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Antelope Valley Native American Peoples

The Late Prehistoric Period


The Kitanemuk lived in the Tehachapi Mountains to the south of the Kawaiisu of the Tehachapi Valley, and to the north of the Tataviam of the southwestern edge of the Antelope Valley. They thus inhabited the northwestern edge of the west end of the Antelope Valley. To the west and southwest, the Yokuts and Chumash bordered their territory. The Kitanemuk had an important settlement on Tejon Creek, just southwest of the Tehachapi Valley, that Father Garces visited in 1776. Garces indicated that the Kitanemuk of the Tehachapis were a different group from related people living in the southern Antelope Valley, who were probably Vanyume or Beñemé Serrano.

Like their northern neighbors, the Kawaiisu, the Kitanemuk depended on both piñon pine nuts and on acorns as important food staples. The acorns were abundant on the western slopes of the Tehachapis, facing the San Joaquin Valley, while the groves of piñon pine tended to be found on the eastern side of the range, facing the desert.

The Kitanemuk, like other groups on the mountain margins of the Mojave Desert, lived in permanent winter villages of 50 to 80 people or more. These people dispersed into smaller mobile gathering groups during the late spring, summer, and fall months. The smaller groups made use of temporary camps for relatively short times, visiting different "environmental niches" as the important food-producing plants in them became ready to harvest.

The Kitanemuk spoke a language that appears to have been a dialect of Serrano, which was spoken by groups located as far distant as modern Yucca Valley and Twenty-nine Palms, east of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The Kitanemuk shared some elements of culture with the rest of the Serrano groups, who lived to the east in parts of the Antelope Valley, the upper Mojave River area, and the San Bernardino Mountains. Some customs, however, such as rituals and practices to honor the dead, may have been different. The Kitanemuk appear to have buried their dead, while the Serrano cremated them. The population of the Kitanemuk has been placed in the 500 to 1000 range at the time of the arrival of the Spanish.


Antelope Valley Native American Peoples
The Late Prehistoric Period << Previous

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