Our Indigenous Homelands


Vast and beautiful, the aboriginal homeland of the Esselen Nation is the southern Monterey Bay area including the lush northern Salinas Valley, the Monterey Peninsula, the rugged Big Sur coastline, and the mountainous interior from the Carmel highlands to the area around Soledad. For over ten thousand years before colonization by the Spanish Empire, Native Californians developed complex social and religious systems within defensible tribal territorial boundaries. Our ancestral tribal territories usually included a diversity of ecological zones (mountain, riverine, foothill, and grassland) and micro-habitats, wherein we practiced a complex system of plant and animal range management. These territorial units, or districts, were composed of at least one central, permanent village (called rancherías by the Spanish), and other secondary, sometimes seasonal, village sites. Other resource sites were distributed throughout the rest of the tribal territory.

Our lineal direct ancestors came from the villages of at least nine major districts in the southern Monterey Bay region. Some of these villages have come to be known by several different names due to the variability in pronunciation, names recorded, and location by the Spanish missionaries. These villages and village areas are:

1. Wacharon (Guachirron)/Calendaruc: present-day Moss Landing, Castroville, Watsonville area

2. Ensen: interior area of Fort Ord and Salinas

3. Achasta: Monterey area

4. Tucutnut/Capanay: middle reaches of the Carmel River drainage

5. Soccoronda/Jummis/Sepponet: upper Carmel River drainage

6. Echilat/Ixchenta/Tebityilat: upper San Jose and Las Garzas Creek drainages

7. Esselen/Excelen/Excelemac: Santa Lucia Mountains and Ventana Wilderness

8. Sargentaruc/Jojopan/Pixchi: Carmel River south to El Sur

9. Eslanajan: Soledad and Arroyo Seco

Map after Taylor 1856; Levy 1973; Hester 1978; Milliken 1990; Leventhal & Escobar 1995