To the natives of Diablo Valley, the Spanish who came here in 1772 were alien in every sense of the word. These men in their strange clothes, riding unknown beasts, and carrying great thunder sticks could easily have dropped from the sky.
In 1772, there were at least two Indian villages in Diablo Valley. The bigger village sat next to the river, called by the conquerors Santa Ana de Fulgino (later called Walnut Creek). It was the largest moving water in the valley, and came from the mountain. The first families lived there, and had for many generations built villages up and down the river.
There was a spring of cool water near the village. The village was surrounded on the south by a thicket or "monte" of bushes and tule, providing protection from the south. The channel, narrow but very deep, ran in pure water in years of much rain, but was salty during years of dryness. The salmon came nearly to the village to lay their eggs. The natives trapped and speared the fish. Seals lived on the islands just north of the village.
The first Spaniard to write about these Indians (in 1772) told about their meeting:
"Because of a post's having arrived from Monte-Rey, we set out from the camp at about half past six, and took up an east-northeasterly course, through the midst of some very grassy hills; on going a league we came out to a plain, where we encountered ...At a league's distance from us, in the midst of a plain, we saw their village, which was very large and extremely well peopled with heathens.
"On coming into the valley here [Diablo Valley], we changed course to due northeastward and had the heathens who had been shouting to us (there were four of them) a little more than a musket-shot distant. They had driven a bow into the ground, with arrows and an animal skin, with feather work, and were signing to us to go and take it, being unwilling to approach us themselves. Our captain went ahead with one soldier to take what they had set out for us and the heathens drew back a way; and our captain in the same spot drove in a pole with beads for them and signed to them to come take it, while we proceeded on northeastward across the valley to go up through a gap in the range [Willow Pass]. As soon as we had proceeded some way, the heathen went to get what we had left for them, and then, as we saw, they went running off to one of the two smokes [villages] that we had been viewing off in the distance on two sides of the flat. As we were just about to leave the valley we once again heard shouting and noticed a few heathens coming, laden, and calling to us, who were from the village that the first four ones had come from. We stopped for a while, and some fourteen heathens arrived, some among them laden with small onions the call amoles, barbequed, which they cast upon the ground while some of our men took whatever share they wanted. We gave them beads and they were very well pleased. They were heathens like the previous ones1, very fair-haired and white, most of them like just so many giants."
If the Chupcans would have had a historian he might have written:
"Our men signaled for them to follow back to the chief village of our people. In a procession, our men danced and sang as they led the caballeros to the village. Everybody came out to meet them, singing, dancing and shouting in the traditional way, greeting and welcoming, each wearing his best adornment. After a time exchanging gifts, the white Father and the soldiers left the chief village and came to our smaller village."
There were later encounters between the Indians and Spanish, none good for the Indians. By 1805, the Chupcans had abandoned their Diablo Valley villages. By 1812, many had moved into the Missions. By 1815 most of those were dead.
Copyright © 2001-2018, Contra Costa County Historical Society, all rights reserved.