November is Native American Heritage Month

Haawka! Hello! That is how you can greet someone in Kumeyaay and English. November is Native American Heritage Month, and we acknowledge that San Diego County is the unceded ancestral and current homeland of four Tribal cultural groups:

  • The Kumeyaay, formerly known as the Diegueño, whose land extends to northern Baja California, Mexico;
  • The Luiseño, or Payómkawichum in the Luiseño language;
  • The Cahuilla, or Ivilyuqaletem in the Cahuilla language; and
  • The Cupeño, or Kuupangaxwichem in the Cupeño language.

There are 18 federally-recognized Tribal Nation Reservations in San Diego County, a greater number than in any other county in the United States. And in San Diego today, the Kumeyaay, Luiseño, Cahuilla, and Cupeño peoples live, thrive, and advocate for Indigenous self-determination and responsible stewardship of the region’s land, water, and other natural resources.

Many place names in San Diego County are derived from Kumeyaay words.

  • Cuyamaca comes from ‘Ekwiiyemak, meaning behind the clouds or the place where it rains.
  • Jamacha is from the word xamca, or bottle gourd.
  • Pauwai, meaning arrowhead or watering hole, is known today as Poway.
  • The precise derivation of Otay is disputed, but the place name comes from words meaning brushy, big mountain, or big.
  • Matlahuayl means Land of Holes, referring to coves. This was transcribed by Spanish colonists as La Jolla.

To learn more about the Kumeyaay and other Tribal Nations of North America, check out these organizations and resources!