One of California’s most protected state parks lies about 10 miles east of Tehachapi.
Available only through guided tours, Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park contains the last traces of some of Tehachapi’s oldest residents, the Kawaiisu.
Meaning “winter home,” Tomo-Kahni sits atop a ridge in the Tehachapi Mountains, overlooking the Tehachapi Valley.
Visitors to the park will be able to visit the site of an ancient Kawaiisu village, and they will be able to see pictographs, or painted drawings, in several spots along the guided route.
In order to protect the extremely sensitive nature of the site, tours are only available in the spring and the fall.
Although no structures still stand at the site of the village, guides bring to life the history of the Kawaiisu people, who inhabited the region as many as 1,500 years ago.
The tour brings visitors along rock rings that mark the homes, or kahni, in the village that were built with juniper boughs.
Visitors will also see hundreds of mortar holes throughout the park. The holes were used by women for grinding acorns and other seeds with smooth rocks.
The tour includes a trip through Medicine Cave, Nettle Springs and a cave with pictographs inside.
The Kawaiisu initially migrated from the Great Basin to take advantage of the Tehachapi area’s numerous resources.
They lived and worked in small family units, roaming the territory searching for food.
Known for their colorful baskets, woven with intricate designs, the Kawaiisu were a peaceful people who lived as hunter-gatherers.
Their dwellings were made from juniper limbs that were bound together with willow boughs and thatched with brush, secured to the ground with rings of rocks. The structures looked like upside down baskets.
Evidence of the temporary encampments can be seen throughout the region.
Individual families would gather near a permanent spring in the park to spend the winter together.
The Kawaiisu also used caves throughout the region for living areas, birthing, ceremonies, lookouts and storage.