The people who lived on Volcan somewhere in the vicinity of 2,000-200 years ago, called themselves, The People, or Iipay, in their language. The Iipay lived in small bands in the canyons and on the rims of the canyons, and they produced little in the way of what we today would call ‘trash’. Artifacts such as arrowheads, pottery shards and morteros can be found, yet even these are scarce.
Archeologists have found artifacts on the eastern side of the mountain dating back 6,000 years. These Natives have become known as Native Americans, as their history has been lost to us.
The Iipay today are closely related to the Yuman Indian peoples who may have inhabited the desert for the past 11,000 years. As the seasons changed from cold to warm, the Native Americans moved from desert to mountains and used the land without infringing on other’s territories as much as possible. However, there were disputes as competition for resources occurred with population fluctuations. There were times of wintering, of wars and of ceremonies where the clans would come together to form a larger group.
There was an abundance of food. Just a few of the food sources included acorns, berries, roots, grass seeds, deer and rabbit. Their diet was diverse due to the variety of plants that could grow in both desert and mountain communities. In turn, this allowed for a wide variety of animal life to thrive. As nomadic hunter-gathering people, the land had much to offer.
As early as 1775 some Native People begin to see their way of life change dramatically as the Spanish and Mexican colonizers arrived. Due to the mission-life demands and their agricultural lifestyle, the Iipay were forced to adapt. A branch of the California Missions, the Asistencia de Santa Ysabel, was built in 1818 at the foot of Volcan’s western slope where the Santa Ysabel Creek descends. It became the focal point of ‘Indian affairs’ once the Iipay were moved and forced to adopt Christianity and the agricultural way of existence.
Following the Spanish conquests, Anglo-Americans, trappers, miners, loggers and ranchers poured into the region. The land went from the Mexican government to the U.S. government in 25 years time. During the 1870’s the settlers began litigation to gain title to the lands, and to evict the Iipay. The ensuing conflicts brought in the United States Federal Government which designated the surrounding 15,500 acres as the Santa Ysabel Reservation in 1875.
Of the 15,500 acres of Reservation land, 8,000 acres lie on the northwestern flank of Volcan Mountain. Descendants of the original clans engage in cattle ranching and now, like many tribes across the country, operate a casino. Today approximately 75 landowners have holdings on Volcan Mountain, including the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel.
The earliest known cabins were built and occupied on the mountain as far back as 1863. Of the families known to have resided on Volcan, the largest ranch was the 6,000 acre ranch of the Grand family, who settled on the east side of the mountain in Arkansas Canyon. In addition to grazing cattle and sheep, the ranch supported vineyards, crops, and a 2 story home constructed of local stone.
Some of the families who resided there in the late 1800’s were the Horrall family, The Saunders family and the Webb family.