Early History of the Carlsbad Area

Prior to becoming part of the San Luis Rey Mission, the area that is currently Carlsbad was home to two Native American groups. The Luiseños and the Diegueños or Kumeyaay, were living in Carlsbad when the Spanish arrived. The Luiseños territory ranged from slightly north of the San Luis Rey River, east towards Pala and south to Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The Diegueños or Kumeyaay were a much bigger group, and consequently had a larger territory that went from the Batiquitos Lagoon south into Baja California.

Matate Basket

When Father Lausen established the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in 1798, Native Americans in this area fully felt the impact of Spain’s domination and control. Establishing a mission meant more than building a church. Indians from the Baja Missions came with the Franciscan fathers in order to settle and establish the Alta California missions. In addition to speaking Spanish these Baja Indians shared a similar linguistic base with Diegueño or Kumeyaay Indians of present day San Diego County. The Baja Mission Indians provided an invaluable service with their language skills facilitating the exchange of ideas between these Alta California Indians and the Spanish Fathers. They were able to instruct Alta California Indians in the European agriculture, building, black-smithing and animal husbandry skills necessary to establishing Missions.

Missions were self sufficient entities that utilized Native American labor to build orchards, cattle ranches, water systems and other agricultural and cultural developments. The Mission San Luis Rey boundaries were from north of present day Camp Pendleton, east to Santa Isabel and south past Encinitas. Native Americans assigned to the Mission San Luis Rey, for the most part remained in their villages, coming to the actual mission on a rotating basis. Most of their labor was spent in establishing the Mission San Luis Rey as the largest livestock ranch in the Mission system with over 50,000 livestock, both cattle and sheep. Luiseños and Diegueños assigned to Mission San Luis Rey are the only California Native Americans to have survived the Mission period in any great numbers. Today, San Diego County’s, with 18, has more reservations than any other county of the United States.