Salinan people

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File:Salinan lang.png
Pre-contact distribution of the Salinan.

The Salinan Native Americans are a Native American tribe that lived in what is now the Central Coast of California, in the Salinas Valley. Said to have gone extinct by the Census of 1930, the Salinan Native Americans survived and are now in the process of applying for tribal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

There were two major divisions, the San Miguel in the south, on the upper course of the Salinas River (which flows south to north), and the San Antonio in the north, in the lower part of the Salinas Basin, corresponding to the two missions in the Salinas Valley (Mission San Antonio de Padua and Mission San Miguel Arcángel). There were also a Playano group which lived on the Pacific Coast in the vicinity of what is now San Simeon and Lucia. The Salinans lived by hunting and gathering and were organized in small groups with little centralized political structure.


The Salinan people were named after the Salinas River by Robert Latham (needs documentation)(1856) and John Powell (1891). The people's own name for themselves was never recorded. C. Hart Merriam called these people the En-'ne-sen on advice from one informant; En-'ne-sen was the native word for the Salinan headquarters.[1]


The Salinan language, spoken until the 1950s[2] is a language isolate. It may be a part of the hypothetical Hokan language family. Sapir included it in a subfamily of Hokan, along with Chumash and Seri; this classification has found its way into more recent encyclopedias and presentations of language families, but serious supporting evidence has never been presented.[3]


Further information: Population of Native California

Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. Alfred L. Kroeber put the 1770 population of the Salinan as 3,000.[4] Sherburne F. Cook similarly estimated that there were at least 3,000 Salinans.[5]

See also


  1. Hester, p.504
  2. Salinan at (retrieved 9 December 2010)
  3. Marlett 2008
  4. Kroeber, p.883
  5. Cook, p.187


  • Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian languages: the historical linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • Cook, Sherburne F. 1976. The Conflict between the California Indian and White Civilization. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.
  • Hester, Thomas R. 1978. Salinan, in Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 8 (California). William C. Sturtevant, and Robert F. Heizer, eds. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978. ISBN 0-16-004578-9 / 0160045754, pages 500-504.
  • Marlett, Stephen A. 2008. The Seri-Salinan connection revisited. International Journal of American Linguistics 74.3:393-399.
  • Sapir, Edward. 1925. The Hokan affinity of Subtiaba in Nicaragua. American Anthropologist 27: (3).402-34, (4).491-527.