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The Paipai Indians Art

by Robin Waters

The Paipai Indians - also known as Akwa’ala - occupied the northern Sierras in the interior of the northern Baja California Peninsula. Their original territory included the lower Colorado River valley in the present day municipios of Enseñada and Mexicali, as well as adjacent areas in western Arizona, southern California and northwestern Sonora.

The Paipai first encountered Europeans when Sebastián Vizcaíno’s expedition mapped the northwest coast of Baja California in 1602. Later, in 1780, the Dominican mission of San Vicente was founded near the coast in Paipai territory. It became a key center for the Spanish administration and military control of the region. In 1797 San Vicente was supplemented by an inland mission at Santa Catarina, near the boundary between the Paipai and Kumeyaay territories. The main modern Paipai settlement is at Santa Catarina, a community they share with Kumeyaay and Kiliwa residents. Santa Catarina is located approximately 50 miles east of Enseñada, about a three-hour drive from San Diego.

These indigenous people have retained much of their traditional knowledge; and many of them provide for their families, as they have for thousands of years, by harvesting from their land natural resources such as yucca, pine nuts, honey and firewood, and by raising livestock and crops. Some of the Paipai Kumiai people earn their living by making traditional arts and crafts to sell, such as pottery, bows and arrows, and by weaving willow, pine and juncus baskets, including agave fiber carrying nets. Some of the men also work in Guadalupe Valley as cowboys or farmers, as well as on their own ranches.

Daria Mariscal lives in the Paipai community of Santa Catarina, Baja California, Mexico, and is an artisan in the traditional style of pit fired pottery. That is also where Daria quarries her own clay for each of her fired pots. She often teaches pottery making classes and has taught on the Viejas and Barona Indian Reservations in San Diego County; and hopes to introduce her workshops in San Felipe.

Daria also weaves baskets with juncos, palm and piñon pine needles. The sales of her pottery and baskets go toward the construction of a planned family museum and store in her community, to help the tribe.

Santa Catarina Paipai Kumeyaay Indian traditional arts and crafts also can be purchased at the Shumup Ko Hup “Dream Come True” Indian store. You can find Daria’s listing in the Artists’ Directory. The store is owned and operated by San Diego Kumeyaay Indian families, who currently are converting the business to online sales only at, telephone 619.573.991.

This California Indigenous artist’s authentic work is available in San Felipe to those who call Wendy Doman at 686-114-4976 or e-mail

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