The names of Native American homelands can be descriptive, beautiful, and mysterious. Here are a few places:
The Desert: Pūichekiva, Road Runner’s House
In older times, a Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), Púwish in Cahuilla, was always an asset to have around. “The roadrunner was thought of very fondly by the Cahuilla, in part because of its ‘good humor,’ but also because of its role as a protector against rattlesnakes … Its presence was encouraged, and this bird was treated by many as a pet because it would keep rattlesnakes away from a home.”1
Greater Roadrunner (Photo by Dick Daniels, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
“Pén púwish kíll pichwemqwáwe' … We did not eat roadrunners,” Katherine Siva Saubel said in her cultural 2004 memoir.
“Pé'é' 'ácha'i' méxan'a' míyaxwenap míyaxwe pé'.
They bring good luck.
'Achakwe' pé'iy 'áchakwe' pichemtéewwe' pé'iy púwi'chi'.
We held roadrunners in high regard.
Chémiyik pé' pé' pengíñanqa …
They are very important to us …
'Emúchi' péniichiqalipa' pé' pé' 'ácha'i' 'eméxan'a' míyaxwenap míyaxwe.
If one goes by in front of you, good fortune will be your lot.
'Awa' péniichiqa' … pénga' 'ángapa' vukméniqalipa' pénga' pénga' 'elélkwish 'eméxan'a' míyaxwenap míyaxwe. 'Exenuk chememi' chememtéteyamaxwe'.
If however, he goes by … if he doubles back in front of you, then misfortune will befall you. That’s what they told us.”2
The site of the village Pūichekiva, meaning Road Runner’s House, is within what is now Torres-Martinez Reservation. “This was one of the most important Cahuilla villages in the desert from perhaps about 1850. … The village broke up because of a water shortage when the water table fell about the turn of the century.” 3
San Jacinto Mountains: Hoon wat hec ic, Home of the Bear
Francisco Patencio told how Ca wus ke on ca named the Cahuilla places:
“Then going up the north side of Hidden Lake, Poo ool, he called that grassy cienega Hoon wat hec ic, meaning the home of the bear that always lived there in the early days. 4
Grizzly Bear in 1894 Trapper’s Guide by S. Newhouse
“Going to the high peak where the sun sets, he called it Mow it check mow win it, meaning seed on the side of the hill. Down below, where water runs in the canyon, that place he called Young ga vet wit ham pah va, which means the drinking place of the wild buzzards.
“From there he went to the place of the very cold spring, the water so cold it hurts the teeth. This place he called Ow kee ve lem, meaning the place of the horns. The hunters came to drink the water of this cold spring, and there they threw the horns of their game into a tall pine tree, till it hung full of them.”5
San Gorgonio Mountain area: Kíhut∫ aki
The Serrano leader Santos Manuel and his son Tomás toured the San Bernardino Mountains in 1918 with ethnologist and linguist J.P. Harrington. They told him about a small lake near San Gorgonio Mountain, believed to be the lake now called The Tarn. They warned him about Kíhut∫ aki. 6
“Manuel has never been there,”7 J.P. Harrington noted. “His father pointed it out to him from a distance and he saw the water. His father told him not to go to that place — not that it was difficult to get there, but that it was magic. Tomás has never been there but knows more or less where it is. There is a fish there the size of a man but red like fire. He lives in the water there. …
“Once some Paiutes, Manuel says, killed a deer near Kíhut∫ aki and, seeing the water there, dragged the deer thither to cook it. As they approached, a violent wind arose and they dragged it away quickly … When that fish is about to come out, a wind arises.”
Ernest Siva: Place Names
Elder Ernest Siva (Cahuilla-Serrano), president of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, shares stories about several place names:
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Bean, Lowell J., Sylvia Brakke Vane, Sue Myers, and James Toenjes, (Cultural Systems Research Inc.) Cahuilla Ethnozoology, 2007, for U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs, p. 13.
Sauvel (also commonly spelled as Saubel), Katherine Siva, and Eric Elliott, “Eating Roadrunners?” in 'Isill Heqwas Wáxish: A Dried Coyote’s Tail, Malki Museum Press, 2004, Book 2, p. 1352.
Bean, Lowell John, Sylvia Brakke Vane, Jackson Young, The Cahuilla Landscape: The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains, © 1991 Ballena Press, p. 77.
News from Dorothy Ramon Learning Center shared bear stories with you in June, "The Earth Tells the Bear Everything."
Patencio, Francisco, and Margaret Boynton. Stories And Legends of the Palm Springs Indians, 1943, Palm Springs Desert Museum, p 96.
Cultural Systems Research, Inc. (led by Lowell John Bean and Sylvia Brakke Vane), “A Glossary of Serrano and Other Native American Placenames and other terms, from the Ethnographic Notes of John Peabody Harrington,” Appendix in Ethnographic Overview of the San Bernardino Forest, Part A: The North, 2004, prepared for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Southern California Province, Angeles National Forest, Arcadia, CA, by Northwest Economic Associates and Cultural Systems Research Inc. pp 142-143
NOTE (from above Appendix, page iii): J.P. Harrington referred to Santos Manuel as Manuel Santos. During a transition period, some Native American men used their father’s first name (in Spanish) as a surname.