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The Esselen were one of the least numerous groups in California, and are often cited, incorrectly, as the first California Indian group to become culturally extinct. This picture of Esselen extinction, although pervasive in the literature, is wrong. Not only did the group not become extinct, there is even recent evidence that some Esselen escaped the missions entirely by retreating to the rugged interior mountains. It now appears that a small group survived into the 1840s before filtering to the ranchos and the outskirts of the growing towns.
Most of the extant data on the Esselen has been gathered into one place, in a new book from Coyote Press. In addition to subjects directly related to the Esselen people, it contains a great deal of information on the natural history of the region.
Breschini, G. S. and T. Haversat (2004). The Esselen Indians of the Big Sur Country: The Land and the People. Available from Coyote Press, Salinas.
Prayer Ceremony on Carmel River State Beach, June 1996. Although the ancient Esselen did not use tepees, they are occasionally used today.
Photograph copyright © 1996 by T. Haversat and G.S. Breschini.