A History of Manuel Hatam and the Kumeyaay People in the San Diego Area

Earliest European accounts acknowledge the continuous occupation by tribal people all along the coast of California and inland of this area we now call San Diego. An example of this fact comes from Lt. Pedro Fages, the military representative that enforced policy and defended Father Junipero Serra.

He reported established Kumeyaay villages at the mouth of the Tijuana, Sweetwater and Chollas Rivers. Then, as now, the Kumeyaay tribal band structure lends itself to many human scale patterns of settlement. Often times these villages or rancherias or shiimull are structured to maintain harmony and balance.Water is life in San Diego. Before there were Euro-American settlements of the: Royal Presidio, Mission San Diego de Alcala, Old Town, Newtown, Mission Valley, National City or Balboa Park, Kumeyaay tribal people occupied every Valley and stream. There were over twenty Kumeyaay rancherias/villages within sight of the Presidio. Just South of the Presidio or what became Newtown is Indian Point. Even now, in the new millennium, is not unusual for local tribal people to be able to call upon oral custom and tradition and recognize direct ancestors and specific village locations in this San Diego area of over 800 years. Indian Point, we now list historically, as the 'property' of Middletown and Newtown. These areas were part of the Pueblo land purchased from the City after 1850 for real-estate investments. Tribal people from the Kumeyaay villages bordering Middletown and Newtown provided a majority of the labor though-out the development then and into modern times. This pattern was repeated in other California cities along the coastal areas.

From 1860 to 1890 a large Kumeyaay village is acknowledged to have occupied the mesas and canyons east of Russ School, near 18th and 'B' streets. Also, one of the best documented rancherias is the Switzer Canyon, or now Florida Canyon Kumeyaay band village. In the area where 19th and 20th streets intersect 'A' and 'B' streets signs of the long occupation are still found. Manuel Hatam was the well recognized leader of the Tribal people living on this Balboa Park location.

For thousands and thousands of years Kumeyaay people lived all over this coastal area; Florida Canyon, Indian Point, Chollas Creek. The significance and prominance of these Kummeyaay villages is often dismissed, then and now, due to cultural perceptions of acceptable habitat. Most notably is the sharp contrast of 'gingerbread' Victorian style to the traditional summer habitat of willow and other natural materials in the Kumeyaay Eawa. From about 1860, possibly earlier, the Capitan or spokesman of this Florida Canyon Kumeyaay village is Manuel Hatam.