The Kawaiisu Culture
The Kawaiisu language base is of the Southern Numic division of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Although
the Kawaiisu homeland was bordered by speakers of Uto-Aztecan languages, they were non-Numic speakers. The
to the south spoke Takic, the
to the north spoke Tubatualabal. The
west were non-Uto-Aztecan. Because they shared the Southern Numic language, the
to the east
are considered the closest relatives to Kawaiisu.
“Coyote was carrying a basket with many children in it. He grew tired and set the basket on the ground. The
children came out of the basket and ran away. They scattered in every direction. Coyote tried to catch them,
but he couldn't. That is why people are all over the earth.”
The homeland, or core area, of the Kawaiisu encompassed a large portion of the Piute, Scodie and Tehachapi
is only one of numerous village sites that have been identified throughout the area. On
the fringes of their homeland, the Kawaiisu shared hunting and gathering grounds with the Kitanemuk and the
Great Basin or California?
Both the Kawaiisu and the Tubatulabal homelands, or core areas, straddle the ridge of the Sierra Nevada
Mountains. Historically, the crest of these mountains has been used as the boundary to distinguish between
the Native Americans of California and those of the
In this sense, the
and part of eastern Oregon, southern Idaho and western Utah. While
Kawaiisu traditions are more closely related to those of the central California groups than those of their
Numic relatives, there are elements of both the Great Basin and California.