Kumeyaay society was divided into bands, which owned certain territories within tribal land. Between 5 and 15 family groups belonged to a band. Each band had its own kwaaypaay, or leader. This title usually belonged to a family and was passed on from father to son. But sometimes, the title went to a man outside the family if he had superior leadership skills.The kwaaypaay had many responsibilities. He assigned duties and handled disagreements among the band. A helper called a koreau assisted him. The koreau organized meetings, trips, and daily activities.

A council of talented men and women helped the kwaaypaay make decisions. Council members were often priests, scientists, or doctors. These people healed others and performed ceremonies.

The council also passed down history and cultural teachings through bird songs. These sacred songs taught other tribal members traditions and morals. To prepare for singing and leading these songs, council members participated in special ceremonies. It took lifelong devotion to learn bird songs.

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