California Indian Tribes

The territory of the present State of California was discovered in 1542 by a Portuguese navigator in the Spanish service, J. R. Cabrillo.

In 1578 Sir Francis Drake landed at Drake’s Bay, opened communication with the natives, and took possession of the country in the name of England, calling it New Albion.

It was explored by the Spaniard S. Viscayno in 1602, but no attempt was made at colonization until the Franciscan Fathers established a mission at San Diego in 1769.

Within the next 50 years they founded 21 missions. The tribal concept in most parts of California is one imposed upon the Indians as a result of ethnological investigation rather than something recognized by themselves.

It has a dialectic rather than a governmental or ceremonial base, but it is the best that can be done unless we adopt the impracticable alternative of treating each village group as a tribe.

It is to be understood that, from the ordinary point of view as to what constitutes a tribe, this expedient is largely artificial.

The northwestern California Indians have cultural ties with the Northwest.

The southern California Indians are culturally linked with the Southwest. Follow the links below to learn more about California Indian Tribes.

Also see California Rancherias and California Mission Indians.


(Federal List Last Updated 5/2016)


(Not recognized by the Federal Government)

  • Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe (historically known as the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians).Gabrielino/Tongva Indians of California Tribal Council. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/14/1997.
  • Juaneno Band of Mission Indians (I). (Unrecognized Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation (II) also exists.)


  • Alexander Valley Mishewal Wappo
  • Amah Mutsun Band of Ohlone/Costanoan Indians (formerly Amah Band of Ohlone/Costanoan Indians). Letter of Intent to Petition 09/18/19
  • Amonsoquath Tribe of Cherokee. Letter of Intent to Petition.(California and Missouri
  • Ani Yvwi Yuchi. Letter of Intent to Petition 7/31/1996.
    Antelope Valley Paiute Tribe (aka Antelope Valley Indian Community). Letter of Intent to Petition 07/09/1976.
  • American Indian Council of Mariposa Co.
  • Antelope Valley Indian Community
  • Atahun Shoshones of San Juan Capistrano
  • Barbareno/Ventureno Band of Mission Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/17/2002.
  • Big Meadows Lodge Tribe
    Calaveras Co. Band of Miwok Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/31/2001.
  • California Indian Council/Lulapin
  • Callattakapa Choctaw Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 07/13/2004.
  • Calusa-Seminole Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 04/28/1998.
  • Chilula Tribe
  • The Chiricahua Tribe of California. Letter of Intent to Petition 04/24/2003.
  • Choctaw Allen Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/20/2003.
  • Choinumni Tribe (Choinumni Council). Letter of Intent to Petition 07/14/1988. Certified letter undeliverable 10/1997
  • Chukchansi Yokotch Tribe of Mariposa CA. Letter of Intent to Petition 05/25/1993.
  • Chukchansi Yokotch Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 05/09/1985; Letter of Intent withdrawn 9/6/2000.
  • Chumash Council of Bakersfield. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/18/2005.
  • Coastal Band of Chumash Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 03/25/1982.
  • Coastal Gabrieleno Diegueno Band of Mission Indians.[7] Letter of Intent to Petition 3/18/1997.
  • Coastanoan Band of Mission Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 09/16/1988.
  • Colfax Todds Valley Consolidated Tribes
  • Confederation of Aboriginal Nations
  • Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/24/1994.
  • Costanoan Tribe of Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista Missions. Letter of Intent to Petition 5/11/1999; Letter of Intent withdrawn 5/10/2000.
  • Costoanoan Ohlone Rumsen-Mutsen Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 12/07/1994.
  • Death Valley Timba-Sha Shoshone Band
  • Digueno Band of San Diego Mission Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/15/2003.
  • The Displaced Elem Lineage Emancipated Members (aka DELEMA). Letter of Intent to Petition 05/11/1998.
  • Dumna-Wo-Wah Tribal Government (formerly Dumna Tribe of Millerton Lake). Letter of Intent to Petition 01/22/2002.
  • Dunlap Band of Mono Indians (aka Mono Tribal Council of Dunlap). Letter of Intent to Petition 01/04/1984. Letter of Intent withdrawn 7/2/2002; Letter of Intent to Petition 8/9/2005.
  • Eshom Valley Band of Michahai and Wuksachi. Letter of Intent to Petition 05/24/2005.
  • Esselen/Coastanoan Tribe of Monterey County (formerly Esselen Tribe of Monterey Council). Letter of Intent to Petition 11/16/1992; withdrawn 11/15/1996.
  • Fernandeno/Tataviam Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 04/24/1995.
  • Federated Coast Miwok Tribe
  • Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians of California. Letter of Intent to Petition 11/03/1998.
  • Gabrielino/Tongva Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 03/21/1994.
  • Honey Lake Maidu. Letter of Intent to Petition 06/01/2000.
  • Hownonquet Community Association
  • Independence 14 (Miranda Allotment)
  • Indian Cultural Organization
  • Indian Canyon Band of Coastanoan/Mutsun Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 06/09/1989.
  • Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation (II). Letter of Intent to Petition 3/8/1996. Decline to Acknowledge 12/03/2007 (72 FR 67951). (State-recognized Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemen Nation (I) also exists.)
  • Kawaiisu Tribe of the Tejon Indian Reservation
  • Kern Valley Indian Community. Letter of Intent to Petition 02/27/1979.
  • Konkow Valley Band of Maidu. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/20/1998.
  • Maidu Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 1/6/1977
  • Melochundum Band of Tolowa Indians
  • Mishkanaka (Chumash)
  • Miwok Tribe
  • Monachi Indian Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/14/2004.
  • Mono Lake Indian Community. Letter of Intent to Petition 07/09/1976.
  • Muwekma Ohlone Tribe (formerly Ohlone/Costanoan Muwekma Tribe aka Muwekma Indian Tribe: Costanoan/Ohlone Indian Families of the San Francisco Bay). Letter of Intent to Petition 05/09/1989. Declined to Acknowledge 9/17/2002 (67 FR 58631); decision effective 12/16/2002.
  • Nashville Eldorado Miwok Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 11/09/2004.
  • Nor-Rel-Muk Nation (formerly Hayfork Band; formerly Nor-El-Muk Band of Wintun Indians). Letter of Intent to Petition 01/05/1984.
  • North Fork Band of Mono Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 09/07/1983.
  • North Valley Yokut Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 09/22/2000.
  • Northern Band of Mono-Yokuts. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/22/2006.
  • Northern Maidu Maidu Tribe
  • Northfolk Band of Mono Indians
  • Ohlone/Costanoan – Esselen Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 12/03/1992.
  • Ohlonebraska_native_americans/Coastanoan Muwekma Tribe
  • Paskenta Band of Momlaki Indians
  • Salinan Nation (aka Salinan Chumash Nation). Letter of Intent to Petition 10/10/1989.
  • Salinan Tribe of Monterey & San Luis Obispo Counties. Letter of Intent to Petition 11/13/1993.
  • San Fernando Band of Mission Indians (formerly Ish Panesh United Band of Indians; formerly Oakbrook Chumash People aka Ish Panesh Band of Mission Indians, Oakbrook Park Chumash). Letter of Intent to Petition 05/25/1995.
  • San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/18/1984.
  • Shasta Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 05/28/1982.
  • Shasta Tribe
  • She-Bel-Na Band of Mendocino Coast Pomo Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 03/01/2006.
  • Sierra Foothill Wuksachi Yokuts Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 05/11/1999.
  • Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation (formerly American Indian Council of Mariposa County aka Yosemite). Letter of Intent to Petition 04/24/1982.
  • Tehatchapi Tribe of the Tejon Reservation
  • Tejon Indian Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 10/27/2000.
  • Tinoqui-Chalola Council of Kitanemuk and Yowlumne Tejon Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/16/1996.
  • Tolowa Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/31/1983.
  • Tolowa-Tututni Tribe (California and Oregon)
  • Toulumne Algerine Band of Yokut. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/23/2006.
  • Traditional Choinuymni Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 03/29/2000.
  • T’Si-akim Maidu. Letter of Intent to Petition 11/16/1998.
  • Tsnungwe Council (aka South Fork Hupa). Letter of Intent to Petition 09/22/1992.
  • Tsnungwe Nation
  • United Hourma Nation, Inc. Letter of Intent to Petition 3/22/1994.
  • United Lumbee Nation of North Carolina and America. Letter of Intent to Petition 04/28/1980; Declined to Acknowledge 07/02/1985 (50 FR 18746).(California and North Carolina.)
  • United Maidu Nation. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/06/1977.
  • Wadatkuht Band of the Northern Paiutes of the Honey Lake Valley. Letter of Intent to Petition 01/26/1995.
  • Washoe/Paiute of Antelope Valley. Letter of Intent to Petition 07/09/1976.
  • Winnemem Band of Wintun (aka Toyon Wintun, Inc.)
  • Wintoon Indians Letter of Intent to Petition 10/26/1984; certified letter returned by P.O. 10/1997.
  • The Wintoon Tribe of Northern California, Inc.. Letter of Intent to Petition 04/27/2005.[2]
  • Wintu Indians of Central Valley, CA Letter of Intent to Petition 10/26/1984; certified letter returned by P.O. 10/1997.
  • Wintu of Shasta-Toyon
  • Wintu Tribe of Northern California. Letter of Intent to Petition 08/25/1993.
  • Woodfords Community Council
  • Wukchunmi Council Letter of Intent to Petition 02/22/1988.Certified letter undeliverable 10/1997.
  • Xolon Salinan Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 09/18/2001.
  • Yokayo Tribe of Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 03/09/1987. Certified letter returned by P.O. 10/1997
  • Yosemite Mono Lake Paiute Indian Community. Letter of Intent to Petition 12/06/2005.

California Rancherias:

Mission Indians:


When Europeans entered the California region in the 16th century, they encountered a population of more than 300,000 Native Americans.


Achomawi. Now known as the Pit River Indians. The Achomawi were originally classed with the Atsugewi as one stock under the name Palaihnihan, the Achomawan stock of Merriam (1926), and this in turn constitutes the eastern branch of the Shastan stock, which in turn is now placed under the widely spread Hokan family.

They were historically located in the drainage area of Pit River from near Montgomery Creek in Shasta County to Goose Lake on the Oregon line, with the exception of the territory watered by Burney, Hat, and Horse or Dixie Valley Creeks.


  • Achomawi, on Fall River.
  • Astakiwi, in upper Hot Springs Valley.
  • Atuami, in Big Valley.
  • Hamawi, on the South Fork of Pit River.
  • Hantiwi, in lower Hot Springs Valley.
  • Ilmawi, on the south side of Pit River opposite Fort Crook.
  • Madehsi, the lowest on Pit River along the big bend.

C. H. Merriam (1926) says that Achomawi is the Madehsi name for the Astakiwi which occupied all of Hot Springs Valley, and he adds the names of two other tribes between the last mentioned and Goose Lake, the Ko-se-al-lak’-te, and, higher up, at the lower end of the lake, the Ha’-we-si’-doc.

Alliklik. The Alliklik belonged to the California group of the Shoshonean division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock, their closest relatives probably being the Serrano. They were located on the upper Santa Clara River.

Atsugewi. Also known as Adwanuqdji, (Ilmawi name) Hat Creek Indians, (popular English name), and Tcunoíyana, (Yana name). With the Achomawi, the Atsugewi constituted the Palaihnihan or eastern group of the Shastan stock, more recently placed by Dixon and Kroeber (1919) in the Hokan family. They were located on Burney, Hat, and Dixie Valley or Horse Creeks.


  • Apwarukei (Dixie Valley people)
  • Hat Creek People(Atsugewi)
  • Wamari’i (Burney Valley People)

Bear River Indians. The Bear River Indians lived along Bear River in the present Humboldt County. Also called Ni’ekeni’, a name they applied to themselves and to the Mattole. The Bear River Indians belonged to the Athapascan linguistic family, and were most closely connected with the Mattole, Sinkyone, and Nongatl tribes to the south and east.(See North Carolina for a tribe similarly named.)

Cahuilla. Also spelled Kawia. The Cahuilla belonged to the southern California group of the Shoshonean division of the Uto-Aztecan stock. They were located mainly in the inland basin between the San Bernardino Range and the range extending southward from Mount San Jacinto.


  • Desert Cahuilla, at northern end of the Colorado Desert.
  • Mountain Cahuilla, in the mountains south of San Jacinto Peak.
  • Western or Pass Cahuilla, centering in Palms Springs Canyon.

Chemehuevi. Chemehuevi was the Yuman name for this tribe and for the Paiute. Also called: Ah’alakåt, (Pima name, meaning “small bows”), Mat-hat-e-vátch, (Yuma name meaning “northerners”), and Tä’n-ta’wats, (their own name for themselves, meaning “southern men”).

The Chemehuevi were a part of the true Paiute and were associated with them and the Ute in one linguistic subdivision of the Shoshonean division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock. In acncient times, they were located in the eastern half of the Mohave Desert. At a later date the Chemehuevi settled on Cottonwood Island, in Chemehuevi Valley, and at other points on Colorado River.


  • Hokwaits, in Ivanpah Valley.
  • Kauyaichits, location unknown.
  • Mokwats, at the Kingston Mountains.
  • Moviats, on Cottonwood Island.
  • Shivawach or Shivawats, in the Chernehucvi Valley, perhaps only the name of a locality.
  • Tumpisagavatsits or Timpashauwagotsits, in the Providence Mountains.
  • Yagats, at Afnargosa.

Chilula Chilula is an American rendering of the Yurok word Tsulu-la, meaning “people of Tsulu,” (the Bald Hills). With the Hupa and Whilkut, the Chilula formed one group of the Athapascan linguistic stock located on or near lower Redwood Creek from near the inland edge of the heavy redwood belt to a few miles above Minor Creek.

Chimariko Also called: Kwoshonipu, (a name probably given them by the Shasta of Salmon River) and Meyemma, (a name given by Gibbs in 1853). Originally considered a distinct stock, the Chimariko are now classed in the Hokan linguistic family. They were located on the canyon of Trinity River from about the mouth of New River to Canyon Creek.

Chumash Making their home along the Channel Islands and Santa Monica Mountain region of California, extending from Morro Bay in the north to Malibu in the south, the Chumash also occupied three of the Channel Islands: Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel, and the smaller island of Anacapa was likely inhabited seasonally due to the lack of a consistent water source.


Cupeño The Cupeno spoke a dialect belonging to the Luiseno-Cahuilla branch of the Shoshonean division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock. They lived in a mountainous district on the headwaters of San Luis Rey River, not over 10 by 5 miles in extent.

Dakubetede Dakubetede was an Athapascan tribe of Oregon which extended slightly beyond the northern border of California. (See Oregon.)

Diegueno (See Kumeyaay Indians)

Esselen Originally given the status of a distinct stock, the Esselen are now placed in the Ilokan linguistic family, their affinities being rather with the Yuman division, to the south, and with the Porno, Yana, and other groups to the north than with their closer neighbors of this stock, the Salinan and Chumash tribes. They were located on the upper course of Carmel River, Sur River, and the coast from Point Lopez almost to Point Sur.

Fernandeno The Fernandeno were named for San Fernando, one of the two Franciscan missions in Los Angeles County. The nearest relatives of the Fernandeno were the Gabrielino and both belonged to the California section of the Shoshonean Division of the Uto Aztecan linguistic stock. They lived in that part of the valley of Los Angeles River above Los Angeles.


Halchidhoma. On the middle Colorado. (See Arizona.)

Huchnom. The name applied to this tribe by the Yuki and apparently by themselves means “mountain people.” Also called Redwoods in English, and Ta’-tu by the Porno of Potter Valley.

The Huchnom belonged to the Yukian linguistic stock, though resembling the Porno somewhat more closely in culture.

They lived in the valley of South Eel River from Hullville nearly to its mouth, together with the valley of its affluent, Tornki Creek, and the lower course of the stream known as Deep or Outlet Creek. (Also see Yuki).

Hupa The Hupa shared close language ties with the Chilula and Whilkut, their neighbors to the west. These three groups differed in dialect from other California Athapaskans.

Juaneño. The Juaneño were named for the mission of San Juan Capistrano. Also called Gaitchim, (given by Gatschet in 1876), and Netela, (given by Hale in 1846, meaning “my language”).

The Juaneño belonged to the Shoshonean branch of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock, their speech being a variant of Luiseno.

They were located from the Pacific Ocean to the crest of the southern continuation of the Sierra Santa Ana.

Southward, toward the Luiseno, the boundary ran between the San Onofre and Las Pulgas; on the north, toward the Gabrielino, it is said to have followed Alisos Creek.

Kamia. From their own term Kamiyai or Kamiyahi, which they applied also to the Diegueno. Also called Comeya, I’-um 0′-otam, (Pima name for Kamia and Diegueno), New River Indians, (from their location), Quemaya, (by Garces in 1775-76), Tipai, (another Kamia word also meaning “person”) and Yum, (same as I’-um).

The Kamia belonged to the Yuman stock of Powell now considered a subdivision of the Hokan family, their closest affinities being with the eastern Diegueno who were sometimes considered one tribe with themselves.

They were located in Imperial Valley, and on the banks of the sloughs connecting it with Colorado River. (See also Mexico.)

Karok The Karok (Karuk) were one of three groups living on the Klamath River (the others being the Yurok and Modoc). There was no recollection of any ancient migration to the region; instead there were legends of Creation and the Flood which were fabled to have occurred on the Klamath.

Kato. The Kato (a Pomo place name meaning “lake”) called themselves Tlokeang. They were also known as Laleshiknom, (a Yuki name), Batem-da-kai-ee, (a name given by Gibbs in 1853), and Kai Po-mo, (a name given by Powers in 1877).

The Kato belonged to the Athapascan linguistic stock, and spoke a dialect peculiar to themselves. They lived on the uppermost course of the South Fork of Eel River.(See Bear River Indians.)

Kawaiisu The Kawaiisu belonged to the Shoshonean branch of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family, and were a more immediate off-shoot, apparently, of the Chemehuevi.(See Alliklik.)

Kitanemuk. Also known as Kikitanum, and Kikitamkar. The Kitanemuk belonged to the Shoshonean division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock and to a subgroup which included also the Alliklik, Vanyume and Serrano.

They lived on the upper Tejon and Paso Creeks, the streams on the rear side of the Tehachapi Mountains in the same vicinity and the small creeks draining the northern slope of the Liebre and Sawmill Range, with Antelope Valley and the westernmost end of the Mohave Desert.

Konomihu The Konomihu was the most divergent of the Shastan group of tribes of the Hokan linguistic family. Thier territory centered about the forks of Salmon River.

Koso Also known as Panamint and Ke-at, (a name given by Gatschet in the Wheeler Survey).

The Koso formed the westernmost extension of the Shoshoni-Comanche branch of the Shoshonean division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock.

They lived on a barren tract of land in the southeastern part of California between the Sierra and the State of Nevada, and including Owens Lake, the Coso, Argus, Panamint, and Funeral Mountains and the intervening valleys.

Lassik. The Lassik belonged to the Athapascan linguistic family and were connected very closely with the Nongatl, who lay just to the north.

They were located on a stretch of Eel River, from a few miles above the mouth of the South Fork not quite to Kekawaka Creek; also Dobbins Creek, an eastern affluent of the main stream, and Soldier Basin at the head of the North Fork; to the east they extended to the head of Mad River.(See Alliklik.)

Luisefio. The Luisefio were named after the Mission of San Luis Rey de Francia. Also called Ghecham or Khecham, from the native name of San Luis Rey Mission.

The Luiseno belonged to the Shoshonean division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family. They lived in the southwest part of the state from the coast toward but wholly west of the divide that extends south from Mount San Jacinto; bounded northward by the cognate Juaneno, Gabrielino, and Serrano and south by the Diegueno. (See Alliklik.)

Maidu The Maidu people were comprised of three groups. The Northeastern or Mountain Maidu lived on the upper North and middle forks of the Feather River. The Northwestern or Konkow lived below the high Sierra and in the Sacramento Valley.

Mattole The Mattole were also called the Tul’bush, a Wailaki name, meaning “foreigners.”

The Mattole constitute one of the primary divisions of those Indians of the Athapascan stock living in California.

They resided on the Bear River and Mattole River drainages; also on a few miles of Eel River and its Van Dusen Fork immediately above the Wiyot.

MeWuk or Miwok Anthropologists commonly divide the Miwok into four geographically and culturally diverse ethnic subgroups. These distinctions were unknown among the Miwok before European contact.

Modoc. This tribe extended into the northern part of the State. (See Oregon.)

Mohave. The Mohave occupied some territory in the neighborhood of the Colorado River. (See Arizona.)

Nicoleño From San Nicolas, the most eastward of the Santa Barbara Islands. They belonged to the Shoshonean Division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock, but their more immediate affiliations are uncertain. (See also Alliklik.)

Nongatl Also called the Saia, by the Hupa, along with other Athapascans to the south; meaning “far off.”

The Nongatl belonged to the Athapascan linguistic family and were closely connected with the Lassik.

Their territory was drained by three right-hand affluents of Eel River, Yager Creek, Van Dusen Fork, and Larrabee Creek and on the upper waters of Mad River. (See Bear River Indians.)

Okwanuchu The Okwanuchu belonged to the Shastan Division of the Hokan linguistic stock.

They were located on the upper Sacramento from about the vicinity of Salt and Boulder Creeks to its headwaters; also on the McCloud River and Squaw Creek from about their junction up. (See Chimariko and Shasta).

Northern Paiute. The Northern Paiute occupied part of the Sierra in the southeastern part of the State and the desert country east of it and also a strip of land in the extreme northeast. (See Nevada.)

Patwin The Patwin were connected by a similar language with the Nomlaki and Wintu, to the north. Together, these three groups were known as the Wintun. The Patwin, being the most southern of the groups, are sometimes called the Southern Wintun.

Pomo The people called Pomo were originally linked by location, language, and other elements of culture. They were not socially or politically linked as a large unified “tribe.”  Instead, they lived in small groups (“bands”), linked by geography, lineage and marriage. Their historic territory was on the Pacific Coast between Cleone and Duncans Point, and inland to Clear Lake.

Salinan The Salinan were from along the Salinas River which drains most of their territory. They were formerly considered a distinct linguistic stock, but now they are now connected with the Hokan linguistic family.


Serrano  is a Spanish word, meaning “mountaineers.” Their name for themselves was Ców-ang-a-chem or Kaiviat-am, (from kai-ch, meaning “mountain.”

They were also called Banumints, (Chemehuevi name), Cuabajái, (applied by Mohave to those about Tejon Creek), Genigueches, (by Games in 1776), Gikidanum, or Gitanemuk, (Serrano of upper Tejon and Paso Creeks in the San Joaquin Valley drainage), Hanakwiche, (by some Yuman tribes), Hanyuveche, (Mohave name), Kuvahaivima, (Mohave name for those about Tejon Creek), Marangakh, (by their southern and other neighbors), Marayam, (Luisefio name), Mayintalap, (southern Yokuts name for Serrano of upper Tejon, Paso, and possibly Pastoria Creeks, meaning “large bows.”).

Möhineyam, (name for themselves, given by Mohave River Serrano), Panumits, (Chemehuevi name for Serrano north of the San Bernardino Range, toward Tehachapi Mountains), Pitanta, (Chemehuevi name for those Serrano north of San Bernardino Range in Mohave Desert and on Tejon Creek), Takhtam, (by Gatschet in Wheeler Survey, meaning “men”), Tamankamyam, (by the related Aguas Calientes), and Witanghatal, (the Tubatulabal name for the Tejon Creek Serrano).

The Serrano belonged to the Shoshonean Division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock.

They lived in the San Bernardino Range; a tract of unknown extent northward; the San Gabriel Mountains or Sierra Madre west to Mount San Antonio; and probably a tract of fertile lowland south of the Sierra Madre, from about Cucamonga east to above Mentone and as far as San Gorgonio Pass. (See Alliklik.)

Shasta Probably from a chief called Sasti. Also called Ekpimi, (Ilmawi name), Mashukhara, (Karok name), and Wulx, (a Takelma name, meaning “enemies”).

The Shasta constituted part of the Shastan division of the Hokan linguistic stock. They were located on the Klamath River from a point between Indian and Thompson Creeks to a spot a few miles above the mouth of Fall Creek; also the drainage areas of two tributaries of the Klamath. Scott River and Shasta River, and a tract on the north side of the Siskiyous in Oregon on the affluents of Rogue River known as Stewart River and Little Butte Creek.

The term New River Shasta is incorrectly used since there were no Shasta on New River.


  • Ahotireitsu, in Shasta Valley.
  • Cecilville Indians, about Cecilville; they spoke a distinct dialect; the Indians called by Merriam (1926) Haldokehewuk.
  • Iruaitsu, in Scott Valley.
  • Kahosadi, on the affluents of Rogue River.
  • Kammatwa or Wiruhikwairuk’a, on Klamath River.

Sinkyone. From Sinkyo, the name of the South Fork of Eel River. The Sinkyone were one of the tribes of the southern California group of the Athapascan family.

They lived on the South Fork of Eel River and its branches and the adjacent coast from near Four Mile Creek to Usal Lagoon.(See Lassik and Bear River Indians).

Tolowa. So-called by the Yurok. Also called: Aqusta, by Dorsey (MS.), meaning “southern language,” Naltunnetunne name. Lagoons, by Heintzleman (in Ind. Aff. Rep., 1857, p. 392; 1858). Lopas, by Heintzleman (op. cit.).

The Tolowa constituted one of the divisions into which the California peoples of the Athapascan linguistic stock are divided, but they were closely connected with the Athapascan tribes of Oregon immediately to the north. They lived on Crescent Bay, Lake Earl, and Smith River.

Tübatulabal is a Shoshonean word meaning “pine-nut eaters.” Their own name for themselves is Bahkanapul or Pahkanap’l, own name, said to refer to all those who speak their language.

They were also called the Kern River Indians,(English name), Pitanisha, (the usual Yokuts name, from Pitani-u, the place-name of the forks of Kern River), and Wateknasi, (by Yokuts, meaning “pine-nut eaters”). Under the name of Kern River Shoshoneans, the Tubatulabal are given a position as one of the major divisions of the Shoshonean branch of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family.

They were located in the upper part of the valley of Kern River.


  • Bankalachi, on west slopes of Greenhorn Mountains.
  • Palagewan, on Kern River above mouth of South Fork.
  • Tubatulabal, on lower reaches of South Fork of Kern River.

Between 1865 and 1875 the Tubatulabal began to practice agriculture and in 1893 the majority of them and a few Palagewan survivors were allotted land in South Fork and Kern Valleys.

Vanyume. The Vanyume belonged to the Shoshonean Division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock, their closest connections being probably with the Kitanemuk, and secondly with the Serrano.

They lived on the Mohave River. They are now extinct as a tribe.(See Alliklik.)

Wailaki Wailaki comes from a Wintun word meaning “north language,” applied to other Wintun groups and to some foreign groups.

The Wailaki were also called Kak’-wits, a Yuki name, meaning “northern people.”

The Waitaki belonged to the Athapascan linguistic stock and to the southern California group.

They lived on the Eel River from the Lassik territory to the Big Bend, several affluents on the west side, Kekawaka Creek on the east side, and the whole of the North Fork except the head. (See Bear River Indians.)

Wappo is an americanization of Spanish Guapo. It means “brave,” given them on account of their stubborn resistance to Spanish military aggression.

Other names for the Wappo are Ash-o-chl-mi, a name given by Powers (1877), and Soteomellos or Sotomieyos, names given by Taylor (1860-63). The Wappo language constituted a very divergent form of speech of the Yukian linguistic family.

They lived on the headwaters of Napa River and Pope and Putah Creeks, and a stretch of Russian River. They were divided into subdivisions along linguistic lines.(See Yuki)


  • Southern Wappo
  • Central Wappo
  • Northern Wappo
  • Western Wappo

Washo. The range of this tribe extended over considerable Californian territory along the angle in the eastern boundary line of the State. (Also see Nevada.)

Whilkut. From Hupa Hoilkut-hoi. Also called: Redwood Indians. The Whilkut belonged to the Hupa dialectic group of the Athapascan linguistic family.

They were located on the upper part of Redwood Creek above the Chilula Indians and Mad River, except in its lowest course, up to the vicinity of Iaqua Butte.

Wintu Wintu comes from their native word meaning “people.” For synonyms see Wintun.

The Wintu were the northernmost division of the Copehan stock of Powell, later called Wintun by Kroeber (1932) and now regarded as part of the Penutian family.

They lived in the valleys of the upper Sacramento and upper Trinity Rivers north of Cottonwood Creek and extending from Cow Creek on the east to the South Fork of the Trinity on the west.


  • Dau-nom, “in-front-of-west” (Bald Hills), a flat valley area at the foot of the hills south of Reading and east of the coastal range.
  • Dau-pom, “in-front-of-place” (Stillwater), comprising the plateau to the north of Reading.
  • Elpom, “shore place” (Keswick), extending from a point somewhat south of Kennett on the Sacramento chiefly along the west bank southward almost to Reading, and including the former Indian settlements around the mining town of Old Shasta.
  • Hayfork Wintu, on the Hayfork branch of Trinity River and on Trinity River about Junction City, extending also from about Middletown westward to the South Fork of the Trinity.
  • Klabalpom (French Gulch), on the upper reaches of Clear Creek.
  • Nomsus, “west-dwelling” (Upper Trinity), on the East Fork of Trinity River and Trinity River proper as far south as Lewiston.
  • Nomtipom, “west-hillside-place” (Upper Sacramento), along the precipitous reaches of the upper Sacramento above Kennett.
  • Waimuk, “north inhabitant(?),” in the narrow valley of the upper McCloud River.
  • Winimen, “middle-water” (McCloud), in the McCloud and lower Pit Valleys.
  • Du Bois (1935) also mentions Nomkentcau and Nomkali as two villages in Watson Gulch.(See Wintun.)

Wintun comes from the word for “people” in the northern Wintun dialects. Also called: Wawa h, (Mono name for all Sacramento River tribes, meaning “strangers”) and Xdtukwiwa, (the Shasta name for a Wintun Indian).

The Wintun were formerly considered a part of Powell’s Copehan stock and the Wintun of Kroeber (1932) but are now placed in the Penutian family.

They lived on the west side of the Sacramento Valley from the river up to the coast range, but falling short of this in spots and ex-tending beyond it in others, and from Cottonwood Creek on the north to about the latitude of Afton and Stonyford on the south.

Wintun Tribelets (Generally south to north)

Dahchi’mchini-sel, in a village called Dahchi’mchini (upstream of Brisco Creek and 4 miles above Elk Creek).

Toba, reported by Barrett (1919) as a town at the mouth of Brisco Creek.
A tribelet probably located at Tolokai or Doloke (at the mouth of Elk Creek).

Pomtididi-sel, at the village of Pomtididi (where Grindstone Creek enters Stony Creek).

A tribelet at a village called Kalaiel (on the North Fork of Stony Creek).

Soninmak (at a “butte” named Son-porn down Stony Creek).

Pelti-kewel (reported north of preceding by one informant).
A tribelet at the villages of Sohu’s-labe (3 or 4 miles south of Fruto) and

Nome’I-mim-labe (2 or 3 miles farther south still).

Nom-kewel or Nom-laka, with their village, Lo-pom (south of Thomas Creek).

Walti-kewel, with villages called Noitikel, Kenkopol, and Saipanti (close together on the north side of Thomas Creek below Nom-kewel).

Olwenem-wintun, at O’lwenem (near the mouth of Thomas Creek on the Sacramento).

A tribelet at Mi’tenek (at Squaw Hill Ferry).

Pelmem-we, at Pelmem (near Vina and the mouth of Deer Creek).

Tehêmet, (at Tehama).

Da-mak (where Redbank Creek comes in below Red Bluff).

Wai-kewel (on Elder Creek).

A tribelet at Chuidau (on the South Fork of Cottonwood Creek).

Wiyot. Properly the name of one of the three Wiyot districts but extended by most of their neighbors over the whole people.

Also called Dilwishne, (Sinkyone name),Humboldt Bay Indians, (English), Sulatelik, (used by the Wiyot to designate their language, and approaching a tribal designation in its usage), and Wishosk, (probably a misapplication of the Wiyot name for their Athapascan neighbors).

In the Powellian classification the Wiyot were given an independent position as the Wishoskan stock.

Later California investigators combined them with the Yurok under the name Ritwan but still later believed that they had established a relationship between them and the great Algonquian family of the east.

This allocation is, however, questioned by other ethnologists. hey were located on the lower Mad River, Humboldt Bay, and lower Eel River.


  • Batawat, on lower Mad River.
  • Wiki, on Humboldt Bay.
  • Wiyot, on lower Eel River.

Yahi Yahi means “person” in their own language. The Yahi constituted the southernmost group of the Yanan division of the Hokan linguistic stock. They were located on Mill and Deer Creeks. (See Yana.)

Yana. Meaning “person” in their own language. Also called Kom’-bo, (Maidu name), Nó-si or Nó-zi, (a name given by Powers in1877), and Tisaiqdji, (an Ilmawi name).

The Yana were originally considered an independent linguistic stock but are now placed in the larger Hokan family.

Including the Yahi, the Yana extended from Pit River to Rock Creek, and from the edge of the upper Sacramento Valley to the headwaters of the eastern tributaries of Sacramento River.

3 Dialect Subdivisions:

  • Northern – on the drainage of Montgomery Creek into Pit River and that of Cedar Creek, an affluent of Little Crow Creek)
  • Central – the entire Cow Creek drainage and Bear Creek.
  • Southern – on Battle, Payne, and Antelope Creeks and one or two smaller streams.

Yokuts (previously known as Mariposas) are an ethnic group of Native Americans native to central California. Before European contact, the Yokuts consisted of up to 60 tribes speaking the same language. Some of their descendants prefer to refer to themselves by their respective tribal names and reject the name. 

Yuki Yuki is derived from the Wintun language and means “stranger,” or “foe.”

The Yuki were also called Chu-mai-a, (a Pomo name), and Noam-kekhl, (a Wintun name, meaning “west dwelling,” or “western tribe”). The Yuki constituted an independent stock called Yukian.

All the land lying in the drainage of Eel River above the North Fork, except for a stretch on South Eel River where the allied Huchnom were situated was Yuki territory.


  • Huititno’m, on the South Fork of Middle Eel River.
  • Onkolukomno’m, from the forks of the South Eel River to their sources.
  • Sukshaltatano’m, on the North Fork of Middle Eel River.
  • Ta’no’m, on main Eel River.
  • Ukomno’m, about Round Valley on the north side of Middle Fork.
  • Utitno’m, about the forks made by the Middle and South Eel Rivers.
  • Witukomno’m, on the south side of Middle Eel River, especially on its branches.

Coast Yuki; or Ukhotno’m. (See Yuki.) The second name is applied to them by the interior Yuki, signifying “ocean people.”

The Coast Yuki believe themselves to be an offshoot from the Huchnom but linguistic examination seems to place them near the Yuki.

They lived on the Pacific coast from Cleone to a point halfway between Rockport and Usal and inland to the divide between the coast streams and Eel River. (See Yuki.)

Yuma. This tribe extended into the extreme southeastern corner of the State along the Colorado River. (See Arizona.)

Yurok. Signifying “downstream” in the language of the neighboring Karok. Also called: Kiruhikwak, by the Shasta of Salmon River, and Weitchpec, a name sometimes locally used, especially in Hupa and Karok territory, to which Weichpec is at present the nearest Yurok village.

The Yurok were originally regarded as an independent stock, later combined with the Wiyot into the Ritwan family, and still later identified by Kroeber and Sapir as a part of the great Algonquian family of the east.

This last identification has not, however, met with entire acceptance. They were located on the lower Klamath River and along the coast to the north and south of it.

Subdivisions by two dialects differing but little from each other may be distinguished: one spoken in the southernmost coast section, the districts of the Big Lagoon and Trinidad the other, in the remainder of Yurok territory.


25,000- 10,000 BP – Peoples of north-east Asia followed herds of Caribou, bison, and mammoth across the present day Bering Strait. Then moved south along ice-free corridors into the American continents

13,000 BP – Date of Arlington Springs Woman, found on the islands in recent digs.

12,500 BP – Santa Barbara Channel Islands were settled; fire-reddened earth from more than a hundred fire sites date from this period.

10,000 BP – Local population of dwarf mammoth went extinct; teeth found charred by fire.

9,000 BP – In 1914, the remains of a young woman were uncovered at the Rancho La Brea tar pits, the only prehistoric human remains found at the site. Her skull and partial skeleton is preserved in The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits.

Also the likely date of Los Angeles Man, excavated in 1936. The mineralized cranium of his skull was discovered in the Ballona Creek in West Los Angeles (cf. Altschul et al., 1992).

8,000 BP – Settlement of the Southern California Coast by Chumash. A village in Glen Annie carbondated to 7,300 BP.

5,000 BP – Settled villages near estuaries, with large middens.

2,000 BP – Very large coastal villages; fewer people in the interior and on the islands. Evidence of alliances and warfare.

200-500 AD – Continental drought provokes wide-ranging migrations. The Tongva, or Gabrielinos, who speak Shoson, a Uto-Aztec language, come down from the Mojave and settle in the Los Angeles basin, displacing the Hokan speakers, relatives of the Chumash.

458 AD – Chinese records speak of the explorer Hui Shan, who in 458 A.D. sailed the Pacific and may have reached the coast of California. Hui Shan noted tall trees with a red wood.

Anthropologists believe California’s earliest inhabitants were Asians who traveled the Bering Strait into North America using a now-vanished land bridge.

More than 10,000 years ago, they settled throughout the region’s diverse geographic areas and climates. Deserts and high mountains helped to separate these groups, and they lived peacefully in relative isolation from one another.

Over many years, distinctive differences in lifestyle and culture developed among these groups, which included the Hupa, the Maidu, the Pomo, the Modic, and the Mohave tribes.

More than 135 language dialects emerged. Due to a rather dry growing season, these tribes did not develop agricultural societies.

Instead, they became very skillful gatherers of native roots, nuts and berries. They also fished in the plentiful lakes and streams.

Because of an absence of warfare, a favorable climate, and a plentiful food supply, these cultures flourished.


Sources of records on US Indian tribes
California American Indian Boarding Schools
California Indian Reservations
Muwekma Ohlone Genealogy


Article Index:

California History Timeline

California history timeline from 1492 to 1906.

California Indian Geographical Cultures

Hundreds of Diverse Cultures

The early Native California Indian communities were astonishingly diverse in culture and way of life, ranging from the seafaring Chumash to the agricultural Yuma to the nomadic Modoc.

Native California groups numbered more than 500 individual tribes or bands, spoke at least 100 different mutually unintelligible languages, ate different foods, and practiced different religions. These communities had no alphabets and left no written records for historians to interpret, so what we know about Native Californians before the arrival of Europeans is based on four sources:

California Indian Languages

California Indian Languages

Before European contact, native Californians spoke over 300 dialects of approximately one hundred distinct languages. All but sixty-four are extinct today, with many more languages likely to disappear in our lifetime.

Native American place names in California
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