Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

5. Tribal Relics

The last full-blooded Tataviam died on the Camulos Ranch in 1921[1].

His name was Juan José Fustero. He recalled that his parents were born at the San Fernando Mission, while his grandparents came from Newhall. He remembered a few ancestral phrases such as "hami kwa umi," or, "Where are you going?" A "kika" was a chief; "piiouku" or "pí idhu-ku" (Piru) a tule reed; and "islay" (Hasley) a berry.

The Tataviam did leave a wealth of information about themselves chiseled into and painted on rocky overhangs and secreted deep in caves. Scattered about the Angeles National Forest and concentrated in several panels of Vasquez Rocks County Park are curious figures resembling lizards with rake-like hands. Some are outlines of human forms, while others are abstract designs resembling zig-zags, hourglasses, grids, circles and simple curved lines.

Most probably depict the visions of shamans, who were central to Tataviam religious practices and used hallucinogens to communicate with the supernatural world[2]. Dominating the rock art at Vasquez are several circles with exterior projections resembling suns or moons. They may be astronomical notations, but there is no living person who can read them.

Caches of artifacts have been found in caves, as if placed in storage. One was uncovered in the mid-1980s along Piru Creek just north of Pyramid Lake. Yucca-fiber sandals, baskets, bowls and projectile points were brought into the sunlight after being hidden away for centuries.

But the greatest discovery of all was made at a place called Bowers Cave.

On May 2, 1884, McCoy Pyle found his way into a cavern located in San Martinez Canyon, just above the present Chiquita Canyon Landfill, north of Highway 126. To his astonishment, the cave was crammed with obsidian knife blades, crystals, immense baskets, head-dresses and capes made of iridescent condor and flicker feathers.

The treasure was sold for $1,500 to Steven Bowers, who did some additional excavation, packed off scores of items and peddled them to collectors around the world. Most of the treasures wound up at the Peabody Museum of American Ethnology at Harvard University[3].

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