CHEMEHUEVI ETHNOGRAPHY & ETHNOHISTORY
Early History of the Chemehuevi
Early History. The Chemehuevi are the southernmost branch of the Southern Paiute people.
According to Isabel Kelly's consultants, the Chemehuevis split from the Southern Paiutes
in the Las Vegas area before the early 19th century, and moved toward what is now the
and the area south of it on the
(Fowler and Fowler 1971:105; Kelly 1934). According to George Roth, the Chemehuevi and
Southern Paiutes apparently moved into the Mojave Desert about 1500 A.D., replacing the
Desert Mojave in the eastern Mojave Desert, and to some degree sharing the desert with
them thereafter, the
retaining the right to travel through it. There were
separate Desert Mohave and Chemehuevi trails across the Mojave placed just far enough
apart that those who used them would not encounter each other directly.
recorded the presence of "Chemevet" near the
near the Providence Mountains in 1776 (Roth 1976:81). The next mention of possible
Chemehuevi in the literature is
Jedediah Smith's account
of coming across two "Paiute" lodges at a place in the
about eight miles west of Soda Lake in 1827 (Sullivan 1934:33). In the half century
between the two sightings, the Franciscan missions had been founded along the coast,
and runaways' from them must have visited the Chemehuevi villages, followed no doubt
Spanish soldiers in pursuit.
Trafzer, Madrigal, and Madrigal (1997) write that until the late 1820s some Chemehuevis
have told them that Chemehuevis were living in the same villages as the Halchidhoma,
the Yuman-speaking group who lived south of the
Mohave on the Colorado River. At that time, Halchidhomas were driven from their homes by
the Mohaves and Quechans. The Chemehuevi who shared a riverside village with the
Halchidhomas some 15 miles south of Parker, Arizona, learned that the Mojaves were
about to attack and warned the Halchidhomas. They themselves then moved to the western
side of the River. After the war, they moved into some of the area once occupied by the
Halchidhoma, and were tolerated there until the 1860s.