Early Newhall Residents.
By Paul Higgins, Environmental Educator.
Old Town Newhall Gazette, January-February 1996.
©1996, OLD TOWN NEWHALL, USA ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
In AD 450, a small group of Shoshone-speaking
people migrated to the Santa Clarita Valley. The Kitanemuk Indians,
who lived in the Antelope Valley, called these people the
The name derived from their words taviyik, or "sunny
hillside," and atavihukwa, or "he is sunning himself."
Thus the word tataviam might be roughly translated as
"people facing the sun" or "people of the south-facing slopes."
The Tataviam were more aggressive than the Chumash, who lived
here at the time and encouraged them to move west down the Santa
Clara River beyond Piru Creek. The Chumash referred to the
Tataviam as "Allikliks." The Chumash word alliklik,
thought by some to be a derogatory term, means people who stammer
or do not speak clearly.
The Tataviam lived in approximately twenty various-sized villages
within the upper reaches of the Santa Clara River drainage east of
Piru Creek. Their territory extended over the Sawmill Mountains to
the north and included the southwestern fringes of the Antelope
Some areas they occupied were Nuhubit (Newhall), Piru-U-Bit (Piru),
Tochonanga believed to have been located at the confluence of
Wiley and Towsley Canyons and the very large village of Chaguibit,
the center of which is buried under the Rye Canyon exit of I-5.
The Tataviam also lived where Saugus, Agua Dulce and Lake
Elizabeth are located today.
The typical Tataviam home consisted of a cone-shaped framework of
willow poles covered with grass or other brush that was tied in place.
The larger villages also contained gaming and dancing areas,
cemeteries, granaries, work areas and sauna-like sweat houses used
for cleaning and relaxation.
Southern California offered the Tataviam the most abundant natural
food supply in North America. They lived without agriculture or
domestic animals and developed a highly sophisticated system for
exploiting the ecosystem.
Deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds, lizards, snakes, grasshoppers and
caterpillars were hunted and trapped for food. Acorns, yucca, toyon
berries, chia seeds and buckwheat were eaten regularly. Few if any
nonagricultural peoples in the world were able to draw on so many
Life was good for the Tataviam. They were among the most ingenious,
industrious and peaceful Indians of North America. They lived an
honest life without laws, money, jails or a welfare system. They had
no bad spirits, and before the missionaries came in 1769, they had no
concept of hell or the devil. They did not change the land, but rather
adapted themselves to it.
Any opportunity for collecting firsthand information about this
obscure group of people vanished forever when the last full-blooded
Tataviam, Juan José Fustero, died on June 30, 1921. Although much of the
Tataviam culture has been washed away by floods or covered over by
concrete, some still remains.
On May 2, 1884 a young man named McCoy Pyle discovered a cave
in the hills above the present Chiquita Canyon Landfill, north of
Highway 126. Inside he found many large woven baskets containing
stone axe heads, obsidian knife blades, crystals, whistles made from
deer bones, headdresses and capes made of iridescent condor and
flicker feathers, and four ceremonial scepters consisting of painted
stone discs attached to wooden handles.
Stephen Bowers purchased the entire collection for $1,500. Bowers
sold the items to private collectors all over the world. Some of the
"Bowers Cave" collection was sold to the Peabody Museum of American Ethnology at Harvard
University, where it remains today. The fate of the rest is
Some small displays of Tataviam artifacts can be seen at the Placerita
Canyon Nature Center, at the Saugus Station at Heritage
Junction in downtown Newhall, at the Vista Del Lago visitors
center at Pyramid Lake, and at the small museum at Ed Davis Park in
Bedrock mortar areas, pictographs and middens can still be found in
undeveloped areas of the valley. It is still common to discover stone
points after rainstorms.
Who knows? Perhaps there is another large stash of Tataviam
treasure still hidden in a cave somewhere in the Santa Clarita Valley,
just waiting to be found!
to return to Old Town Newhall, USA
for photographs of Tataviam Indian artifacts