The Barstow Petroglyphs are located in the region of this map northeast
of Banning, the area most likely inhabited by the Cahuilla Indians or the
The Cahuilla were a desert tribe which dwelled slightly north of Barstow. Although their location indicates a good possibility that they produced the Barstow glyphs, several aspect of their culture do not fit with the clues given by the pictures themselves.
The Cahuilla were not migratory.
They travelled to different levels of the desert region through different
seasons depending on what vegetation or game was in season. They
would hunt the mountain goats of higher elevations during one season, wait
for a crop of acorns slightly lower another season, or even harvest small
shrubs in the lower desert regions. However, they did not travel
significantly aside from these seasonal migrations and were not
terribly likely to have stayed in the Barstow area long enough to
create these glyphs.
The Chemehuevi were a small tribe of Native Americans who migrated to Southern California in the 1770s. The Chemehuevi were peaceful and quiet; in fact, other Native American tribes often refereed to them as the "timid people." The Chemehuevi were migratory people, spending only three months out of the year in the Twenty Nine Palms area and the rest of the year at Bear Valley during the pinion season and at Banning and Indio during the fruit harvest. Their territory started in the Kingston Range, south of Death Valley and stretched through the Providence Mountains to the boundaries of Riverside and Imperial Counties. It is within these boundaries that our petroglyphs lay. Perhaps it is the ancestors of these people who created the younger glyphs of the swastika, migratory symbol.
Among the tribal officials of the Chemehuevi, there existed a shaman, or pow-wand as he was referred to. His power came to him through dreams and visions (sprouting from doses of jimson weed). There were shamans for rain, medicine, and hunting. It is not unlikely that a shaman was the artist responsible for the petroglyphs currently being studied. The glyphs may be a depiction of one of his more important visions or it may indicate how he used these rocks (alignments) to observe and understand celestial motions. In fact, the shaman himself may be drawn into the Barstow petroglyphs in the human-like form of one of the shapes.
For nutrition, the Chemehuevi learned to farm at the oasis' and in more barren habitats, lived off small game such as rabbit, lizards and other reptiles. This makes sense since one of the glyphs we observed appears to be that of a lizard. Such animals, so important to the sustenance of the Native Americans, were often viewed as gods or links to the gods. To hunt small game such these, the Chemehuevi would through stones at the animals, or use a bow (which was only about three feet in length). Perhaps their ancestors used the older weapon, the atlatl, pictured in one of the older glyphs (see time frames about the ages of the different glyphs). Sometimes, they would simply run after an animal, tire it down, and then chase it into the arms of the hunter's partner.
These aspects of Chemehuevi life
support the idea that they may have been the ones responsible for the petroglyphs.
Links-- Tribes of the Area
humbolt university-- index page of Native American information
cabazon indians-- descendants of the Cahuilla
back to home page
Chemehuevi doing migratory dance with jimson weed!