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Kumeyaay Socio-Political Structure


The correlation of ethnographic with ethnohistoric and Mission Register data has clarified the analysis of Kumeyaay political structure by confirming the fact that the Kwaaypaay was not a "born" member of his band. He was not the head of the largest shiimull in a band, but was normally the only adult male of that sib in the band. This structure contrasts with that of the Cahuilla and the San Luiseno where the "Captains" were the heads of the largest lineages. The crosscutting of the shiimull organization by the territorial band organization increased the tribal or national level of Kumeyaay integration. Ethnohistoric data noting rapid communication of information between the Colorado River and the coast supports the ethnographic description of a nationally organized relay runner or courier system. This national organization of the shiimull/hands, with alliance leaders or Kuuchult kwataay, facilitated the shifting of population under erratic climatic conditions that were almost constantly affecting local resource availability. Furthermore, this complex structure integrated movement between ecological zones which required a variety of food-resource acquisition techniques. This included movement from the coast to the desert by way of foothills and mountains, and subsistence-related pursuits ranging from fishing to hunting, to desert riverine plant husbandry including irrigation farming (Shipek 1977, 1981, 1982, n.d.b).

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