The California cultural area does not exactly conform to the state of California's boundaries, and many California Indians on the eastern border with Nevada are classified as Great Basin tribes and some tribes on the Oregon border are classified as Plateau Indians.
Location: Modern California and Baja Peninsula.
Terrain: Coastal mountain range,Sierra Mountains,Pacific Ocean,Desert,Large rivers. Has a high population density and a great variety of plants and animals.
NORTHWESTERN CALIFORNIA INDIANS
The California Culture Area includes the Tolowa, Shasta, Karok, Yurok, Hupa, Whilikut, Chilula, Chimarike and Wiyot tribes.
The distinctive northern rainforest environment encouraged these tribes to establish their villages along the many rivers, lagoons and coastal bays.
While this territory was crisscrossed with thousands of trails, the most efficient form of transportation was the dugout canoe.
These Indians used the great coast Redwood trees for the manufacture of their boats and houses. Redwoods were cleverly felled by burning at the base and then split with elkhorn wedges.
Redwood and sometimes cedar planks were used to construct rectangular gabled homes.
Twined baskets in a variety of designs were manufactured. Many of these survived into the twentieth century and this traditional skill has enjoyed a great renaissance in the past twenty years.
The elaborate ritual life of these tribes featured a World Renewal Ceremony held each Fall.
Sponsored by the wealthiest men in the communities, the ceremony's purpose was to prevent future natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, floods or failure of acorn crops or a poor salmon run.
This and other traditional rituals continue to be practiced, despite the grinding poverty of many of these groups.
Northwest California tribes were governed by the most wealthy and powerful lineage leaders.
The great emphasis on wealth found in these cultures is reflected in the emphasis on private ownership of food resources such as oak groves and fishing areas. This type of material society was rare in most Indian tribes
Northeastern California Indians
This culture region included the Modoc, Achumawi, and Atsugewi (Pit River) tribes. The western portion of this territory was rich in acorns and Salmon.
Further to the East, the climate changed from mountainous to a high desert type of topography. Here food resources included grass seeds, tubers, and berries, along with rabbit and deer.
North eastern California Indians found tule (cattails) to be a useful source of both food (the rootbulb is consumed) and a convenient material when laced together to form floor mats and structure covering.
Volcanic mountains in the Western portion of their territory supplied the valuable trade commodity obsidian, which was used to make spears, arrows, knives and scraping tools.
The Social-political organization of these peoples was independent but connected to their neighbors by marriage ties.
Following contact, the Achumawi and Atsuguewi suffered a tremendous population decline due to vigilante violence and respiratory diseases.
The Modocs spectacular 1872 resistance to removal to the Oregon territory was the last heroic military defense of native sovereignty in 19th century California Indian History.
Some surviving Northeast tribesmen received public land allotments around the turn of the century.
The XL Rancheria was established for some of these Indians in 1938. Tragically, the surviving Modocs were exiled to either Oregon or Oklahoma.
Northern California Tribes:
Northern California Indians include the Alturas Rancheria, Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria, Big Lagoon Rancheria, Blue Lake Rancheria, Cedarville Rancheria,Elk Valley Rancheria,Fort Bidwell Reservation, Northern California Agency, Pit River Tribal Council, Quartz Valley Reservation, Resighini Rancheria,Susanville Indian Rancheria, and Trinidad Rancheria.
All of the central California Indians relied heavily on the acorn nuts and salmon that could be readily obtained in the waterways north of Monterey Bay. Deer, elk, antelope, and rabbit were also harvested in vast quantities.
Basketry reached the height of greatest variety in the Central California region. The Pomo basket makers created the most elaborate baskets. Both coiled and twined type baskets were produced throughout the region.
Fortunately basket making survived the years of suppression of native arts and culture to once again become one of the most important culturally defining elements for Indians in this region.
The semi-subterranean roundhouse was common in this area. Kuksu dances were held in the past and continue to this day. These rituals assure the renewal of the world's natural foods, both plant and animal.
Despite differences between tribes, these rituals share similar purposes.
Villages were fiercely independent and governed internally. The abundant food supply allowed for the establishment of villages of up to 1000 individuals. Each family produced all that was necessary for survival.
Central California Tribes:
Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria
Benton Paiute Reservation
Berry Creek Rancheria
Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley
Big Sandy Rancheria
Big Valley Rancheria
Bishop Paiute Tribe
Bridgeport Indian Colony
Buena Vista Rancheria
Cahto Tribal Executive Committee
California Valley Miwok Tribe
Chicken Ranch Rancheria
Cold Springs Rancheria
Coyote Valley Reservation
Dry Creek Rancheria
Elem Indian Colony
Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria
Fort Independence Reservation
Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake
Ione Band of Miwok Indians
Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Reservation
Lower Lake Rancheria
Manchester-Point Arena Band of Pomo Indians
Mechoopda Indian Tribe of the Chico Rancheria
North Fork Rancheria
Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians
Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians
Potter Valley Tribe
Redwood Valley Reservation
Round Valley Reservation
Rumsey Yocha Dehe Winton Nation
Santa Rosa Rancheria
Scotts Valley Rancheria
Sherwood Valley Rancheria
Shingle Springs Rancheria
Stewarts Point Rancheria
Table Mountain Rancheria
Tejon Indian Tribe
Timbi-Sha Shoshone Tribe
Tule River Reservation
United Auburn Indian Community
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TRIBES
The Southern California Cultural Area is a varied and somewhat unique region of the state.
Beginning in the north, tribes found in this area are the Chumash, Alliklik, Kitanemuk, Serrano, Gabrielino Luiseno Cahuilla, and the Kumeyaay.
The landmass and climate varied considerably from the windswept offshore channel Islands that were principally inhabited by Chumash speaking peoples.
Communication with their mainland neighbors was by large and graceful planked canoes powered by double paddle ores. These vessels were called "Tomols" and manufactured by a secretive guild of craftsmen.
They could carry hundreds of pounds of trade goods and up to a dozen passengers.
Like their northern neighbors, the Tactic speaking peoples of San Nicholas and Santa Catalina Islands built planked canoes and actively traded rich marine resources with mainland villages and tribes.
Shoreline communities enjoyed the rich animal and faunal life of the ocean, bays and wetland environments.
Interior tribes like the Serrano, Luiseno, Cahuilla, and Kumeyaay shared an environment rich in Sonoran life such as vast quantities of rabbit, deer and an abundance of acorn, seeds and native grasses. At the higher elevations Desert Bighorn sheep were hunted.
Villages varied in size from poor desert communities with villages of as little as 100 people to the teaming Chumash villages with over a thousand inhabitants.
Conical homes of arroweed, tule or croton were common, while whale bone structures could be found on the coast and nearby Channel Islands.
Interior groups manufactured clay storage vessels sometimes decorated with paint. Baskets were everywhere, manufactured with unique designs.
Catalina Island possessed a soapstone or steatite quarry. This unique stone was soft and could easily be carved with cutting tools and shaped into vessels, pipes and cooking slabs.
Each tribe and community had a chieftain, sometimes females, whose duty it was to organize community events and settle conflicts among their followers.
This leader was usually assisted by a crier or assistant. Shamans or Indian doctors were known everywhere and greatly respected.
The ritual use of the hallucinogen jimsonweed (Datura meteloides) was primarily used in male puberty rituals. Young boys reaching puberty sometimes died from an overdose of the drink.
Like other California Indian communities, society was divided into three classes, the elite, a middle class and finally a less successful lower class.
These robust peoples were among the first to encounter the strangers who would change their world forever.
Southern California Tribes:
Augustine Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians
Southern California Agency
All California Tribes
- Achomawi, Achumawi, Pit River tribe, northeastern California
- Atsugewi, northeastern California
- Cahuilla, southern California
- Chumash, coastal southern California
- Cruzeño, Island Chumash
- Inezeño, Ineseño
- Obispeño, Northern Chumash
- Chilula, northwestern California
- Chimariko, extinct, northwestern California
- Cupeño, southern California
- Eel River Athapaskan peoples
- Lassik, northwestern California
- Mattole (Bear River), northwestern California
- Nongatl, northwestern California
- Sinkyone, northwestern California
- Wailaki, Wai-lakki, northwestern California
- Esselen, west-central California
- Hupa, northwestern California
- Juaneño, Acjachemem, southwestern California
- Karok, northwestern California
- Kato, Cahto, northwestern California
- Kitanemuk, south-central California
- Konkow, northern-central California
- Kumeyaay, Diegueño, Kumiai
- Ipai, southwestern California
- Jamul, southwestern California
- Tipai, southwestern California and northwestern Mexico
- Ipai, southwestern California
- La Jolla Complex, southern California, c. 6050–1000 BCE
- Luiseño, southwestern California
- Maidu, northeastern California
- Konkow, northern California
- Mechoopda, northern California
- Nisenan, Southern Maidu, northern California
- Miwok, Me-wuk, central California
- Coast Miwok, west-central California
- Lake Miwok, west-central California
- Valley and Sierra Miwok
- Monache, Western Mono, central California
- Nisenan, eastern-central California
- Nomlaki, northwestern California
- Ohlone, Costanoan, west-central California
- Patwin, central California
- Suisun, Southern Patwin, central California
- Pauma Complex, southern California, c. 6050 — 1000 BCE
- Pomo, northwestern and central-western California
- Salinan, coastal central California
- Serrano, southern California
- Shasta northwestern California
- Konomihu, northwestern California
- Okwanuchu, northwestern California
- Tataviam, Allilik (Fernandeño), southern California
- Tolowa, northwestern California
- Tongva, Gabrieleño, Fernandeño, San Clemente tribe, coastal southern California
- Tubatulabal, south-central California
- Wappo, north-central California
- Whilkut, northwestern California
- Wintu, northwestern California
- Wiyot, northwestern California
- Yana, northern-central California
- Yokuts, central and southern California
- Chukchansi, Foothill Yokuts, central California
- Northern Valley Yokuts, central California
- Tachi tribe, Southern Valley Yokuts, south-central California
- Yuki, Ukomno'm, northwestern California
- Huchnom, northwestern California
- Yurok, northwestern California
Achomawi (Pit River Indians)
Antoniaño (See Salinan)
(Pit River Indians)
Cahuilla (Also see Mission Indians)
Campo Band of Diegueno Mission Indians
Chumash (Dialects: Roseño, Purisimeño, Barbareño, Inezeño, Ventureño, Obispeño, Santa Paula, Cruzeño, Emigdiano Allilik)
Chilula (See Hoopa)
Coast Miwok (See Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria
Costanoan (Dialects: Ramaytush, San Jose, Juichen, Chocheño, Tamyen, Awaswas, Chalon, Mutsun, Rumsen)- See Ohlone
Diegueño - see Kumeyaay
Fernandeño: see Tataviam
Gabrieliño: see Tongva
Ipai - see Kumeyaay
Konkow - see Maidu
Paiute (Northern, Southern)
Pit River / Achomawi
Wiyot (Also see California Rancherias)
Also see: Great Basin Indians
- Cahto / Kato Indians
- Cahuilla Indians
- Chilula Indians
- Chimariko Indians
- Chumash Indians
- Cupeño Indians
- Eel River Athapaskan
- Esselen Indians
- Hupa Indians
- Juaneno Indians
- Karuk Indians
- Kitanemuk Indians
- Kawaiisu Indians
- Maidu Indians
- Mattole Indians
- Me-Wuk / Miwok
- Mission / Rancheria
- Modoc Indians
- Mono Indians
- Nisenan Indians
- Nomlaki Indians
- Ohlone Indians
- Okwanuchu Indians
- Patwin Indians
- Pit River Indians
- Pit River / Achomawi
- Pomo Indians
- Salinan Indians
- Serrano Indians
- Shasta Indians
- Tataviam Indians
- Tolowa Indians
- Tubatulabal Indians
- Wappo Indians
- Wintu / Wintun Indians
- Yana / Yahi Indians
- Yokuts Indians
- Yuki Indians
- Yuman Indians
- Yurok Indians
Because of the small U.S. Army garrison west of the Rockies, and the economic and political effects of the California Gold Rush, most of the early conflicts with the mostly unwarlike California Indians involved local parties of miners or settlers.
Wiyot is the name of one of three culturally and linguistically related groups on the Eel River Delta in the early nineteenth century. They were culturally similar to the Yurok.
In the Powellian classification the Wiyot Indians 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.