Dispersed in southern California, the Cupeno people, which means "one from Kupa", are a Native American people associated with the
Cahuilla people. The Cupeño delineation was a result of the Spanish missionization which separated the tribe from the Cahuilla.
They are actually the Kuupangaxwichem, the "people from the sleeping place". The sleeping place and their headquarter is located in in Warner Springs, California, a small town just west of the Los Coyotes Reservation. The Cupeño people were long time inhabitants of the Warner Springs area. The town is known for its hot springs and for tourist gliding.
Former California Governor John Downey purchased the Warner Springs Ranch in 1880, to graze cattle and sheep herds. In 1892, after years of disputes with the Cupeños living at the ranch, Downey sued to evict the Indians. In 1894 after Downey's death, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Cupeños. The eviction order came in 1901 and their exodus two years later became known as the “Cupeno Trail of Tears.”
As mentioned, their traditional homeland was at Warner Springs, but following their exodus the survivors were relocated to what is now the Pala Reservation in Pala, California. As a result, today the Cupeno are dispersed, residing in several towns in the San Diego County and southern California. At their peak, the Cupeño are estimated to have numbered only about 750 people. During the last half of the 19th Century, there were usually about 200-300 Cupeño total, with most of them living in Pala.
The Cupeño continue to mourn their historical loss. However, like the Cupeño people are continuing to embrace their traditional cultural heritage through events such as the annual Cupa Days celebration, and through classes, activities, and research at the Cupa Cultural Center.
The Cupeno and Cahuilla languages are closely related and are part of the
Takic language family. Along with the Cahuilla language, their language is considered an endangered one.
The Cupeno adhere to Roman Catholicism and also indigenous tribal religions and traditions.
"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9, NIV)