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Expanded Diary of Pedro Font
2/24/1776

Saturday, February 24.—We set out from the Santa Clara River at half past nine in the morning, and at half past three in the afternoon halted on a small elevation on the shore of the sea near the village of La Rinconada, having traveled some nine leagues. After starting we went three to the west, reaching the sea beach and the village called La Carpintería, situated near the Rio de la Asumpta, the first village of the Channel of Santa Barbara, unless one counts as the first one that of the Santa Clara River. The rest of the way was west by north, with some minor turns to the west at the headlands along the coast, which are numerous. [Footnote 243]— Nine leagues.

After going three leagues, all the way over level country, we came to the sea beach and the village of La Carpintería, so-called because the first expedition saw them building launches there. Two leagues beyond is the village of Los Pitos, so-called because of the whistle which the men of the first expedition of Commander Portolá heard blown there all night. For this reason Señor Ribera, who then was going in the vanguard, fearful of some trick on the part of the Indians, kept the men on their arms all night, only to discover in the morning that it was a very small village of four little huts and without people.

All this road as far as the camp site runs along the sea beach, almost touching the waves. For this reason it is a very diverting way, and it would have been more so if the day had been clear and good, and not so murky from the fog. The people of the expedition who had never seen the sea found many things to marvel at. The Channel of Santa Barbara, which is very long, is so-called because out in the sea at a distance of some six or eight leagues there are several islands which with the mainland form a strait. And I would say that it also might be called a channel because the road runs all along the beach between the sea and the land; for there the land ends in very steep cliffs, as if they had been sliced off, so that it is almost impossible to climb up them because they are so high and broken, although they are not rocky but are composed of land well grown with good pasturage. In places there is no other way except along the beach, and in other stretches although there is a road which they call "along the heights," it runs on the edge of the sliced-off part of the hills, with great precipices over the sea, which is visible there below.

The Indians of the Channel are of the Quabajay tribe. [Footnote 244] They and the Beñeme have commerce with the Jamajab and others of the Colorado River, with their cuentas or beads, consisting of flat, round, and small shells which they hunt for in the sands of the beach, and of which they have long strings hung around the neck and on the head. The dress of the men is total nakedness. For adornment only they are in the habit of wearing around the waist a string or other gewgaw which covers nothing. For a head dress they are accustomed to tie in the hair a cord, as I said of the Gilenos on November 7, in which they put a little stick or feather, and especially the cuchillo. This is a thin stick about two inches wide and a third of a vara long, at the end of which they fix with pitch a rather long flint, pointed and sharpened to cut on both sides, or a knife blade, or some similar piece of iron if they are able to obtain one. This cuchillo they all wear across the head, fastening it with the hair.

They are also accustomed to carry a sweat stick, which is a long and somewhat sharp bone or similar thing, with which they scrape the body when they are perspiring, to remove the perspiration. They say that this is a very good thing because by doing so they cease to be tired. Some of them have the cartilage of the nose pierced, and all have the ears perforated with two large holes, in which they wear little canes which look like two horns, as thick as the little finger and more than half a palm long, in which they are accustomed to carry powder made of their wild tobacco, or some other gewgaw.

Their language is entirely distinct from the others. The captain whom they recognize in the villages they call Temi, just as the Jeniguechis and Benyeme call him Tomiar. The women cover themselves with a deer skin hung round the waist, and with some sort of a beaver skin cape over their backs, yet I saw very few women close at hand, for as soon as they saw us they all hastily hid in their huts, especially the girls, the men remaining outside blocking the doors and taking care that nobody should go inside. Once I went near a hut which I saw open, to examine its structure, for among all the huts which I saw in all the journey these are the best. They are round in form, like a half orange, very spacious, large and high. In the middle of the top they have an aperture to afford light and to serve as a chimney, through which emerges the smoke of the fire which they make which in the middle of the hut. Some of them also have two or three holes like little windows. The frames of all of them consist of arched and very strong poles, and the walls are of very thick grass interwoven. At the doors there is a mat which swings toward the inside like a screen, and another one toward the outside which they ordinarily bar with a whalebone or a stick.

I went to the door, and although I did not ask permission to go in, knowing their dislike for it, nevertheless two minutes could not have passed when they shut the inner door on me and I withdrew unenlightened. This is the result of the extortions and outrage which the soldiers have perpetrated when in their journeys they have passed along the Channel, especially in the beginning. Among them a certain Camacho was outrageous, and his fame became so wide among the Indians that they call every soldier Camacho. In fact, they all kept asking us for Camacho, and where was Camacho, and if Camacho was coming. Among the men I saw a few with a little cape like a doublet reaching to the waist and made of bear skin, and by this mark of distinction I learned that these were the owners or masters of the launches.

The Indians are great fishermen and very ingenious. They make baskets of various shapes, and other things very well formed, such as wooden trays and boxes, and things made of stone. Above all, they build launches with which they navigate. They are very carefully made of several planks which they work with no other tools than their shells and flints. They join them at the seams by sewing them with very strong thread which they have, and fit the joints with pitch, by which they are made very strong and secure. Some of the launches are decorated with little shells and all are painted red with hematite. In shape they are like a little boat without ribs, ending in two points somewhat elevated and arched above, the two arcs not closing but remaining open at the points like a V. In the middle there is a somewhat elevated plank laid across from side to side to serve as a seat and to preserve the convexity of the frame. Each launch is composed of some twenty lone and narrow pieces. I measured one and found it to be thirty-six palms long and somewhat more than three palms high. In each launch, when they navigate or go to fish, according to what I saw, ordinarily not more than two Indians ride in each end. They carry some poles about two varas long which end in blades, these being the oars with which they row alternately, putting the ends of the poles into the water, now on one side and now on the other side of the launch. In this way they guide the launch wherever they wish, sailing through rough seas with much boldness. In this place of La Rinconada I counted nine launches, besides one that was to be mended, and I concluded that with some instruction those Indians would become fine sailors.

All the settlements or rancherías of the Channel have a community place for playing, consisting of a very smooth and level ground, like a bowling green, with low walls around it, in which they play, rolling a little half-round stick. Likewise, near the villages they have a place which we called the cemetery, where they bury their dead. It is made of several poles and planks painted with various colors, white, black, and red, and set up in the ground. And on some very tall, straight and slim poles which we called the towers, because we saw them from some distance, they place baskets which belonged to the deceased, and other things which perhaps were esteemed by them, such as little skirts, shells, and likewise in places some arrows. Over the deceased they place the ribs or other large bones of the whales which are customarily stranded on those coasts.

They also have a common temescal. This is a hot, closed room for sweating, made somewhat subterranean and very firm with poles and earth, and having at the top, in the middle, an opening like a scuttle, afford air and to serve as a door, through which they go down inside by a ladder consisting of straight poles set in the ground and joined together, one being shorter than the other. I peeped into a temescal and perceived a strong heat coming up from it. In the middle of them they make a fire. The Indians enter to perspire, seated all around, and as soon as they perspire freely and wet the ground with their sweat, they run out and jump into the sea, which is close by, to bathe themselves.

These Indians are well formed and of good body, although not very corpulent, on account of their sweating, as I judge. The women are fairly good looking. They wear pendants in their ears and have the front hair short and banged like a tupe, the rest falling over the shoulders. The arms used by these Indians are the bow and arrow, like all the rest, but their arrows are of wood and very well and carefully made, and not of reeds like those commonly used by the Apaches, Pimas, and the others. Their bows are small, being only about a vara long, but very strong, and all are wound with tendons and are graceful in form. Their customs are the same as those of the others. They live without law or king, and especially without knowledge of God, so far as I was able to ascertain. They devote themselves to fishing, by means of which, together with the seeds of grass, they maintain themselves with much misery and hunger. They are also clever and not very dull, as it appeared to me; for although we did not have an interpreter through whom to talk to them, we were able to understand them by signs like those used by mutes, with which they explained themselves well.

But they are very thievish, a characteristic of all Indians. On passing through the village of La Carpintería we stopped for a while because it was the first one, to see the launches, cemetery, etc. Señor Ansa, I, and others dismounted, and right there in front of so many people an Indian was clever enough to take from the saddle of Señor Ansa a linen sun-cloth which he left on it when he dismounted. We remounted and a little after we started Señor Ansa missed the cloth. A servant of his went back to the village to look for it. He asked for the cloth, and they denied knowledge of it, but told him to go to a certain hut where he might find it. From these islands should not be depopulated, especially this one, and that efforts should not be made to have the Indians leave it for the purpose of their reduction and conversion to Christianity.

Sunday, February 25.—I said Mass. We set out from the village of La Rinconada at nine o'clock in the morning, and at three in the afternoon halted at a place called the vicinity of the Rancherías de Mescaltitán. having traveled some nine leagues, about six west by north, two to the northwest, and finally a short league to the southwest, to get around some estuaries which are near there.—Nine leagues.

The road was the same as yesterday, along the beach. At two leagues we came to the villages of San Buenaventura, [Fotnote 245] which are two, one on each side of a plain about a league long, where it was planned to found the mission of San Buenaventura, which is already endowed, but was not founded for lack of orders. It has some pasturage and plentiful live oaks, but little water. A league farther on we came to another village, and going still another league we arrived at the village of La Laguna. Here we obtained some baskets in exchange for glass beads, and supplied ourselves with fish, because just then a launch which had been fishing arrived at the shore and brought several very good fish of different kinds and of different colors and shapes, which I did not recognize. At this time I saw how they beached the launches. It was as follows: When it arrived at the shore ten or twelve men approached the launch, took it on their shoulders still loaded with the fish, and carried it to the house of the master or captain of the launch, distinguished by the bearskin cape. The implements with which they fish are very large nets, and hooks which they make of shells, and likewise an occasional small net made of a very strong thread like hemp.

At the camp Señor Ansa offered me some of his baskets, telling me to choose the ones I liked; but as I had no place in which to carry them I replied that if at the end of the journey he would give them to me I would take them then. He said he would give me as many as I wanted; but afterward he gave me none, because at the end of the journey I was out of favor with him.



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