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Pre-History

Before the beginning, the world was covered with ocean. Then a single mountaintop rose from the lifeless sea, and on this new land the coyote, the eagle and the hummingbird lived. After the waters receded, these three created all other living things...

So goes the creation story of the Costanoan people. This group, along with the Esselen and Salinan, lived in the Big Sur area for thousands of years, in balance with the land.

Archeological evidence indicates that these people maintained seasonal campsites, migrating inland a few miles during the late summer where they gathered acorns, wild berries and seeds, and hunted forest animals. In the winter they camped on the banks of streams by the ocean or at spring sites along the bluffs overlooking the ocean where low tides laid bare the rocks abundant with easily gathered sea life. They also took migrating water fowl at this time of year.

There was conflict between some of these groups, though warfare was largely ceremonial. Serious disagreements between individuals, for instance, were settled by the men standing nose to nose and striking each other with small deer-bone spatulas until blood was drawn.

The original inhabitants had some experience with white visitors before the Spanish arrived. Russian vessels, based in Sitka, Alaska, took otters off the coast of Big Sur for their luxurious pelts. They brought with them highly skilled Inuit hunters to harpoon the animals from their kayaks.

Otter fur was used by the local people too to make bedding, capes and skirts. Basketry was also an advanced art among these peaceable people. But even in the rugged fastness of this remote coast, they could not escape the grasp of the empire-building countries of Europe.

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