Language and Religion Related to the Kumeyaay of Southern California and Northern Baja California

It has been a year since I added content to this site, not because I’ve lost interest or become dissuaded from the possibility that events described in The Book of Mormon occurred in Baja California and the North American Southwest, but because last year I was diagnosed with a large tumor that my doctors initially thought was cancerous. After many tests and after my doctors changed their diagnosis several times, the tumor thankfully turned out to be benign. Surgery was performed and at this point I am completely recovered. Many thanks to everyone who offered thoughts, prayers, and other support last year.

A lot has happened and I have many things that I want to write about. Many of the topics that I want to write about are inter-related to each other, but are lengthy discussions. Although this article is going to be quite long, I am really just skimming the surface of some of these subjects in order to get to the meat of other subjects. In this article I will:

    1. Mention that strong evidence exists that Hebrew and Egyptian vocabulary and grammar are found abundantly in the Uto-Aztecan language family, which is geographical proximal to the lands in our model.
    2. Briefly describe that further investigations into these language relationships show some indications that Cochimi-Yuman speakers from the Baja California peninsula might have been the source of the Semitic and Egyptian in Proto-Uto-Aztecan.
    3. Show that speakers of several different languages in the Cochimi-Yuman language family used dialect variations of a term that references people who travel to or live in Imperial Valley California and the Colorado River Delta. That term appears to be “Cumorah”.
    4. Show that these “Cumorah” people have preserved religious traditions that have remarkable parallels with accounts from the Book of Mormon.

 

1. Strong Evidence of Hebrew and Egyptian Influence in Proto-Uto-Aztecan:

Even though I haven’t posted a new article in quite a while, I have been immersed in Brian Stubbs’ linguistic proposal, which presents tremendously persuasive evidence that speakers of Egyptian and Semitic heavily influenced one of the largest language families in the Americas, and particularly in the North American Southwest.

While Brian’s proposal is, in my opinion, the most scientifically-verifiable evidence of the historicity of The Book of Mormon that has ever been presented, Brian believes that the old-world language influence found in Uto-Aztecan is a result of language mixing and not necessarily the result of direct descent from old-world languages. This means that the parent language of Uto-Aztecan languages (Proto-Uto-Aztecan) was the result of Semitic/Egyptian speakers (i.e. descendants of Lehi) influencing some already-existing Native American dialect, probably in the areas proximal to the Colorado River delta. This fits very well with the idea that the Book of Mormon occurred largely in Baja California like our model suggests, with diffusion of Semitic/Egyptian language traits into the North American Southwest during the Nephites migrations into the “land northward” roughly 2,000 years ago.

Brian’s work is truly remarkable and I will be writing many articles describing the strength of the evidence he presents, but it is not the focus of this article.

 

2. The Possible Role of Cochimi-Yuman In Relation to this evidence of Hebrew and Egyptian Influences in Proto-Uto-Aztecan

What is particularly interesting in relation to Brian’s proposal is that the geographic territory occupied by speakers of another language family, the Cochimi-Yuman language family, seems to spill out of the Baja peninsula and overlap the territory that is most commonly regarded as the Proto-Uto-Aztecan homeland: the Colorado River Delta and adjacent lands.

Uto-Aztecan Languages in the North American Southwest:

Cochimi-Yuman Languages:

If it turns out that Cochimi-Yuman speakers were the source of the old world language influence that Brian has detected in Proto-Uto-Aztecan, it will add tremendous evidence to the idea that the Book of Mormon occurred largely in Baja California and that the Colorado River Delta and the North American Southwest are the “land of many waters, rivers, and fountains” and “the land northward” described in the Book of Mormon.

After spending the last few years reading books on comparative linguistics and immersing myself in Brian’s Uto-Aztecan proposal, I am now investigating the possibility that Cochimi-Yuman languages carried Egyptian and Semitic vocabulary and grammar into Proto-Uto-Aztecan. So far, these investigations have been very fruitful and what has been discovered at this point might indicate a strong Semitic/Egyptian influence in Cochimi-Yuman and also show that the sound changes between Semitic/Egyptian and Cochimi-Yuman appear to be intermediate to the sound changes that Brian demonstrates between Semitic/Egyptian and Proto-Uto-Aztecan.

If (and only if) these initial results can be verified and demonstrated within the methodologies used by historical linguists, it will not only show the similarities between these various languages and language families, it will also show the direction of the language influence. What I mean is that I hope to find (and believe I am finding) evidence showing that the Cochimi-Yuman language family derived from Semitic/Egyptian speakers (i.e. Lehi’s descendants) and that one or more Cochimi-Yuman dialects were subsequently the source of the Semitic/Egyptian influence that Brian Stubbs has already documented in Proto-Uto-Aztecan.

Like I mentioned earlier, this would explain the geography of Cochimi-Yuman languages in relation to the geography of Uto-Aztecan languages and it would show Cochimi-Yuman as the Egyptian/Semitic source of the language mixing that became Proto-Uto-Aztecan. Much more needs to be done before ideas like these can be proposed as verifiable linguistic theories. I’d love to present what I’ve found so far, but I hesitate to do so before I complete more work and organize it into a formal language proposal.

 

3. A Possible Common Cochimi-Yuman term:  “Cumorah”

Here I will attempt to show that many Cochimi-Yuman languages used the word “Cumorah” to refer to people living in the lands our model shows as “Cumorah”. This is not an attempt to demonstrate the language relationships described above. The main reason I’m presenting these “Cumorah” terms here is to begin to demonstrate that the Kumeyaay Indians of Southern California and Northern Baja California seem to exhibit many interesting parallels with the cultures described in The Book of Mormon.

The way I’ve heard “Cumorah” pronunced all my life is /kʌmorʌ/.

The Indians inhabiting the area from San Diego on the west to Yuma on the east often traveled to Imperial Valley California and the Colorado River Delta during their seasonal rounds (his is the geographical area that our model shows as “Cumorah” from The Book of Mormon).  When traveling through and inhabiting these particular areas, these Indians referred to themselves as /kamia/, which is virtually identical to /kʌmorʌ/, except the sound /or/ in /kʌmorʌ/ changed to /i/ in /kamia/.

It turns out that one of the sound correspondences that Brian Stubbs proposes between Semitic/Egyptian and Proto-Uto-Aztecan is that:

Kw-Semitic non-initial -r- > -y-/-i- and tends to raise & front
the preceding vowel (V > i)

In other words, when the letter /r/ occurred somewhere other than the beginning or end of a word, it changed to /i/ or /y/.

Below are other Yuman language family dialect versions referring to the /kamia/ people in areas proximal to the Colorado River Delta and Imperial Valley California.  When you replace /i/ or /y/ in these forms with /r/ you will see that many Yuman family languages used the term ‘Cumorah’ to reference people living in our model’s location for Cumorah.

 Yuman             /quemeyá/
 Quechan           /comoyá(tz)/
 Chemehuevi        /comáíyȧh/
 Mojave            /Kamya/
 Cocopa            /kmya/
 Southern Diegueño /kamia/
 Southern Diegueño /kamiai/
 Southern Diegueño /kamiyahi/
 Maricopa          /kumȧθá/ (Maricopa /θ/ corresponds to /y/ in Yuman languages)

There has been a lot of confusion regarding the etymology of the name /kamia/ (see http://escholarship.org/uc/item/23x3t6dd and http://escholarship.org/uc/item/64b2v0m4), but the thing that is generally consistent in the documented reflexes of /kamia/ is that that the term refers to certain groups living in the area we show as Cumorah in our model.

Another name that is currently applied to a different tribe in Imperial Valley California and the northern portions of the Colorado River Delta is “Cahuilla”, spelled phonetically as /kʌwilʌ/. A lot of literature has mistakenly identified this tribal name as being a loanword from Spanish, but in 1977 William Bright published a paper titled “The Origin of the Word ‘Cahuilla'”, in which he shows quite clearly that ‘Cahuilla’ is not a Spanish loanword. It turns out that “Cahuilla” is a native word used by the Cochimi Indians of the Baja California peninsula to refer to the Indians to their north in the areas of Colorado River Delta. (see http://escholarship.org/uc/item/2361f395)

When we compare the northern Cochimi word /kʌwilʌ/ with the word /kʌmorʌ/, we see some differences. For instance, we see /w/ where /m/ should be. Not only is this an unsurprising sound change (since you get /w/ by simply failing to completely close your lips when pronouncing /m/), but modern linguists have demonstrated that one of the two known Cochimi dialects used /w/ where the other dialect used /m/ (see Mixco, 1978). In other words, this sound correspondence is already accepted by linguists familiar with Cochimi-Yuman languages.

This means that the only unexpected differences between /kʌwilʌ/ and /kʌmorʌ/ is the change from /or/ to /il/. The consonants /r/ and /l/ are both categorized as ‘liquids’ and sound changes between /r/ and /l/ are particularly common in the languages of the world, although the burden is on us to demonstrate that this change is regular between Semitic/Egyptian and Cochimi. The only remaining difference between /kʌwilʌ/ and /kʌmorʌ/ is the change from /o/ to /i/, which is explained by the sound correspondence “-r- > -y-/-i-” mentioned above. All this seems to indicate that the dialect of Cochimi-Yuman spoken by the inhabitants of the northern portions of the Central Desert of Baja also referred to the inhabitants of the Colorado River Delta as “Cumorah”.

 

4. These “Cumorah” Tribes Have Preserved Religious Traditions that are Remarkably Consistent with Details Found in The Book of Mormon.

I found a fantastic published account that describes religious traditions associated with a mountain east of San Diego. The account is only a few pages long and speaks for itself, so instead of quoting extensively from it, I ask that you click on the following link and read the complete account:

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9pr0177c

Now that I’m aware of this account, I intend to revise our Baja model so that identifies this hill as the hill “Shim” from the Book of Mormon, not just because of the religious traditions associated with it, but also because its position fits the story of Omer recorded in the book of Ether tremendously well. If this is indeed the hill Shim mentioned in the Book of Mormon then having such a specific location for it also means we can refine our model’s locations for other cities and lands of the Jaredites (although it will take a while to update all our website’s materials with these changes, so please be patient when you see materials on our site that show Jaredite locations that don’t match this hill).

The Kumeyaay (Diegueño) call the mountain “Kuuchamaa” because they identify it as the place where the spirit of a great prophet (perhaps Christ) named “Kuuchamaa” resides. Many Native American tribes identify sacred mountains, but this particular account is very detailed and interesting as it relates to our model.

As you read the account, please note the parallels with Judeo/Christian traditions and parallels with accounts in The Book of Mormon, such as:

  • God is named Maayhaay (possibly related to the Hebrew term “Mashiah” (Messiah)).
  • God’s attributes and his desires related to people’s behavior toward him and towards one another.
  • The three Nephites, who watch over people during daylight on this continent and the Apostle John who performs similar work when it is nighttime in the Americas. These four “were to watch over all and aid him in teaching and maintaining peace and helpful behavior…[and] they were to remain on earth after Kuuchamaa’s death in order to watch over all and to report to his spirit”
  • The mountain serves many purposes that are similar to temples.
  • The religion related to the mountain was practiced both before and after Kuuchamaa’s mortal existence.
  • The pattern of God speaking through prophets.
  • Revelation received through fasting.
  • Revelation received through dreams.

I particularly like the statement by the modern tribal elders: “God did not send prophets just to Israel, but to all people to teach them how to behave…[and] that Kuuchamaa was as much his prophet to the Kumeyaay as were those in the Bible”

Please read the account itself, because my bullet-points here really don’t do justice to the details provided in the full account.

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