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Excerpt of Pablo Tac's dictionary

Transcription and translation of source in: Tac, Pablo. Pablo Tac, Indigenous Scholar: Writing on Luiseño Language and Colonial History, c. 1840, Edited by James Luna and Lisbeth Haas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

Tac, Pablo, 1822-1841
circa 1840

Tac, Pablo. Excerpt of Pablo Tac's dictionary. Manuscript. Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna.

Pablo Tac was a Native Californian (Luiseño) man who was born in 1820 and raised at Mission San Luis Rey, in northern San Diego County. Tac and another Luiseño boy named Agapito Amamix became apprentices to the priest at the mission around the age of 8 or 9. After helping the missionaries for a few years, both boys left California with Father Antonio Peyri to study for the Catholic priesthood in Mexico City and, later, in Rome, Italy. While in Rome, Tac wrote a dictionary of the Luiseño language. He wrote about experiences from his life he used stories he learned about the time before the missions to help explain the words and phrases in his dictionary. This source comes from these writings.

How did the Spanish impact the lives of people from Tac’s village? Who were the leaders at the mission? Why do you think it was important for the Spanish to have Native people work as leaders (alcaldes) at the mission?

Pablo Tac had the unique ability to write in Luiseño, Spanish, and Latin because of the training he received while studying for the priesthood during his fairly short life. He also created a written version of the Luiseño language, which did not exist before Tac made this dictionary. Tac’s written record is an important primary source that reveals the ways that Luiseño people, and Native people more broadly, experienced the missions and the impact of Spanish contact. There are no other known accounts written directly by Native people at the time of the missions. However, scholars use the testimonies and actions of Native people as recorded in the reports of European observers to better understand how indigenous people experienced the missions.

Although Native people did not historically have written languages, oral tradition was, and still is, very important to many Native Californian communities. Today many Native people continue to keep alive their oral traditions in the form of stories, songs, their languages, and by recounting the experiences of their ancestors. Other people in Native communities that lost the last speakers of their languages are using recordings and writings similar to Tac’s to lead language revitalization movements. This is currently happening among some Ohlone and Gabrielino-Tongva communities, as well as many others.

Consider talking to students about the unique work undertaken by Pablo Tac while in Rome. How can we see the influence of Tac’s Luiseño culture in this excerpt?

Chàcajis……..llo rar to cry
Chàcajis……..llo ro the act of crying
Chàcajimoquis…….. qu ien ha llorado person who has cried
Chàquis……..hacer llorar to make one cry
Chaaquis……..el hacer llorar the act of making one cry
Chaquicat……..quien hace llorar person who makes one cry
Chaaquimoquis……..quien hizo llorar person who made one cry
Chacaiis…….el ladear the act of tilting
Chacaiimoquis…….quien ha ladeado person who has tilted
Chacàchaiis…….ladear muchas veces to tilt many times
Chacàchaiis…….el ladear muchas veces the act of tilting many times
Chacàchaimoquis…….quien ha ladeado muchas veces person who has tilted many times
Chañilajis…….festejar, hacer fiesta to celebrate, to hold a celebration
Chañilajis…….festejo celebration
Chañilis…….hacer fiesta to hold a celebration
Chañilcat…….quien hace fiesta person who holds a celebration
Chañilimoquis…….quien hizo fiesta person who held a celebration

Chanichñis…….Dios God
Chaññch aññiis
Chaññch aññiis
Chaññch aññimoquis