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VISTA CHINO

Pedro Chino

STREET NAMES: VISTA CHINO, CHINO CANYON ROAD, CHINO DRIVE

ATTRIBUTION: PEDRO CHINO

LIVED: CIRCA 1816* – 11/25/1939

FORMER STREET NAME (OF VISTA CHINO): VISTA DE CHINO

Pedro Chino, born at the foot of Mount San Jacinto in what is now known as Chino Canyon, was both a pavuul (the highest ranking shaman in Cahuilla culture) and a net (ceremonial leader).  He was capable of treating diseases and shape-shifting to assist him while hunting.  As such, he acted as an intermediary between the physical world and the supernatural realm, utilizing i’va’a (power) to help his people maintain balance and order in an unpredictable environment. During the late 1800s, a period of severe drought and sickness, Pedro Chino acted as captain of the Agua Caliente people.  He was a staunch advocate of the tribe’s water rights, providing information to the government on irrigation problems and injustices being imposed on the tribe.

Shamans received instructions, songs, dances, and i’va’a from spirit guardians.  One place Pedro Chino regularly acquired his i’va’a was Tahquitz Canyon, at a special place where “the spring comes out of a rock.”  With a guardian’s assistance, a shaman would be able to control the weather for successful crops or encourage animals to make themselves available to hunters.  Shamans were also called upon to help make important political decisions with other clan leaders. 

Pedro was a cowboy and utilized his cow-punching skills working for Paulino Weaver’s ranch.  He also ran his own herd. Known as a great hunter and a wild horse rider, Pedro demonstrated his skilled horsemanship by placing a silver dollar in each stirrup.  When a wild horse was brought to a standstill, the dollars were still in place.  He only once lost a silver dollar but he was by then a hundred years old.

When Pedro Chino died on November 25, 1939, he was believed to be the oldest living man in the United States at an estimated 123 years old.  He was old enough to once recall the “fall of stars,”  or Leonid meteor shower of 1833 in which an estimated 10,000 meteors fell per hour over North America.  Four to five hundred Indians from across southern California attended his funeral.  His death was considered a great loss to the Agua Caliente people.

* 1926 Mission Agency Census disagrees and lists 1848 as the birth year

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