Esselen

From Academic Kids

The Esselen were the Native American inhabitants of what is now known as Big Sur on the Central Coast of California.

They resided from the Carmel River, and along the Sur River. There were also settlements in the coastal range. They lived in one of the most beautiful areas of the Pacific coast, among redwoods, plunging seacliffs and spectacular beaches. They lived off of hunting and gathering and resided in small groups with no centralized political authority.

The Esselen probably numbered about 500 in 1770. They were absorbed into the mision population, at Mission Carmel, and died from disease and overwork. They are now extinct.

The Esselen spoke a Hokan language. Very little data on this language has survived; there was one word list collected during the Mission era and John Peabody Harrington managed to collect some more data in the late 19th century.

The Esalen Institute in Big Sur is named after this group.


The definitive work on the Esselen is by Gary S. Breschini and Trudy Haversat (2004), titled "The Esselen Indians of the Big Sur Country: The Land and the People." It was published by Coyote Press, Salinas.

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