Black Star Canyon / Indian Village

March 4th, 2012

Black Star Canyon Indian Village
California Historical Landmark No. 217

Lat/Lon: 33 48.140 N / 117 39.290 W

Directions are pretty easy. From the I-5 get off on Jamboree and head east for about 5 miles. The you’ll make a right on Santiago Canyon Road, take that for about another 5 miles until you reach, Silverado Canyon Road, make a left here, the next street you come to will be Black Star Canyon Road, go left, drive about a mile and you’ll see the gate/trailhead. Park on the side of the road.

I've been hearing about the Indian Village in Black Star Canyon for some time now, but after viewing a video from Rami Dogg I knew I needed to go and check it out. So I started reading more and more about it. It seems that Black Star Canyon in haunted. I read about different things happening to different people and I thought that was silly, but it happened to me! I shoot video on must of our hikes, and I started shooting video at the trailhead explaining that we were hiking to the Indian Village this morning. The sound on that part of the video was distorted, and then when I was at the Indian Village, I was talking about the site from what I had learned and the video cut off in mid-sentence! It's a new video camera, and I just used it the day before on the Smith Mountain hike, and after I download the video and saw what was happening, I tried the video camera again at home and it worked fine. I've used it a few times since then and it works perfectly. I didn't put two and two together until the next day, I don't believe in haunted canyons or curses, but the video disruption actually happened. I did manage to put together a cut up version of the video at the bottom of this page, The reason people think this place is haunted is because the Tongva-Gabrieliño Indians massacred in this canyon. I found the following on

According to a story recounted by early settler J.E. "Judge" Pleasants, an armed conflict between American fur trappers, led by William Wolfskill, and a group of Tongva Indians occurred in 1831.

"The story of the battle, the bloodiest in the history of the Santa Ana Mountains, was told seventy years ago by William Wolfskill to J. E. Pleasants, and was repeated to us by Mr. Pleasants. The Indians were very fond of horseflesh. Ranchos were lacking in means of defense in the days when the missions were breaking up and Indians from the mountains and desert used to have no trouble in stealing herds of horses from the Spaniards. A party of trappers came across from New Mexico in 1831. Their long rifles and evident daring offered to the troubled dons a solution to their horse-stealing difficulties. Americans were not any too welcome in the Mexican pueblo of Los Angeles, and it was with a desire to please the Spaniards [Mexicans] in this foreign land a long way from the United States that the American trappers agreed to run down the Indian horsethieves. The trail of the stolen band of horses was followed across the Santa Ana River, eastward through what is now Villa Park and up the Santiago Canyon to the mouth of Canyon de los Indios... Here, the trail turned into mountain fastnesses, into the unknown mountains, covered heavily with brush. With every turn a favorable spot for ambush, the frontiersmen made their way carefully. The trail took the men up a steep mountainside, and, after two or three hours of climbing there was laid out before them a little valley with grassy slopes and hillsides [today called Hidden Ranch], upon which horses were quietly grazing. Smoke was coming from fires in the age-old campground of the Indians at the lower end of the valley. The Indians were feasting on juicy horseflesh. Perhaps it was the crack of a long rifle, the staggering of a mortally wounded Indian that gave the natives their first warning of the presence of an enemy. Among the oaks and boulders an unequal battle was fought. There were no better marksmen on earth than these trappers. They had killed buffalo. They had fought the Comanche and Apache. They were a hardy, fearless lot, else they would not have made their way across the hundreds of miles of unknown mountain and desert that laid between New Mexico and California. The Indians were armed with a few old Spanish blunderbuss muskets and with bows and arrows. The battle was soon over. Leaving their dead behind them, the Indians who escaped the bullets of the trappers scrambled down the side of the gorge and disappeared in the oaks and brush. Of those who had begun the fight, but a few got away. The stolen horses were quickly rounded up. Some of them were animals stolen months before. The herd was driven down the trail to the Santiago and a day or two later, the horses were delivered to their owners. In the battle, not one of the frontiersmen was wounded." went on the explain why this valley was picked by the Tongva-Gabrieliño.

Black Star Canyon is perhaps best known to historians as an important archaeological site as much information concerning the daily lives of the Tongva-Gabrieliño people has been uncovered through studies of artifacts found in the canyon. It is known that many of the native Tongva people fled to the mountains in the summer, searching not only for relief from the heat, but also for acorns, their main source of food, which were easy to find among the canyon's many mature oak trees. It is very likely that the settlement – located in the upper part of the canyon – was inhabited for only part of the year. The site of the settlement is now California Historical Landmark number 217. Indian settlements were very sporadic, as the grizzly bear population of the Santa Anas was comparatively high for such a small mountain range. Signs of Indian habitation, such as the 'pothole' grinding rocks, are found only in canyons, such as Black Star or Bell Canyon, where grizzly populations were known to have been low. The canyon to the north, Fremont, has just as many oak trees and forage sources as Black Star, with no archaeological traces of any human habitation, likely because the canyon was home to many bears.

It was a long hike up a dirt road to the Indian Village, about 5-miles out and 5-miles back. It’s a good workout. There is some elevation gain, and it’s really beautiful out there. We didn’t see any wildlife, although I did see a mountain lion print in the dried mud from the rains that happened the week prior to us hiking there.

It was so cool sending the mortars that the Indians used to grind their acorns in, they were everywhere. I saw one rock with six mortars in it, and thought about the Indians just sitting there grinding acorns, wondered what they were talking about. This village overlooks nice valley with a stream running through it.

On the way back, you can see a lot of Orange County, and we also saw Catalina & San Clemente Island. The views were great! I would recommend this hike, but keep in mind, there is no shade, bring a hat and sunscreen. Mostly mountain bikers use the trail to the Indian Village; all of them were very courtesy.

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