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Esselenian Family

 Native American Nations | Linguistic Families                    

  • Salinas, Latham in Trans. Philolog. Soc. Lond., 85, 1856 (includes Gioloco?, Ruslen, Soledad, Eslen, Carmel, San Antonio, and San Miguel, cited as including Eslen). Latham, Opuscula, 350, 1860.

As afterwards mentioned under the Salinan family, the present family was included by Latham in the heterogeneous group called by him Salinas. For reasons there given the term Salinan was restricted to the San Antonio and San Miguel languages, leaving the present family without a name. It is called Esselenian, from the name of the single tribe Esselen, of which it is composed.

Its history is a curious and interesting one. Apparently the first mention of the tribe and language is to be found in the Voyage de la Pérouse, Paris, 1797, page 288, where Lamanon (1786) states that the language of the Ecclemachs (Esselen) differs “absolutely from all those of their neighbors.” He gives a vocabulary of twenty-two words and by way of comparison a list of the ten numerals of the Achastlians (Costanoan family). It was a study of the former short vocabulary, published by Taylor in the California Farmer, October 24, 1862, that first led to the supposition of the distinctness of this language.

A few years later the Esselen people came under the observation of Galiano,38 who mentions the Eslen and Runsien as two distinct nations, and notes a variety of differences in usages and customs which are of no great weight. It is of interest to note, however, that this author also appears to have observed essential differences in the languages of the two peoples, concerning which he says: “The same difference as in usage and custom is observed in the languages of the two nations, as will be perceived from the following comparison with which we will conclude this chapter.”

Galiano supplies Esselen and Runsien vocabularies of thirty-one words, most of which agree with the earlier vocabulary of Lamanon. These were published by Taylor in the California Farmer under date of April 20, 1860.

In the fall of 1888 Mr. H. W. Henshaw visited the vicinity of Monterey with the hope of discovering survivors of these Indians. Two women were found in the Salinas Valley to the south who claimed to be of Esselen blood, but neither of them was able to recall any of the language, both having learned in early life to speak the Runsien language in place of their own. An old woman was found in the Carmelo Valley near Monterey and an old man living near the town of Cayucos, who, though of Runsien birth, remembered considerable of the language of their neighbors with whom they were connected by marriage. From them a vocabulary of one hundred and ten words and sixty-eight phrases and short sentences were obtained. These serve to establish the general correctness of the short lists of words collected so long ago by Lamanon and Galiano, and they also prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Esselen language forms a family by itself and has no connection with any other known.

The tribe or tribes composing this family occupied a narrow strip of the California coast from Monterey Bay south to the vicinity of the Santa Lucia Mountain, a distance of about 50 miles.

Indian Linguistic Families of America North of Mexico, 1891

Linguistic Families

 

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