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Mojave Desert Indians - Historic Desert Indian Territories Map:

Vanyume Indians

The Vanyume or Beñemé, as Father Garces called them, lived beyond and along much of the length of the Mojave River, from the eastern Mojave Desert to at least the Victorville region, and perhaps even farther upstream to the south. They also appear to have lived in the southern and southwestern Antelope Valley. They intermarried with the Serrano and spoke a dialect of the Serrano language, so they may be thought of as a desert division or branch of the Serrano proper.

The Vanyume living along the Mojave River were quite wealthy in shell-bead money and other items. This was perhaps on account of the active trade route running along the Mojave River, connecting the Colorado River tribes and the Indian nations of the Southwest with the Indian groups of coastal southern California.

The Serrano-speaking villages of the southern Antelope Valley were, according to Garces, affiliated with this desert branch of the Serrano. Garces had passed up the length of the Mojave River in early 1776, and then crossed the southwestern Antelope Valley some weeks later. Garces was accompanied by Mojave Indian guides from the Colorado River who knew where the tribal boundaries were. In any case, these southern Antelope Valley native communities, including Maviajek and Kwarung, had strong ties with Serrano-speaking communities on the upper Mojave River and in the areas of the northern San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains.

The Vanyume had a culture and food supply practices that were similar to those of the Serrano of the San Bernardino Mountains. Despite living in the desert, this branch of the Serrano had the advantage that it could receive and use in its desert villages large quantities of acorns gathered in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain ranges to the south. This allowed large villages to be supplied with abundant food far out in the desert, far north of where oak trees could be found. Father Garces reported having been given acorn porridge at a Vanyume village just to the southwest of modern Barstow, far from any oak grove.

The Vanyume shared a territorial boundary with the Chemehuevi to the northeast. The Chemehuevi had much lower population densities than the Vanyume and other Serrano because their food resources were less abundant. The Vanyume population may have ranged from 500 to 1000 or more at the arrival of the Spanish.



Source - California State Parks


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Vanyume Indian cooking pot


Vanyume Indian territory

Notes¹

The Vanyume were the desert Serrano. They ranged along the Mojave River from Victorville/Hesperia to east of Barstow. The Vanyume (Wanyuma) are mentioned in the journal of Jedediah Smith as poor but friendly.


Language: Northern Takic
Family: Takic
Stock: Uto-Aztecan


Aboriginal Locations
Atongaibit, Cacameat, Guacaibit, Topipapit, and at least two other villages.


1771 Mission San Gabriel Arcangel founded
1776 Garces arrived in territory
1806 Padre Jose Zalvidea baptized Indians probably at Guacaibit.
1810 Four Vanyume taken by Spanish from Topipapait to San Fernando Mission
1819 Asistencia established near Redlands; a large number of Vanyume massacred by Mojave tribe
1826 Vanyume visited by Jedediah Smith
1851 Juan Maria Lugo and Indian cowboys ambushed near Cacameat by Ute horse thieves under Chief Walkara, Ignacio Palomares and other rider were ambushed near Topipapit


Other speakers of the same language: Gabrielino, Kitanemuk, Serrano

¹Four Directions Inst.


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