Native Americans

Long before Europeans arrived, the Torrey Pines area was home to the Kumeyaay. Their lands extended from the Pacific Ocean south to what is now Ensenada, Mexico, east to the sand dunes of the Colorado River in the Imperial Valley, and north through the Warner Springs Valley, to what is now Oceanside and Highway 78. These lands were linked together by vast trading networks.

Living in bands of extended families, the Kumeyaay traveled the coast, mountains, and desert foothills. They spoke several dialects – the “Ipai” here in the north, and the “Tipai” in the south.

Their shelters and shade ramadas were constructed from local plants, which included willow, oak, manzanita, deerweed, tule, and chamise. Some of these, as well as other local materials, were also used in their fine coiled baskets and pottery.

Seasonally appropriate clothing, such as robes, capes, and blankets as well as skirts were made from rabbit skins. Buck skin, sea otter skin, and bark were also used. Shoes and sandals were made of agave or yucca fiber. Personal items included necklaces, bracelets, hairpins, and musical instruments. These were made from bones, claws, hooves and shells.

Stone was the raw material used for the making of many tools, which included knives and projectile points. The Kumeyaay were also adept at the use of milling and grinding tools used in the processing of many foods, such as the acorns, which were seasonally gathered in the local mountains. In addition, they gathered roots, berries, nuts and seeds, some of which were used for medicinal purposes.

The Kumeyaay were seasonal hunters. They processed many plants for food and practiced limited horticulture. They fished and hunted sea animals in the lagoons and ocean using fishhooks and nets. They also gathered grunion (small fish), shellfish, and mollusks from the beaches. The Kumeyaay hunted game ranging from rabbits and quail to large animals such as deer using implements like bows and arrows, throwing sticks and snares.

Today, Kumeyaay people still live in many of the same areas, including San Diego County and neighboring Baja California, Mexico. To learn about Kumeyaay language, stories and customs, visit their websites at, and  – Mike Winterton, TPSNR Ranger

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