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Mineral Resources

Mineral resources played an important role in the day-to-day lifestyle of the ‘atáaxum. The uses of minerals are diverse: most are raw materials for tool production, but others are used for adornment or added to foods to preserve them or improve their nutritional value.

  • Obsidian
  • Limestone
  • Steatite
  • Chert
  • Chalcedony
  • Clay
  • Iron/Hematite
  • Red ochre
  • Basalt
  • Vesicular basalt
  • Granite
  • Slate
  • Micaceous schist
  • Tourmaline
  • Quartz
  • Quartzite
  • Serpentine
  • Mica
  • Travertine
  • Salt
  • Pumice
  • Jasper


One of the most important minerals was salt. The ‘atáaxum processed ocean salt and traded this product throughout Southern California. Salt was especially important in the hotter regions of the desert. Salt gathering is still practiced today.


Stone tool manufacture is one of the most common uses of minerals. We have been making knives, arrowheads, spear points, axes, abraders, scrapers, drill points, and ceremonial wands from stone for thousands of years. Milling stones, such as manos, pestles, metates, grinding slicks and bedrock mortars are common components of the many village sites located throughout ‘atáaxum territory.

Other uses of stone include arrow straighteners, cooking stones, heating stones, weights, bowls, polishing stones, and pipes. Besides utilitarian uses, many minerals were used for carvings, pendants, medicine stones and adornment, and this practice continues today.

Flint knapping

Flint knapping is the process of removing selected areas of a stone to produce sharp-edged tools. The Pechanga Youth learn to flint knap during community programs held on the Pechanga Reservation.

Locating resources

One of the most important aspects of mineral utilization is where to find these resources. Some resources are readily obtained locally while others are traded over hundreds of miles. The closest known obsidian source to ‘atáaxum territory is Obsidian Butte, which is located along the eastern shore of Salton Sea in Imperial County. This material is of poor quality when compared to materials from Coso Hot Springs, Queen Mountain, and Glass Mountain. Recent studies indicate that some obsidian found in the Temecula Valley came from as far away as Mexico.