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The Luiseño are the most Southwestern group of Shoshonean people in the greater North American desert. The name Luiseño came from their having lived in close proximity to the Spanish mission San Luis Rey (1798-1834) which is located in northern San Diego County near Oceanside, California. Originally, the Luiseño may have been called Payomkowishum ('people of the west') by neighboring people and Ataxum ('The people') by themselves.
The Luiseño occupied parts of north coastal San Diego County and Riverside County in  pre-Hispanic (before 1769) Southern California. It is theorized that the Luiseño came into Southern California approximately 5,000-7,000 years ago during severe altithermals (drought periods) from the Basin areas east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Their Shoshonean neighbors like the Cupeño, Cahuilla, Serrano, Gabrielino/Tongva and Chemehuevi were part of this migration. This Southern California environment was and is a mild coastal desert environment dominated by the Coastal Sagebrush Scrub plant community that is often referred to as chaparral, a word derived from the Spanish "chaparro", scrub oak. The Luiseño gathered and used a great deal of plants ; but also hunted and used animals in this environment. Traditional views saw the plants as a sacred link to the earth producing nutrients directly for herbivores and indirectly for carnivores. Meat of herbivores, like deer, was seen as sacred since they ate the plants.

The Luiseño also recognized the interaction of various factors, such as water, disease, predator/prey, and natural burns that impacted the population of game animals on land and in water. At times they figured out ways of improving game animal populations through techniques such as controlled burning. Such management usually increased population of rodents and grazing animals due to the post burn growth surge of herbaceous plants, but it could prove risky if heavy rain followed purposeful set burns. Evidence indicates that varying climates and human use was usually less detrimental to environments than today's developmental impact. Southern California abounded in deer, elk, antelope and numerous rodents, birds, reptiles, etc. on the land with fish, turtles, crustacea, mollusks, and mammals in the fresh and salt water.  The Luiseño devised a seasonal pattern of hunting and gathering that started on the coast and lowland lagoon/rivers in the spring; and worked  up into the mountains by fall for great acorn gathering festivals. The peoples biggest competition for most of these resources was the California grizzly, which pretty much followed the same seasonal pattern. The animals like humans overlapped the more fixed plant zones, but due to the semi-arid climate many would not be visible in the day. The coyote was one of the most successful animals of the chaparral/scrub communities and has become the most successful mammal in close proximity to humans today.

We will examine the Luiseño use of animals (Kingdom: Animalia), but due to multiple uses the species will be listed by taxonomy, rather than by use.


  ORDER: CARNIVORA (Flesh-eaters)

FAMILY Genus/species Common name Luiseno name Use Notes
Ursidae Ursus arctos californicus grizzly bear hunwut occasional; ceremonial Ca. ssp. extinct
Canidae Canus lupus grey wolf iswut hide reduced/extinct
  Canus latrans coyote anno bow case/quiver  
  Urocyon cinereoargenteus gray fox kawawish bow case/quiver  
  Vulpes macrotis kit fox hide  
Felidae Felis onca jaguar ? reduced/extinct
  Felis concolor mt. lion,cougar,puma tookwut bow case/quiver  
  Lynx rufus bobcat bow case/quiver  
Procyonidae Procyon lotor raccoon pahyammel hide  
Bassariscidae Bassariscus astutus ringtail cat    
Mustelidae Mustela frenata longtail weasel wiskonla    
  Taxidea taxus badger hoonul    
  Spilogale putorius spotted skunk pahlakoomul    
  Mephitis mephitis striped skunk pallakut    
  Enhydra lutris sea otter tukval bow case/quiver/cape reduced

    ORDER:PINNIPEDIA (Sea Lions & Seals)

Otariidae Zalophus californianus Ca. sea lion   food/blubber  
  Arctocephalus philippi Guadalupe fur seal   "  
  Callorhinus ursinus Alaska fur seal   "  
Phocidae Phoca vitulina harbor seal   food/blubber  
  Mirounga angustirostris elephant seal   "  

       ORDER: INSECTIVORA (Insect-eaters)

Soricidae Sorex ornatus ornate shrew      
  Notiosorex crawfordi gray shrew      
Talpidae Scapanus latimanus Ca. mole pahmumkul    


Phyllostomidae Macrotus californicus leafnose bat      
Vespertilionidae Myotis californicus Ca. myotis/Little brown bat tahvahlukma   M.evotis;M.tysanodes; M. yumanensis; M. subulatus similar range
  Pipistrellus hesperus Western pipistrel      
  Lasiurus cinereus hoary bat     L. borealis, red bat similar/smaller
  Eptesicus fuscus big brown bat      
  Plecotus townsendi Western big-eared bat      
  Antrozous pallidus pallid bat      
Molossidae Tadarida brasiliensis Mex. free-tailed bat     T. molossa, big free-tailed bat similar

     ORDER: RODENTIA (Gnawing mammals)

Castoridae Castor canadensis beaver food reduced range
Sciuridae Citellus beecheyri Ca. ground squirrel kanish food
Eutamias merriami Merriam chipmunk wiskun food
Sciurus griseus Western grey squirrel sokahwet food interior/mts.
Glaucomys sabrinus N. flying squirrel interior/mts.
Geomyidae Thomomys bottae valley pocket gopher mawtah food/belts
Heteromyidae Perognathus longimembris little pocket mouse food /belts
Dipodomys merriami Merriam kangaroo rat pa'ac food
Cricetidae Reithrodontomys megalotis Western harvest mouse food
Peromyscus californicae Ca. mouse pahahs food P.eremicus,cactus m.;P.maniculatus, deer m., similar
Onychomys torridus S.grasshopper mouse food
Neotoma lepida desert woodrat kowla food/secondary food/roots N. fuscipes, dusky-footed woodrat similar
Microtus californicus Ca. vole yovish food
Leporidae Lepus californicus blacktail jackrabbit sooish food/winter robes/1st singer a hare
Sylvilagus audubani desert cottontail tositut food/winter robes
S. bachmani brush rabbit tovit food

    ORDER: ARIODACTYLA (Even-toed hoofed mammals)

Cervidae Cervus candensis Elk, Wapiti pa'ashukut food/skin/sinew reduced
  Odocoileus hemionus Mule Deer sookut food/skin/sinew/hooves used for rattles  
Antilocapridae Antilcarpa americana Pronghorn, Antelope tunlah food  
Bovidae Ovis canadensis Bighorn Sheep pahaht food/sinew/horns  

    ORDER: CETACEA (Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises)

Ziphiidae Mesoplodon stejnegeri Pacific Beaked Whale      
Delphinidae Tursiops gilli Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin   food  
  Lagenorhynchus obliquidens Pacific White-Sided Dolphin      
Eschrichtiidae Eschrichtius gibbosus Gray Whale kuyoowut food, vertebrae:. seat, ribs: house frame  
Balaenidae Balaena glacialis Pacific Right Whale      



Testudinidae Clemmys marmorata Western Pond Turtle paa'ila food  
  Terrapene ornata Western Box Turtle pahelah food/shell used for rattles  
  Gopherus agassizi Desert Tortoise   reduced range
Gekkonidae Coleonyx variegatus Banded Gecko food  
Iguanidae Callisaurus draconoides Zebra-tailed Lizard food  
  Crotaphytus collaris Collared Lizard food reduced range
  Sceloporus occidentalis Western Fence lizard kahselah food  
  Phrynosoma coronatum Coast Horned Lizard challakkah    
Scincidae Eumeces skiltonianus Western Skink food  
Teiidae Cnemidophorus tigris Western whiptail    
Leptotyphlopidae Leptotyphylops humilis Western blind snake    
Boidae Charina bottae Rubber boa    
  Lichanuria trivirgata Rosy boa    
Colubridae Coluber constrictor Western Racer kula 'awut    
  Diadophis punctatus Ringneck snake pahhah    
  Pituophis melanoleucus Gopher snake sethe    
  Lampropeltis getulus californiae Ca. Kingsnake tettenglah    
  Thamnophis elegans Western garter snake    
  Tantilla planiceps Western black-headed snake pawvekut    
  Trimorphodon vandenburghi Ca. Lyre snake    
Viperidae Crotalus ruber Red Diamond rattlesnake me'qush    
  C. viridis helleri S. Pacific Rattlesnake sowat    
  C. mitchelli Speckled rattlesnake laxwalxwic    


Salamandridae Taricha torosa Ca. newt      
  Batrachoseps attenuatus Ca. Slender Salamander   taboo  
Pelobatidae Scaphiopus hammondi Western Spadefoot toad      
Bufonidae Bufo boreas Western toad      
Hylidae Pseudacris triseriata Chorus frog      
  Hyla regilla Pacific treefrog      
Ranidae Rana aurora draytoni Ca. Red-legged frog wahawut taboo  


Cathartidae Cathartes aura Turkey vulture allowwahkah feathers/skirt  
  Gymnogyps californianus Ca Condor yuna'avaywut feathers/skirt  
Elaninae Elanus leucurus White-tailed kite    
Acciptrinae Accipiter cooperi Cooper's hawk    
Buteoninae Buteo jamaicensis Red-tailed hawk kwahlah feather/ceremonial  
  Buteo lineatus Red-shouldered hawk    
  Buteo swainsoni Swainson's hawk    
  Aquila chrysaetos Golden Eagle ahswut feather/skirt/ceremonial  
  Haliaeetus leucocephalus Bald Eagle pame feathers/skirt  
Circinae Circus cyaneus Marsh hawk/Harrier tokavit    
Falconinae Falco mexicanus Praire Falcon feather  
  Falco sparverius Sparrow hawk kallokalliikme    
Tytonidae Tyto alba Barn owl chaht    
Strigidae Otus asio Screech Owl ammummul    
  Bubo virginianus Great Horned Owl mootah head-band/taboo  
  Asio otus Long-eared Owl muutamimal    
  Speotyto cunicularia Burrowing Owl kookkool    
Corvidae Corvus corax C. Raven kahweah skin/feathers/omen  
  C. brachyrhynchos C. Crow ahlwut feathers/omen  
  Pica pica Black-billed magpie tookoopoo    
  Aphelocoma coerulescens Ca. Scrub Jay chahish    
Cuculidae Geococcyx californianus Roadrunner pooepooe    
  Coccyzus americanus Yellow-billed Cuckoo    
Phasiaianidae Lophortyx californicus Ca./Valley quail kahahl food/feathers  
  Oreortyx pictus Mt. Quail kahhahwit food/feathers  
Columbidae Columba fasciata Band-tailed pigeon mahawut food  
  Zenaidura macroura Mourning Dove mahel food  
Caprimulgidae Phalaenoptilus nuttallii Poor-will pallakwis    
Alcedinidae Megaceryle alcyon Belted Kingfisher    
Picidae Colaptes cafer Red-Shafted Flicker tahvis feathers  
  Melanerpes formicivorus Ca./Acorn Woodpecker sawlah feathers  
  Sphyrapicus varius ruber Red-Breasted Sapsucker feathers  
  Dendrocopus villosus Hairy Woodpecker kahwankul    
  D. pubescens Downy Woodpecker    
  D. nuttalli Nuttall's Woodpecker 'iven'xal food/feathers  
Trochilidae Calypte anna Anna's Hummingbird tooshmel    
  C. cotae Costa's Hummingbird    
Icteridae Sturnella neglecta Western Meadowlark esahl feathers  
  Agelaius phoeniceus Red-Winged Blackbird pahhemal feathers  
  Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus Yellow-Headed Blackbird feathers  
  Icterus bullockii Bullock's Oriole tookoopul feathers  
  Euphagus cyanocephalus Brewer's Blackbird pahhemal    
  Molothrus ater Cowbird    
Fringillidae Pheucticus melanocephalus Black-Headed Grosbeak pahhah    
  Carpodacus purpureus Ca. Purple Finch yowyellah    
  Spinus tristis Goldfinch      
  Pipilo fuscus Brown Towhee topnel    
  Amphispiza belli Sage Sparrow      
  Melospiza melodia Song Sparrow      
  Zonotrichia atricapilla Golden-Crowned Sparrow      
Thraupidae Piranga ludoviciana Western Tanager      
Tyrannidae Tyrannus verticalis Western Kingbird chakamel ceremonial  
  Empidonax minimus Least Flycatcher      
Alaudidae Eremophil alpestris Horned Lark      
Hirundinidae Hirundo rustica Barn Swallow palismel    
Paridae Parus gambeli Mt. Chickadee      
  P. inornatus Plain Titmouse yohwihwal    
Sittidae Sitta aculeata Nuthatch      
Chamaeidae Chamaea fasciata Wrentit      
Troglodytidae Campylorhynchus brunneicapillum Cactus Wren      
  Catherpus mexicanus Canon Wren      
Mimidae Mimus polyglottos Mockingbird tahmahwit    
  Toxostoma redivivum Ca. Thrasher    
Turdidae Hylocichla guttata Hermit Thrush    
  Sialia mexicana Western Bluebird    
Vireonidae Vireo bellii Bell's Vireo    
Parulidae Dendroica petechia Yellow Warbler    
  Icteria virens Yellow-breasted Chat    
Sylviidae Polioptila caerulea Gnatcatcher    
Gruidae Grus canadensis Sandhill Crane quaruut 1st Dancer,whistle  
Ardeidae Areda herodias Great Blue Heron qwa'qwaiwut whistle  
  Butorides virescens Green Heron    
  Casmerodius albus C. Egret    
  Nycticorax nycticorax Black-Crowned Night Heron    
Anserinae Branta candensis Canada Goose la'la food  
  Chen hyperborea White Brant/Snow Goose weesal food  
Anatinae Anas platyrhynchos Mallard Duck qaatqat food  
  Anas acuta Pintail food  
  Anus discors Blue-Winged Teal food  
  Anas cyanoptera Cinnamon Teal food  
Aythyinae Bucephala clangula C. Goldeneye food  
  Melanitta perspicillata Surf Scooter    
Oxyurinae Oxyura jamaicensis Ruddy Duck    
Rallidae Rallus longirostris Ca. Clapper Rail    
  Fulica americana Am. Coot shayla food  
Charadriidae Charadrius vociferus Killdeer    
  Arenaria melanocephala Black Turnstone      
Scolopacidae Totanus melanoleucus Greater Yellowlegs      
  Ereunetes mauri Western Sandpiper      
Recurvirostridae Recurvirostra americana Am. Avocet      
Larinae Larus californicus Ca Gull      
Sterninae Sterna albifrons Least Tern      
Podicipedidae Aechmophorus occidentalis Western Grebe      
Pelecanidae Pelecanus occidentalis Brown Pelican 'ataal robes/ food/omen  
Phalacrocoracidae Phalacrocorax auritis Double Crested Cormorant   food/ eggs  


Salmonidae Oncorhynchus kisutch Coho Salmon     S. CA range uncertain
  Salmo gairdneri Rainbow Trout   food  
Catostomidae Catostomus commersoni White Sucker   food  
Atherinidae Leuresthes tenuis Ca Grunion   food  
  Atherinopsis califoriensis Jacksmelt   food  
Percichthyidae Morone saxatilis Striped Bass   food  
  Paralabrax clathratus Kelp Bass   food  
Embiotocidae Amphistichus argenteus Barred Surfperch   food  
Mugilidae Mugil cephalus Striped Mullet      
Dasyatidae Myliobatis californicus Ca Stingray wollumal    


Haliotidae Haliotis cracherodii Black Abalone 'ayla food/jewelry/dishes
H. rufescens Red Abalone qexl food/jewelry/dishes
Cypraeidae Cypraea spadicea Chestnut Cowrie
Olividae Olivela biplicata Purple Olive beads/jewelry/money disc made from thickest section of shell; major form of money for ranking families
Mytilidae Mytilus edulis Common Blue Mussel food/utensils
Pectinidae Argopecten circularis Pacific Calico Scallop food
Leptopecten latiauratus Kelp-weed Scallop food
Ostreidae Ostrea lurida Ca. Oyster food
Mactridae Tresus nutalli Pacific Gaper Clam food
Donacidae Donax californicus Ca Donax food/jewelry
Veneridae Tivela stultorum Pismo Clam food
Turbinidae Astraea undosa Wavy Turban
Acamaeidae Fissurella volcano Volcano Limpet food
Megathura crenulata Great Keyhole Limpet food
Cephalopoda Octopus dofleini Pacific Octopus food


Danaidae Danaus plexippus Monarch      
Nymphalidae Euphydryas chalcedona Checkerspot      
  Nymphaltis antiopa Mourning Cloak      
Pieridae Colias eurytheme Orange Sulfur      
Papilionidae Papilio polyxenes Black Swallowtail      
Hesperiidae Eparrgyreus clarus Silver-spotted Skipper      
Sphingidae Manduca sexta Sphinx moth   cocoon rattles  
  Ceanothus silk moth   cocoon rattles  
Tenebrionidae Coelocnemis californicus Broad-necked Darkling Beetle      
Coccinellidae Adalia frigida Two-spotted Ladybird Beetle      
Phengodidae Melanactes sp. Glow worm (Larval stage) kaarawut ceremonial  
Formicidae Pogonomyrmex californicus Harvester Ant 'aanat Boys' puberty ordeal  
  Camponotus sp. Black Carpenter Ant lamaqqat    
  Limotopum occidentalis Tree Ant wiyawic    
  Dorymyrmex pyramicus Black lion Ant tuumalum    
Pediculidae Pediculus humanus Body Louse salat    
Belostomatidae Lethocerus americanus Giant Water Bug tcorwumal    
Andrenidae Andrena transnigra Burrowing Bee suka food-honey  
Sphecidae Sphex sp Digger Wasp    
  Hemipepsis formosa Tarantula Hawk Wasp pu'ulakwic    
Gryllidae Gryllus pennsylvancus Field Cricket sulkal food  
  Oecanthus californicus Ca Tree Cricket shulkul    
Gryllotalpidae Gryllotalpa sp Mole Cricket    
Tettigoniidae Microcentrum californicum Ca Katydid sulqual 1st basketmaker  
Gerridae Gerris sp Waterstrider    
Calliphoridae Calliphora vomitoria Blue bottle fly/blow fly sariiwut ceremonial  
  Phaenica sericata Green bottle fly      


Araneidae Argiope trifasciata Orb weaver kuye'eewut    
Argasidae Ornithodous taricata adobe tick toroshanat    
Lycosidae Lycosa sp. California wolf spider paakukat    
Theridiidae Latrodectus mactans Black widow kuyximic    
Scorpiones Centruroides sp Scorpion suyla    
Ctenizidae Bothriocyrtum californicum California trap-door spider naavayut    
Theraphosidae Dugesiella sp American tarantula monnawut    

CLASS: CHILOPODA AND DIPLOPODA (Centipedes and Millipedes)

Scolopendridae Scolopendra polymorpha Centipede waqpic    
Spirobolidae Hiltonius pulchrus Millepede      

CLASS: OLIGOCHAETA (Earthworms and Freshwater Worms)

Megascolecidae Argilophilus sp. Native earthworm      
Ocnerodrilinae Ocnerodrilus sp. Fresh water earthworm      


Revised 2009: Copyright © S.J. Crouthamel