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Kamia and Kumeyaay: A Linguistic Perspective


The term Kamia and its many orthographic variants, among others Kamya, Comeya, Comaiyah, Co-mai-yah, Comedas, Comoyatz, Comoyee, Co-mo-yei, Quemaya, Quemaya, Camillares, Comoyalis, and Co-moyah (Henshaw and Hodge 1907; Kroeber 1925:723; Gifford 1931:2-3), have caused much confusion in the ethnographic literature. The spelling Kamia was made famous by Kroeber (1925:723ff) and institutionalized by Gifford's (1931) monograph The Kamia of Imperial Valley in which he described specifically the native inhabitants of Imperial Valley whom he visited briefly in 1928-1929. Because of the local focus of his monograph, Gifford used the term Kamia to refer uniquely to the group under discussion, although " . . . it is an open question whether the Eastern Diegueno and the Kamia should be regarded as a single people or as separate peoples" (Gifford 1931:2), and although a designation similar to Kamia is attested by various authors to refer to part or all of the group also known as Diegueno. The problem, stated in its simplest form, is that the two names—Diegueno and Kamia—overlap to some degree for various people, but are apparently not synonymous, least of all for the people they are supposed to identify. At the risk of increasing the existing confusion, but with the excuse that the reason for it might become clearer, I would like to take a linguistic perspective based on comparative observations of Yuman languages and dialects, and even suggest a plausible etymology.

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