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28B Tahquitz Peak (LO)

Location: Riverside County, California

Named after an Indian legend of a luminous spirit-demon believed to frequent this and surrounding peaks. Tahquitz collected souls, but also loved human flesh, especially that of beautiful maidens. This legend was part of the folk lore of nearly every Indian tribe in Southern California. The many stories about him vary somewhat but agree that he was rather nasty and very powerful-even mere sight of him could kill. All unusual disappearances were credited to his intercession. When thunder and lightening occurred, it was taken as a sign of his anger. At such times the mountains themselves rumbled and shook and became too menacing for anyone to enter. Even today, often noted underground reverberations in the San Jacinto's (that may occur during periods of atmospheric disturbance) defy explanation, but are often still attributed to him. Tahquitz was a numinous .creature called a Nukat. This was a kind of being conceived by creator-deities Mukat and Tenwyawet, which varied in its manifestations but usually took the form of natural phenomena, or assumed the form of natural features. Nukat were oninipresent representations of primal elemental forces. Tahquitz differed in that he was so feared as to be more like a demon-in some translations, his name mans "devil". he has been variously transcribed as Taqwus, Tauquitch, Taukwitch, Takwitc, or Tauksh. Alfred L. Kroeber, in his Handbook of the Indians of California, states that the name is derived from the Luiseño Indian word Dakwish or Takwish (the correct sound is intermediate between "d" and "t") which means "fireball [ball-lightning] or meteor".

The present spelling of Tahquitz originated with USGS maps which named both Peak, Valley, and Creek (1897-98). Since then, Tahquitz Canyon(s), Falls and Rock have been similarly named and spelled.

To the Morongo Indians his body was like a golden walking stick. Kroeber further described Tahquitz as being "like a bird, having soft white feathers all over its body ... around its head are tied feather ropes, and these are held in place by the elat, [which is] ceremonially 'swallowed' by medicinemen and also-worn as a headdress". "As [Tahquitz] moves its feathers fall and it leaves them behind. It can be seen every night at San Jacinto Mountain, turning like a ball of light." Hooper describes the story more fully: "In the beginning, Takwich was a man whom Mukat created and to whom he gave great power. He was the first shaman. The people disliked him so very much, that he ran away to the San Jacinto Mountains; he still lives 'in a Canyon there known as ... [Tahquitz] Canyon. His home is in a large rock. Though no one knows what rock it is. A meteor that is seen occasionally is believed to be [Tahquitz] hunting for wandering souls. The stealing of spirits is his main occupation. He takes them to his home in San Jacinto and eats them; he often steals people as well as their souls. Occasionally, a rumbling sound is heard issuing from [Tahquitz] Canyon. They say that some girl is begging [Tahquitz] to let her go and that he is growling at her. Once, all earthquakes were attributed to [Tahquitz] and whenever one occurred the Indians would hold a dance. When people are killed in an accident, it is often because their spirits have been stolen by [Tahquitz]."

Even today, Amerindian fear of Tahquitz was cited as part of an unfavorable E.I.R. on a proposed high-voltage line through the San Jacinto Mountain area because: "it is believed ... that the electrical power can be used increase the power of ... Taliquitz" (1980).

A fire lookout was built by the CCC for the USFS consisting of a 9' enclosed timber tower topped by the last remaining BC-3 cab (1937). All supplies are still brought in by horse back, since it is in a wilderness area-as such it is the only active one in Southern California.

Variant name used: East Peak of San Jacinto Mtns (USGS surveyor William Minto 1879).

Current name (with its various spellings) first becomes standard in the 1890's-for example it is cited in a filing by Lyman Gregory for a water claim on Tacquish Mountain (1895).

Name first appears on USGS San Jacinto quad (1901).

Peak was on the original 1946 HPS Peak List. Weldon Heald climbed this peak in 1936.


Hundred Peaks Section, Angeles Chapter, Sierra Club
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Updated 25-February-2003