Indigenous Land Acknowledgement: Honoring the Kumeyaay

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, 1502 Candle Co. is encouraging our community to try to use the holiday as an opportunity to acknowledge the Native inhabitants where you live. In other words, learn more about the land you occupy and who it belonged to before it was colonized. For us, that means honoring the Kumeyaay.

1502 Candle Co. would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional lands of the  Kumeyaay people. With much gratitude, we honor the land itself and the Kumeyaay of present, past and future.


We’d also like to acknowledge the fight all across the US and North America for Indigenous land rights and the LANDBACK movement. We stand with the Indigenous peoples and support them in the reclamation of their jurisdiction over lands and natural resources that were theirs before colonization.

Kumeyaay: The Native Inhabitants of San Diego

The Kumeyaay are the original inhabitants of what is now San Diego County and have lived in these lands for more than 10,000 years. Kumeyaay translates to “those who face the water from a cliff." 

The Kumeyaay people engaged in total environmental management of their land and water resources and were horticulturists and hunter gatherers. Anthropologist Dr. Florence Shipek wrote, “Kumeyaay erosion control systems…included complex techniques of controlled burning. These systems were combined with several methods of water management to maintain ground waters close to valley surfaces, and to keep the many springs and surface streams at usable levels for the complex Kumeyaay plant husbandry-corn agriculture systems… An unidentified native grain, which the Spanish described as ‘excellent pasture,’ once covered the valleys and low slopes in the Kumeyaay area…  Kumeyaay plant specialists experimented with all plants, testing them for subsistence, medicinal or technical purposes, using seeds, vegetative cuttings or transplants in every location.

In the May-June 1995 edition of “Audubon,”  Jessica Maxwell, says “When the Spanish first saw the meadows of the mountain valleys east of what we now call San Diego, they pronounced them ‘excellent pasture.’ They assumed them to be natural and, being European herdsmen, considered them prime grazing land… The early invaders were, in fact, gazing upon the ancient grain fields of the indigenous Kumeyaay Indians, some of the earliest––and best––environmental managers in North America.

Forced Off Ancestral Lands

The Kumeyaay’s original lands spanned from the Pacific Ocean east to the Colorado River, and north to south, from Warner Springs Valley to Ensenada, Mexico. Beginning in 1796 with the Spanish invasion, and continuing through the Mexican and American Period, the Kumeyaay were continually forced off their ancestral lands. Nearly all of the Kumeyaay lands were taken into private ownership or made U.S. government holdings. In 1850 treaties were negotiated with 18 California tribes to set aside 8.5 million acres in tribal lands but because of pressure from white settlers and the California Senate delegation, the treaties were all rejected by the United States Senate. 

Ongoing Challenges

Even though the Kumeyaay are one of the largest owners of land in San Diego County, of the total approximately 70,000 acres, more than 15,000 acres are unusable to the Kumeyaay because the El Capitan Reservoir was removed from Indian Government ownership. The reservoir feeds the San Diego River east of Lakeside and is located within the Capitan Grande Indian Reservation, which is jointly patented to the Viejas and Barona Bands.

In 2020, tribal members believed the construction of the Trump administration's US / Mexico border wall was disturbing the cremated and buried remains of their ancestors on their ancestral land. They led protests and sued the Trump administration over the disturbance (IG @kumeyaaydefense). However, a Judge denied the request to halt border wall construction. Unfortunately, colonization is an ongoing process.

Support Indigenous-Led Grassroots Movements and Campaigns 

This month, we’ve given back to Kumeyaay-led Tiepy Joa Native Warriors. Every winter around the winter solstice they visit their relatives in Baja bringing clothes, food, medical supplies and toys. They provide crucial support for the culturally vital yet undeserved reservations in Mexico and strive to promote social justice, health, education and cultural and language preservation, regardless of political or physical borders.

How Can You Practice Land Acknowledgement?

What do you know about the history of Indigenous peoples where you live? We encourage you to use this map as a starting point to find out who’s land you’re living on. Please remember, Land Acknowledgement is only a beginning and does not replace action. However, we feel it can be a starting point for decolonizing our relationships with people and places.

November 25, 2021 — Caroline Jackson
Tags: Giving Back

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