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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Some Paipai Accounts


The Paipai are a Yuman-speaking people who live in and around Santa Catarina, about 80 miles east-southeast of Ensenada, Baja California. In aboriginal times, they were hunters and gatherers, though in occasional contact with the farming tribes of the lower Colorado River. From roughly 1798 until 1840, the Paipai were under the control of a Dominican mission at Santa Catarina (Meigs 1935), but they never entirely abandoned their hunting and gathering activities. Since the late nineteenth century, they have become increasingly integrated into the local Mexican economy, but at the time of the field work (1958-1959), they still retained considerable knowledge of their traditional subsistence activities.

In the following brief accounts, the Paipai describe some of these activities in their own language. Tuna, datil, pinon, bitter acorns, subjects of the four textlets, are among the food resources that were still being used at least occasionally when the field work was done. I present these accounts to (1) provide some examples of discourse in what is still one of the least-known Yuman languages and (2) record some hitherto unpublished data on food gathering and food processing, using the terms of the Paipai and making the distinctions they make.

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