Contact With Europeans

In 1542, Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo led an expedition along the California coast. The Kumeyaay were the first Native Americans to see his ships sail into the San Diego Bay.

More than two hundred years later, Spanish missionaries entered Kumeyaay territory. They wanted to build missions and convert Native Americans to Christianity.

Unfortunately, Spanish influence put Kumeyaay ways of life at risk. The Spaniards took land from the tribe. Their agricultural habits harmed traditional Kumeyaay foods. And, they banned tribal spiritual practices. Some Kumeyaay fled to the mountains to escape.

In 1769, Father Junípero Serra founded the San Diego Mission. Around this time, tensions were running high between the Kumeyaay and the Spanish. As a result, the Kumeyaay destroyed the San Diego Mission. However, the mission was soon rebuilt at another location.

The Kumeyaay were also harmed by foreign diseases that the Spanish settlers brought with them. At that time, Native Americans had no defenses against these illnesses. So, smallpox and the measles spread through Kumeyaay land and took thousands of lives.

Kumeyaay material provided courtesy of ABDO Publishing Company.  Author Barbara A. Gray-Kanatiiosh, JD.  Illustrations by David Kanietakeron Fadden