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If you have already read the California State Park webpages describing Fort Tejon, you may have noticed that they provide extensive information about the military troops who occupied the garrison but only cursory information about the native peoples living in the nearby Tejon Indian Reservation. The purpose of this webpage is to supplement the 'official' state park webpage, for readers interested in learning more about the garrison's impact on native Californians.


The State park web pages need to be revised because they are inaccurate and incomplete in their descriptions of the native Californians living near the fort (and in the nearby reservation). They are lacking in information, for example, about the Chumash peoples on whose lands the fort was originally built. The public is encouraged to lump all the natives "who lived in this area prior to the establishment of Fort Tejon" in a single group which the Spanish called Emigdiano. The text does correctly identify the Emigdiano as a Chumash group from the Santa Barbara coastline, but it fails to mention the critical fact that this term refers only to the Chumash living on Tashlipun Creek and there were many other Chumash groups living in the vicinity.

Actually, a great deal is known about the local Indians at Tejon but little has been published to date. These cultural groups include the Tashlipun Chumash (Emigdiano), Tecuya Chumash (militant refugees from the coast), Kastac Chumash (locals group centered on Castac lake), Moowaykuk Chumash (Uvas), Kitanemuk (Uto-Aztecan), Kawaiisu (Uto-Aztecan), and Yokuts (Penutian, who eventually were forced into a single Tejon reservation town site called Tinlew).


One of the primary purposes of building Fort Tejon was to militarily pacify the independence movements of native peoples living in the southern end of California's Central Valley, and in the surrounding mountains. After the construction of Fort Tejon, many of the native families living in the same canyon withdrew to one of the seven native towns located on the vast Tejon Indian Reservation which surrounded the fort.

This reservation was originally established through the Tejon Treaty of 1851. A history of this treaty is presented in The Piercing of The Yokut Shield. For more information, see the link called Yokut Shield.


"How could the State of California and the federal government initiate the legal process of returning lands to the Tejon descendants? I can suggest a small but significant beginning. Fort Tejon State Park would make an excellent administrative base and museum center for the Tejon Indian groups, many of whom are located in the Bakersfield area. This facility lies within the 1851 Tejon treaty lands, and was intimately linked to the fate of the Tejon peoples. Its public displays presently focus on military history and inexplicably ignore the fascinating story of the Tejon Indians.

The Fort Tejon museum displays should be rewritten. American militarism in nineteenth century California (and its racial bias) should be examined more critically, and the museum texts should explain why lands were taken from the local natives. At first the pressures came from miners and cattlemen wanting land and water, facilitated by corrupt Indian agents and military officers. Later, railroad developers, oil companies, and the Tejon Ranch joined them in making serious challenges to Indian land titles.

At stake were fabulous amounts of wealth, particularly oil in the first part of this century. The Tejon should have played a major role in the development of California's industralization. Instead of emerging as oil producers, however, Tejon descendants remain landless, unrecognized [by the federal government], and without compensation for the depletion of their nonrenewable mineral resources"

(From The Piercing of the Yokut Shield, page 33, J. Anderson, 1995)

The Yokut Shield text is no longer available in print. It can be read and download for free at:

Tejon Reservation
Seven Villages
Corner Eight
Miwok & Yokuts
The Yokuts Shield
United Chumash