By Jan Siegel
In Part 2 of the article on the history of the Juaneños based on John Harrington’s research and the writings of Father Boscana, it is of interest to read about the culture of people who lived in our area 10,000 years before the missionaries arrived.
Their history and culture were based on an oral tradition, which survived thousands of years.
From Boscana’s book: “The instructions which the parents gave their children had their moral virtues, for the parents and grandparents took care very earnestly that their children be well brought up and good, because if one of them turned out perverse, although they quickly removed him from their midst, they were disgraced.”
Boscana added, “If they did not follow carefully what was being taught them … that they should not be thieves, or liars, that they should not injure people, should not fight with one another, and should not use bad words, and, above all, that they should not make fun of the old people, but should respect and fear them; and that if they did not give heed to these instructions which their parents gave them, the God Chingchinix would punish them.”
Boscana continued: “The place from which those who populated this Mission and its environs came from a place called Sejavit, at which place or rancheria the inhabitants were called Putuidem.”
The city or rancheria had many inhabitants. When Sejavit got too big to sustain itself, the Chief and his eldest daughter went to establish another community that they called Putuidem. The Chief left his daughter Coronne in charge.
The name Putuidem came from the fact that Coronne had a lump on her navel, and Putuidem means navel sticking out.
According to notes by Harrington, the lump must have come after her birth, or her name would have been Putuidem and not Coronne.
Following a great feast to welcome all new settlers to the rancheria, Putuidem laid down and became part of the earth.
As of this time, the settlers renamed themselves Acagchemem. Prior to the founding of Putuidem, the language that was spoken was Sejat, but after the new community was founded, they started speaking a different dialect to distinguish themselves from Seget relatives.
However, when Father Serra named the Mission, he added the village name and called the place the Mission of San Juan Capistrano of Sejavit. All in all, there were 15 rancherias (villages, towns or tribes) founded by these first settlers in this area.
Today, you can spend a “Moment in Time” and visit Putuidem and the Blas Aguilar Adobe and learn more about the culture and lifestyle of the Native Americans who first settled in our area.
They hunted in the hills, they gathered wild berries, and they fished down at the ocean for thousands of years before the missionaries came.
When we sit for Thanksgiving and remember the first, we should not forget our local Native Americans who have a long and rich history, and who are still an integral part of our community today.
Jan Siegel was a 33-year resident of San Juan Capistrano and now resides in the neighboring town of Rancho Mission Viejo. She served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years, has been a volunteer guide for the San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library’s architectural walking tour for 26 years and is currently the museum curator for the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. She was named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005, Volunteer of the Year in 2011 and was inducted into the city’s Wall of Recognition in 2007.