems, and artistic traditions, as witnessed by Alarcón during his journey up the Colorado River in 1540. One Cocopah leader, Naguachato, befriended Alarcón and told him of this far-reaching diversity along the Colorado River: [26] native histories and the interior world [I] understood by this man that it was inhabited by [people of] 23 languages, and these were bordering above the river. I asked him whether every people were living in one town together, and he answered me “no,” but that they had many houses standing scattered in the fields, and that every people had their own separate territory, and that in every habitation there were great numbers of people. . . . These people, dwelling in that desert place, where very little maize grows, came down to the plains to buy it in truck [exchange] for deer skins. They were appareled with long garments of [deerskin] which they cut with razors, and sewed with needles made of deer bones. They had great houses of stone.2 Little is known of Naguachato, but his detailed observations demonstrated a keen understanding of the cultural geography, demography, and markets connecting local and interregional participants. Later in his relaciones , Alarcón recounts how he sailed further north along the Colorado and met some Halyikwamai (kin to the Cocopah) traders who had recently traveled to Zuni villages: “Now I understand from him that he had been at Cevola, and that it was a month’s journey from his country, by a path that went along the river a man might easily travel in forty days.”3 While he did Gila River Colorado River Mojaves Quechans Yokuts Chumash Tongvas Kumeyaays D i n e t a h Zuni Tucson Akimel O’odhams Havasupai Hualapi Santa Barbara San Diego San Gabriel Utes Cocopahs Hopis Cahuillas C o m a n c h e r í a A p a c h e r í a Caborca Interior World Apachería Comanchería Indigenous groups Spanish settlements olorad r ver do Riv v do Riv do Riv do ad rad olorad rad Col C C Mojaves ves v ve ves Mojav Mo Mojav jav M M M M kuts ku uts kuts uts umash h a uma Z Z Z Z p pai pa pai p vasup p p vas vas p p p p p Hav H H Hualap pi pi pi p ualap ual ual p p p Hu a ara ra arba arb arb ta Ba a B ant an an a r abr r Ga an G G Sa Sa el ri i tes Ute Ute U U opis is opis is Ho o o o o Ho Ho Ho Ho I n t e r i o r W o...


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