In light of yesterday being Los Angeles County’s first celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day, we are honoring the native peoples of the Antelope Valley with today’s post.
The Antelope Valley has been home to Native Americans since the first Paleoindian people arrived during the terminal Pleistocene, up to 12,000 years ago. The early inhabitants of the Antelope Valley were made up of six primary Native American nations. Each nation spoke a variant of two primary language groups: Numic and Takic, both branches of the Uto-Aztecan language family.
The Kitanemuk centered in the Western portion of the Antelope Valley; the Tataviam, meaning “people who sun themselves,” lived adjacent to the Santa Clarita River and the southern edge of the Antelope Valley; the Serrano, who called themselves takhtam or “people,” lived in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains; the Vanyume (also called Beñemé), sometimes considered a branch of the Serrano, lived north of the San Gabriel Mountains, into the valley and along the Mojave River basin. These groups spoke a variant of Takic language.
The Kawaiisu, who called themselves nuwu, also meaning “people,” lived in present-day Tehachapi, and the Chemehuevi lived in the Eastern Mojave Desert. These groups spoke a variant of Numic language.
While the neighboring tribes shared cultural and linguistic traits, each was politically independent with only a village chief for authority. Village chiefs maintained contact with one another to facilitate peaceful relations, engage in communal ceremonies, and to allow collaboration and cooperation between groups when necessary.
Tribal populations of these groups were generally between 500 to 1000 individuals, concentrated in semi-sedentary settlements. Permanent settlements used in the winter were established in the foothills and mountains, with groups moving down to the valley floor and dispersing into smaller temporary camps for the warmer months. These villages, both permanent and temporary, were utilized over many generations.
One of these continually inhabited villages is at the southeastern edge of the Antelope Valley, near the town of Lake Los Angeles. Here, various cultural elements such as stone tools, beads, ceramics, hearths (prehistoric fire pits), and middens (prehistoric trash pits) have been found in abundance. This projectile point was found just beyond the site boundaries.
It is classified as a Cottonwood Triangular projectile point, a common technological adaptation of the Great Basin and Antelope Valley that can be dated to between 900-150 years ago. This type of projectile point would have been used as an arrowhead, targeting small game such as rabbit. It is made out of a material called chalcedony, which is a cryptocrystalline form of silica common in the Antelope Valley region. Due to its fine-grained cryptocrystalline structure, chalcedony is characterized by its ability to fracture conchoidally, making it a highly sought after material for stone tool production
"Antelope Valley Indian Museum, Antelope Valley Indian Peoples, AVIM.parks.ca.gov
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"