The Vanyume or Beñemé, as Father Garces called them, lived
beyond and along much of the length of the Mojave River, from the eastern
Mojave Desert to at least the Victorville region, and perhaps even farther
upstream to the south. They also appear to have lived in the southern
and southwestern Antelope Valley. They intermarried with the Serrano
and spoke a dialect of the Serrano language, so they may be thought of
as a desert division or branch of the Serrano proper.
The Vanyume living along the Mojave River were quite wealthy in shell-bead
money and other items. This was perhaps on account of the active trade
route running along the Mojave River, connecting the Colorado River tribes
and the Native American nations of the Southwest with the Native American groups of coastal
The Serrano-speaking villages of the southern Antelope Valley were,
according to Garces, affiliated with this desert branch of the Serrano.
Garces had passed up the length of the Mojave River in early 1776, and
then crossed the southwestern Antelope Valley some weeks later. Garces
was accompanied by Mojave Indian guides from the Colorado River who knew
where the tribal boundaries were. In any case, these southern Antelope
Valley native communities, including Maviajek and Kwarung, had strong
ties with Serrano-speaking communities on the upper Mojave River and
in the areas of the northern San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains.
The Vanyume had a culture and food supply practices that were similar
to those of the Serrano of the San Bernardino Mountains. Despite living
in the desert, this branch of the Serrano had the advantage that it could
receive and use in its desert villages large quantities of acorns gathered
in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain ranges to the south. This
allowed large villages to be supplied with abundant food far out in the
desert, far north of where oak trees could be found. Father Garces reported
having been given acorn porridge at a Vanyume village just to the southwest
of modern Barstow, far from any oak grove.
The Vanyume shared a territorial boundary with the Chemehuevi to the
northeast. The Chemehuevi had much lower population densities than the
Vanyume and other Serrano because their food resources were less abundant.
The Vanyume population may have ranged from 500 to 1000 or more at the
arrival of the Spanish.
Native American Peoples
The Late Prehistoric Period << Previous