The native clans who lived in the San Bernardino Mountains and its foothills
to the north, south, east, and west were called Serranos by the Spanish.
The Serranos also lived along the northern slopes of the San Gabriel
range at least as far west as Big Rock Creek. The Spanish term Serrano
meant "mountain people." The Serranos called themselves Takhtam or "people.”
Like other native culture groups living in coastal and interior southern
California, the Serrano shared cultural traits and a common language,
but not a single paramount chief or ruler. The villages and village chiefs
who were found among the Serrano, as among other groups, were politically
independent, and did not have to answer to a central authority. Village
chiefs did participate in alliances and cooperation with other communities,
however. Each large winter village and its surrounding territory, ruled
by an independent religious and political chief, was occupied by a clan
comprised of families related in the male line.
The Serrano had a system of marriage in which all clan villages were
affiliated with either the Coyote or the Wildcat ceremonial division.
People from villages belonging to one division had to marry only people
belonging to the other division. The women usually left their own home
village to live at their husband's village. A man or woman could not
marry anyone from his or her own village, since these people were considered
The Serrano held important ceremonies, celebrations, and fiestas in
the early winter months. The foodstuffs stored up from late summer and
autumn gathering were still abundant. At the same time, people were freed
from gathering activities during winter, with the exception of some hunting,
and had time on their hands for social activities. Mourning ceremonies,
held periodically to honor recently deceased villagers, brought people
from villages far and wide to attend the fiesta. During these ceremonies
food and gifts were exchanged, and ritual singing and dancing went on
for days on end.
The Serrano cremated their dead, rather than burying them, as some other
neighboring groups did. However, the practice of burning the possessions
of the dead as offerings was shared by the Serrano and many other groups
in southern California.
The Serrano were hunters and gatherers, like other groups in the region,
but many clan villages on the mountain slopes had very abundant supplies
of live oak acorns. They could maintain clan villages of up to 150 people
or more. The total population of the Serrano at the time of the Spanish
occupation of California may have been 2500 to 3500 or higher.
Antelope Valley Indian
The Late Prehistoric Period << Previous