California Dialects

California native language groups

In 2000, according to the U.S. Census, there were 220,657 American Indians living in California, for those designating only one race, and excluding Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians in California.

California had the second-largest Native American population of any state, second only to Oklahoma.

Most of the American Indians in California are native California Indians, while many other Indians have come from other states either through relocation by the United States government or for employment purposes.

There are over 100 federally-recognized Indian tribes in California, and almost 100 Federal Indian reservations in the state, with about 40 Indian groups seeking to gain federal recognition.

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the native peoples of California lived in all areas of the state.

There was no “empty” land, as long as that land could support human life. Nowhere else in the United States is there such a variety of cultures and languages spoken.

California Indians have dozens of languages and dialects from six major language families: Hokan, Penutian, Algonkian, Athabascan, Uto-Aztecan (Shoshonean), and Yukian.

Athabascan FamilyOregon Group

1a. Rogue River

1b. Dakubetede Tolowa Group

1b. Tolowa.Hupa Group

1c. Hupa

1d. Whilkut

1e. Chilula Matole Group

1e. MatoleWailaki Group

1f. Nongatl

1g. LassikSinkyone

1h. Shelter Cove Sinkyone

1i. Lolangkok Sinkyone

1j. Eel River Wailaki

1k. Pitch Wailaki

1l. North Fork Wailaki

1m.KatoBear River Group

1n. Bear River

Algonkin FamilyYurok

2a. Yurok

2b. Coast Yurok

3. Wiyot

Yuki–Wappo languages (Yukian Family)

4a. Yuki

4b. Huchnom

4c. Coast Yuki

4d. Wappo

Hokan Family


6a. Shasta

6b. New River Shasta



6e. Achomawi (Pit River)

6f. Atsugewi (Hat Creek)


7a. Northern Yana

7b. Central Yana

7c. Southern Yana

7d. Yahi

8. Karok

9. ChimarikoPomo

10a. Northern

10b. Central

10c. Eastern

10d. Southeastern

10e. Northeastern

10f. Southern

10g. Southwestern

11. Washo

12. EsselenSalinan

13a. Antoniano

13b. Migueleño

13c. Playano (doubtful)


14a. Obispeño

14b. Purisimeño

14c. Ynezeño

14d. Barbareño

14e. Ventureño

14f. Emigdiano

14g. Cuyama

14h. IslandYuman Diegueño

15a. Northern (Western) Diegueño

15b. Mountain Diegueño

15c. Southern (Eastern or Desert) Diegueño

15d. Kamia (Kumeyaay)

15e. Yuma

15f. Halchidhoma & Kohuana (now Chemehuevi)

15g. Mohave

Penutian Family

Wintun Dialect Groups

16a. Northern (Wintu)

16b. Central (Nomlaki) Patwin

16c. Hill (Patwin)

16d. River (Patwin)Maidu Dialect Groups

17a. Northeastern

17b. Northwestern

17c. Southern (Nisenan)Miwok

18a. Coast

18b. Lake

18c. Bay (Saclan)

18d. Plains 1

8e. Northern Sierra

18f. Central Sierra

18g. Southern SierraCostanoan

19a. San Pablo (Karkin)

19b. San Francisco

19c. Santa Clara

19d. Santa Cruz

19e. San Juan Bautista (Mutsun)

19f. Rumsen (Monterey)

19g. Soledad

Yokuts Dialect Groups

20a. Northern Valley (Chulamni, Chauchila, etc.)

20b. Southern Valley (Tachi, Yauelmani, etc.)

20c. Northern Hill (Chukchansi, etc.)

20d. Kings River (Chionimni, etc.)

20e. Tule-Kaweah (Yaudanchi, etc.)

20f. Poso Creek (Paleuyamni)

20g. Buena Vista (Tulamni, etc.)Modoc

20h. Modoc

Uto-Aztecan (Shoshonean) Family

Plateau Branch Mono-Bannock Group

21a. Northern Paiute (Paviotso)

21b. Owens Valley Paiute

21c. Mono Lake Paiute

21d. Monache (Western Mono) Shoshoni-Comanche Group

21e. Panamint Shoshone (Koso) Ute-Chemehuevi Group

21f, Chemehuevi (Southern Paiute)

21g. Kawaiisu (Tecachapi)Kern River Branch

21h. Tübatulabal (& Bankalachi)Southern California BranchSerrano Group

21i. Kitanemuk (Tajon)

21j. Alliklik

21k. Möhineyam (Vanyume)

21l. Serrano Gabrielino Group

21m. Fernandeño

21n. Gabrielino

21o. Nicholeño Luiseño-Cahuilla Group

21p. Juaneño

21q. Luiseño

21r. Cupeño

21s. Pass Cahuilla

21t. Mountain Cahuilla

21u. Desert Cahuilla


Heizer, R.F. 1966. Languages, Territories, and Names of California Indian Tribes. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Kroeber, A.L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 78.


Article Index:

Atsugewi Indians

The Atsugewi Indians are one of the eleven bands of California Indians that make up the Pit River Tribe. They were originally located in Northeastern California, south of the Pit River in what is now Lassen County and eastern Shasta County. Atsugewi is also one of the two Palaihnihan branches of the Hokan language.

California Southern Athabaskan Cultures

The Southern Athabaskan speakers of California lived in Northwestern California, on the coast and inland, midway between San Francisco Bay and the Oregon border (Humboldt & northern Mendocino Counties). They included the Lassik , Mattole, Nongatl, Sinkyone, and Wailaki tribes.

Consensus Classification of California Indian Languages

Here is a chart of the 88 languages indigenous to the state of California. Hypothesized MACRO-UNITS are in bold caps and italicized, FAMILIESin bold caps only, SUBGROUPS are in in small caps, individual languages in boldface, and dialects in italics: