Me-Wuk / Miwok

Miwok (also spelled Miwuk, Mi-Wuk, or Me-Wuk) can refer to any one of four linguistically related groups of Native Americans, indigenous to Northern California, who traditionally spoke one of the Miwokan languages in the Utian family.

The word Miwok means people in their native language.

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

Plains and Sierra Miwok: from tads western slope and foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Coast Miwok : from present day location of Marin County and southern Sonoma County. (This includes the Bodega Bay Miwok and Marin Miwok).

Lake Miwok: from Clear Lake basin of Lake County.

Bay Miwok: from present-day location of Contra Costa County.

Miwok Subsistence

The Miwok lived in small bands without centralized political authority before contact with European Americans in 1769. They had domesticated dogs and cultivated tobacco, but were otherwise hunter-gatherers.

The Sierra Miwok staple food source was acorns from the California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii. They burned understory vegetation to reduce the Ponderosa Pine trees. Nearly every other kind of edible vegetable matter was exploited as a food source, including bulbs, seeds, and fungi.

Animals were hunted with arrows, clubs or snares, depending on the species and the situation.

Grasshoppers were a highly prized food source, as were mussels for those groups adjacent to the Stanislaus River.

The Miwok ate meals according to appetite rather than at regular times. They stored food for later consumption, primarily in flat-bottomed baskets.

Miwok Religion

Miwok mythology and narratives tend to be similar to those of other natives of Northern California. Miwok had totem animals, identified with one of two moieties, which were in turn associated respectively with land and water.

These totem animals were not thought of as literal ancestors of humans, but rather as predecessors.

Miwok Sports

Miwok men and women played athletic games on a 110 yard playing field called poscoi a we’a. This unique game was played with young men and women on separate teams.

Similar to soccer, the object was to put an elk hide ball through the goalpost. The girls were allowed to do anything, including kicking the ball and picking it up and running with it.

The boys were only allowed to use their feet, but if a girl was holding the ball he could pick her up and carry her towards his goal.

Miwok Federally recognized tribes

The United States Bureau of Indian Affairs officially recognizes eleven tribes of Miwok descent in California. They are:

Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians

California Valley Miwok Tribe, formerly known as the Sheep Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians

Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians

Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, formerly known as the Federated Coast Miwok

Ione Band of Miwok Indians, of Ione, California

Jackson Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians

Middletown Rancheria. (Members of this tribe are of Pomo, Lake Miwok, and Wintun descent)

Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, Shingle Springs Rancheria (Verona Tract)

Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians of the Tuolumne Rancheria

United Auburn Indian Community of Auburn Rancheria
Wilton Rancheria Indian Tribe

Non-federally recognized Mi-Wuk tribes

Calaveras Band of Mi-Wuk Indians

Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe of the Colfax Rancheria

Miwok of Buena Vista Rancheria

Miwok Tribe of the El Dorado Rancheria

Nashville-Eldorado Miwok Tribe

Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation

Other California tribes