The groups previously known as the Northern and Southern Diegueño have been known in the past decade or so by their traditional names (Kumeyaay, Ipai, Tipai). While there is no universal agreement or nomenclature amongst the various bands and tribes, for this study the native groups north of the San Diego River basin are identified as Ipai; those to the south as Tipai; and those in the generalized area of La Posta as Kumeyaay.  Beginning in the 1970s the term Kumeyaay was, perhaps incorrectly, used to encompass all of the people previously known as Diegueño.  While some people and groups still self-identify themselves solely as Kumeyaay, the terms Ipai and Tipai may have more utility—certainly for this study of the Viejas Band.

The issue of what to call the Late Prehistoric and early historic people of southern and central San Diego County has loomed large for many decades.  Malcolm Rogers, while acknowledging the term Diegueño, a historical and anthropological term in vogue in the 1900-1940s, seemed to prefer the term Yuman.  Rogers (1945) was clear to assure the reader that use of the term Yuman was not meant to imply linguistic parallels deep into prehistoric time, but only roots in the Yuman territory of the eastern deserts.  The writings of Rogers make it clear that he saw the prehistoric roots of the people of eastern and southern San Diego County in the western deserts of the Salton Sink and the Imperial Desert.

The term Diegueño, as adopted by anthropologists and historians, was originally derived from Spanish usage beginning in the 1770s although Brown (2001:60) asserts that the correct spelling is Dieguinos, a spelling that American ethnologists corrupted into Diegueños.  The term was applied to those Indians under the jurisdiction of Mission San Diego and also connoted a generalized tribe differentiated from the Takic-speaking people to the north (Luiseños) and the Cocopah and Pai Pai to the south.  

Similar glosses for Diegueño or Dieguino, were used in the American period including “Diegeenos” in 1849 by A. Whipple (Whipple 1961:31); Diegeno in 1850 by Bartlett (1854:7), and Diegueños by Benjamin Hayes in 1870 (Hayes 1934: 140), and by the anthropologist Harrington (1908: 324) in 1908 when he noted that the Central Yuman Group included “Diegueño (Kamyá),” with the term Kamyá referring to the eastern Diegueños.

In the 1970s some groups of what were previously called southern Diegueños adopted the term Kumeyaay for themselves (Hedges 1975).  This group, based in the Campo and La Posta area of eastern San Diego County, was aided by the noted anthropologist Florence Shipek in extending the term Kumeyaay well beyond the immediate area of the eastern mountain valleys.  By the 1980s and well into the late 1990s, for many historians and anthropologists Kumeyaay erroneously came to encompass both southern and northern Diegueños.  

The neighbors of the Ipai to the north are the Luiseño and Cahuilla (Takic-speaking peoples); to the south of the Ipai are the Pai Pai (a related Yuman-speaking people); and to the southeast, the Cocopah (also a related Yuman-speaking group).  Further to the east of both the Ipai and Tipai with an area of concentration along the Colorado River are the Quechan previously known as the Yuma.  

Luomala noted in 1975 that based on Gifford’s studies and on her research in the late 1960s and into the 1970, the term Tipai was used to denote ‘people’ in southern San Diego County and northern Baja California.  By contrast she provides the word ‘tipai for the people of northern San Diego County (Luomala (1975:65). In part following Luomala, there has been a break from the ill-founded practice of generalizing Kumeyaay to all Yuman-speaking people and cultures with Ipai becoming more common for northern Diegueño and Tipai for the southern Diegueños. Kumeyaay, however, is still in wide use in the Campo region where it may, indeed have validity.

Spier (1923: 198) based on his 1920 fieldwork, may have been the first to apply the term tipaí to the Southern Diegueño and suggested that the Northern Diegueño were Kumiai (Kumeyaay).  That there are significant linguistic variations between the northern and southern people is well documented in the literature and acknowledged by contemporary speakers.  For example, an important bird dance recorded by Constance DuBois (1906:1) was called Ee-sha at Manzanita (Southern) and Ah-sha at Mesa Grande (Northern).  In her introduction to the seminal book on Ipai language, Margaret Langdon noted that there are many variations of the ‘iipay language (her orthography) and in Let’s Talk ‘Iipay: An Introduction to the Mesa Grande Language, Langdon stressed that the spellings and pronunciations were specific to Ted Couro and Mesa Grande people (Couro and Langdon 1975).  Kroeber (1925: 710) wrote that the speakers of the southern dialect in American California,  included Manzanita, Campo, La Post, Guyapipe [Cuiapaipe], and La Laguna.