The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1988, Volume 34, Number 1
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

Book Review

Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor

The Earth is Our Mother: A Guide to the Indians of California, Their Locales and Historic Sites.

By Dolan H. Eargle, Jr. San Francisco: Trees Company Press, 1986. Bibliography. Illustrations. Maps. Calendar of Indian Events. Index. 192 pages. $14.95, Paper.

Reviewed by Clifford E. Trafzer, Professor and Chair of American Indian Studies, San Diego State University, and co-author of Renegade Tribe: The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Inland Northwest.

California is a land of great diversity, home of over a million Indian people. Of this number, approximately half are Native Californians who live on 541,000 acres of reservation lands and thousands of acres of land privately owned by California’s Indians. San Diego County boasts the largest number of reservations of any county in the United States with eighteen federally-recognized reservations. The Earth is Our Mother is a guide book to California’s original inhabitants, providing a brief history and cultural survey of the people from ancient times to the present. Although this immediately appears to be a tall order, the author successfully provides a sketch of California’s Indians before offering short blurbs on each reservation, rancheria, and Indian institution (e. g. health, education, and cultural centers). This is an intriguing and useful boom which will be of great interest to scholars and buffs alike.

The author divides his work into three segments. The first is devoted to a sketch of the pre-history and historic periods of California’s past. He offers his views on Indian and white contact and conflict, the mission system, the presidio and pueblo, the rancho, and the invasion and conquest of California by Anglo-Americans. Part two of the book is the most significant, in it Eargle provides a brief synopsis of the reservations and rancherias found today in every part of the state. He breaks down the tribes by region, grouping the Indian into five cultural areas. He rightfully places the Indians of San Diego County into that region which he designates as “Peoples of Southern California and East of the Sierra Nevada. “The author labels the region Dry California and discusses the various geographic varieties to be found here. He describes the Ipai, Tipai (Kumeyaay), Luiseño, and Cupeño, offering tidbits of information about these people. He then lists all of the reservations found in the cultural area – providing descriptions, locations, historic sites, populations, acres, and other pieces of information. Eargle also provides addresses and phone numbers whenever available, so that visitors may write the tribal headquarters or education offices. The information provided is not uniform, so that there is no guarantee one will find a tribe’s population or land area. Still, the information offered is most useful to anyone interested in California’s original people.

The Campo, Manzanita, Sycuan, Viejas, Pala, and Rincon Reservations are well described, but the descriptions of the Los Coyotes, La Jolla, and Santa Ysabel Reservations leave much to be desired. One can only hope that the author will continue his research and provided additional material on these and other reservations in the second edition. This is an important and ground-breaking work which should be updated and published again and again. It provides a solid foundation, offering a myriad of information.

Part three of the book focuses on California’s Indian Peoples today. Urban Indians, pow wows, Indian centers, and other important topics are discussed in this segment of the volume. The work concludes with lists of missions, presidios, ranchos, landmarks, military posts, museums, and events found in the Golden State.

In sum, The Earth Is Our Mother is a unique and useful volume. It is the culmination of years of work by a man genuinely interested in California’s Native Americans. It is also the beginning of a historical project that will never be completed. As California’s Indians and their lands, occupations, arts, and culture evolve, there will be a need for the book to be revised and updated. Still Eargle has published an important work which deserves the praise of Indians and non-Indians alike.