Home Page  |  News  |  Events  |  Links
Online Articles : by Author  |  by Subject  |  by County
  Timelines  |  Site Names  |  Maps  |  Glossary  |  Everything Else   
<==Previous Page



Gary S. Breschini, Trudy Haversat
and Tom "Little Bear" Nason

Paper Presented at the 14th Annual California Indian Conference, Cuesta College, October 15, 1999 (with slight modifications).


For a number of years, researchers have alternately attributed the Sarhentaruc district to the Esselen or the Rumsen, or occasionally to both groups. Sarhentaruc is the area stretching south from the Carmel Highlands to the Big Sur River (see map, below). It was exploited between 1776 and 1807 by the padres of Carmel Mission.

The Sargentaruc Problem

The Big Sur area was attributed to the Esselen in virtually all the early ethnographic literature. More recently Culleton and Cook suggested that the Big Sur area was bilingual and bicultural (presumably some sort of mixture between Esselen and Rumsen). A few years ago, Milliken suggested that the Rumsen, not the Esselen, occupied the Big Sur River area (Milliken 1987:64; 1990:27-33, 73).

In trying to establish where this boundary really was, we need to address four key questions. These are:

1. Where Was Sargentaruc?
2. Did the Location of Sargentaruc Change Through Time?
3. Who Originally Lived at Jojopan?
4. Where Was the Boundary Between Sargentaruc and Jojopan?

Where Was Sargentaruc?

The name Sarhentaruc is clearly Rumsen. The suffix "ruc" means house, and with a locational prefix refers to a cluster of houses, or village. Milliken cites Kroeber, whose two Carmel informants equated Sarhentaruc with Sirkhintaruk or Sirkhinta, also called Kakonta, and placed it at Point Sur. The word "kakon" means chicken hawk, and "sirh" means eagle.

There is another explanation, however. Henshaw's Rumsen vocabulary gives south as "sir-hin-ti," while his Soledad vocabulary lists "ka-kun." Likewise, Pinart's Rumsen vocabulary gives "ka koniterx" and "kak kom terx" as the words for south (Heizer 1952, 1955). It is likely that Sarhentaruc means "that village down south."

The earliest baptism and death records include the following locations (see map):

To summarize, the records show that Sarhentaruc was to the southeast of Carmel, along the coast. The early records refer to the village of Pichis and a little canyon of redwoods, the later records refer to the village of Jojopan and a great river.

Did the Location of Sargentaruc Change Through Time?

There were apparently two primary villages on the coast south of Carmel, Pichis (also called Pichi, Pis, etc.) and Jojopan (also called Jojoban, Joboban, Jojopam, Ojoba, etc.). Both of these villages were grouped within the district of Sarhentaruc, and in fact, Sarhentaruc is used instead of a village name in many baptisms.

In the first baptisms the distance to Sarhentaruc is generally given as six or seven leagues, or 15.6 to 18.2 miles if the league used measures a full 2.6 miles. However, in rugged terrain, the league is often shorter than 2.6 miles, reflecting the reality of travel.

Measured along Highway 1 from Carmel Mission, 15.6 miles reaches the Little Sur River, while 18.2 reaches the area north of the Big Sur River. But if a shorter league is used because of the rugged terrain the location is closer to Palo Colorado Canyon and Notleys Landing (see the adjacent photograph). Indeed, three records mention a canyon of redwoods or a little canyon of redwoods but do not mention a river. This is more consistent with Palo Colorado Canyon's small creek than the Big Sur River.

From this, we can infer that the earliest Sarhentaruc baptisms came from the area around Palo Colorado Canyon. Both the distance and the descriptions match that location better than the Big Sur area. This area is clearly Rumsen.

Later references place Sarhentaruc on the banks of the great river Jojopan, and at a distance of 11 leagues (28.6 miles) from the mission. Using the shortened league, this location is clearly at the Big Sur River, some 20 to 25 miles south of Carmel. From the pattern of baptisms it is clear that Pis/Pichi is on the coast not too far south of Carmel, and was occupied by Rumsens, and that Jojopan is further south, probably at the Big Sur River. The term Sarhentaruc gradually came to be used for both areas.

After the bulk of the Sarhentaruc population was baptized, there were still a few people in the Palo Colorado area (shown in the photograph to the right), as well as larger groups around the Big Sur River to the south. Ten Esselen and 13 Rumsens were baptized at Carmel between 1786 and 1791.

Death records show that nine individuals baptized at Carmel Mission ran away. They died and were buried in Sarhentaruc. The chief, Chilichón, left the mission soon after baptism in 1785, and induced his former wife, who was by then married to another, to join him. At that point baptisms virtually stopped in Jojopan for 16 years (Culleton 1950:115), although some individuals were baptized at Soledad during this period. This is direct evidence of the use of Jojopan as a refuge from the Spanish, as well as a movement of people to the south from around Pichis or even the Mission to Jojopan.

Between 1805 and 1808, at the very end of the spiritual conquest, the last individuals to come to Carmel were baptized. This can be attributed to the energy of a new priest, Father Amorós, who arrived in Carmel in August of 1804. He was unfamiliar with the Big Sur area and its inhabitants, and the two padres who had been working in that area had departed Carmel several years previously. Accordingly, the group affiliations Father Amorós placed in the mission records may be questionable. The last group of 45 individuals included 16 who were identified as being from Sarhentaruc and 25 from Egeac, Ecgeas, or Egeach, etc. Four individuals were listed as "Sarhentaruc or Egeac."

The above evidence suggests that Esselen and Rumsens were living together and intermixing in some fashion in the Big Sur River area by the mid 1780s.

Who Originally Lived at Jojopan?

Additional evidence from the end of the mission conquest is a personal or family name which appears associated with the Jojopan area. The last baptisms in the 1805-1808 period, clearly from the Jojopan area, included three individuals whose native name was either Mucjay or Mucjas. Two of these were identified as from Sarhentaruc and the third was from Egeach. Looking further in the records reveals several additional examples of this name (or close variants). Some of these references specify "Sarhentaruc or Jojopan," but many more are variants of Esselen. The evidence thus suggests that this family name associates with Jojopan, even though some individuals were identified only as coming from "Sarhentaruc."

According to linguist David Shaul (personal communication):

there is no root /muk/ recorded for Esselen. However, the combination of /k/ and /x/ (the ch in German ich) as /kx/ is very Esselen and is what would be represented by the written combination <cj> or <gj>. This would give a root /mukxa/, where the /kx/ is a single consonant, which distinguishes Esselen from surrounding languages. Further, the ending -s is a common one on Esselen nouns, and is one that is found on attested Esselen names.

So, we are left with a name/word /mukxa-s/ which is very Esselen looking, but for which we have no sure translation. The ending -s and the unusual consonant /kx/ attest that this is an Esselen name, even though a translation is not possible.

Finally, there is clear evidence that the name Jojopan/Jojopam itself is Esselen. Carmel baptism 1381 reads:
En la Rancheria llamada Escelem rumbo acia el oriente bautice privadamente a un adulto . . . llamado Jojjoban y capitan actual de la dha Rancheria

Where Was the Boundary Between Sargentaruc and Jojopan?

Now that we have established Sarhentaruc as Rumsen, and Jojopan as Esselen, we need to establish the boundary between them.

In the mission records, Ekheahan is occasionally referred to as "Ex'xien" or "the rock." Milliken suggests that this may refer to the 4,031 foot Marble Peak (Milliken 1990:58). Marble Peak does not stand out nearly as much as other landmarks. It is more likely that "Ex'xien" refers to Sur Rock (see photograph). This is a major landmark in the Big Sur area, and is visible from a considerable distance up and down the coast, as well as from the adjacent ridges. If this is the case, this line of evidence also would place the Esselen boundary toward the northern end of the Big Sur plain, probably in the area of the Little Sur River.

Archaeological evidence also casts doubt on the theory that the Big Sur area was inhabited by Rumsens prior to Spanish contact.

There is a clear dividing line in archaeological site types at about the Little Sur River. To the north are sites rich in shellfish remains, as well as large, rich middens. These characteristics are associated with Rumsen sites in the Carmel area. In the vicinity of the Big Sur River we find sites which contain smaller quantities of shellfish remains, and which, while not necessarily physically smaller, contain relatively fewer cultural materials. These can be identified with the Esselen.

There is a large site at the mouth of Palo Colorado Canyon which, in terms of size and surface appearance, resembles Rumsen sites to the north. It is most likely that this is the original site of Sarhentaruc, although the village may have also been known by a more specific name such as Pis or Pichi, etc.

Terry Jones' recent excavation at the mouth of the Big Sur River revealed a clearly prehistoric site with a small, recent feature in its upper levels. The prehistoric site dated from several hundred to nearly 2,000 years into the past, while the small feature dated to approximately A.D. 1800-1816 (Jones 1994:42). This appears to represent evidence of a prehistoric Esselen site with a recent deposit, representing the intrusion of the Rumsen from Sarhentaruc, to the north, superimposed.

Several lines of evidence thus place the original location of Sarhentaruc between the Carmel Highlands and the Little Sur River, the Rumsen/Esselen boundary in the Little Sur River area, and the area called Jojopan, in and around the Big Sur River, within Esselen territory.


Culleton, James. 1950. Indians and Pioneers of Old Monterey Academy of California Church History, Fresno, CA.

Heizer, R.F., ed. 1952. California Indian Linguistic Records: The Mission Indian Vocabularies of Alphonse Pinart. University of California Anthropological Records 15(1).

Heizer, R.F., ed. 1955. California Indian Linguistic Records: The Mission Indian Vocabularies of H.W. Henshaw. University of California Anthropological Records 15(2).

Jones, T.L. 1994. Archaeological Testing and Salvage at CA-MNT-63, CA-MNT-73, and CA-MNT-376, on the Big Sur Coast, Monterey County, California. Ms. on file, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Monterey.

Milliken, R. 1987. Ethnohistory of the Rumsen. Papers in Northern California Anthropology 2. Northern California Anthropological Group, Berkeley.

Milliken, R. 1990. Ethnogeography and Ethnohistory of the Big Sur District, California State Park System, During the 1770-1810 Time Period. Submitted to Department of Parks and Recreation, Sacramento, CA.

Entire contents Copyright 2001-2011 by Coyote Press. All rights reserved. CALIFORNIAPREHISTORY.COM, CALIFORNIAPREHISTORY.NET, CALIFORNIAPREHISTORY.ORG, and the CALIFORNIAPREHISTORY MASTHEAD are all trademarks of Coyote Press, Gary S. Breschini, and Trudy Haversat. Back to the Top