These people were referred to by early researchers as “Yokuts”, meaning “people”. However, there is no actual Yokut Tribe, and each Tribe had its own name and its own traditional use areas.
The early settlements ranged from large villages, with hundreds of bedrock mortars, to smaller hunting camps. The Central Valley tribes hunted deer, rabbit, raccoons, and other game in the marshes and grass lands. The primary food source that was gathered during the summer season was derived from plants, particularly acorns, nuts, seeds, roots and berries.
After contact with the Spanish missionaries, European explorers, American trappers and gold miners, the original indigenous population was weakened, disturbed, and displaced. The introduction of diseases that the Native people had no immunity to caused waves of de-population. By 1900, it is estimated that approximately 85% – 90% of all California Indians “disappeared.”
The discovery of gold in the mid-19th century brought thousands of foreigners in search of wealth. Under American rule at the time, Native people had no legal rights. Their lands were taken away from them and their way of life was changed forever. These landless Indians went to work as farm laborers, miners, cowboys, and loggers, etc. Women were often domestic workers or worked in the fields.
By 1902, the Federal government began to set aside land for the landless Indians and created “Rancherias”. They were called “Rancherias” because they were not reservations. Reservations were created to be a place where Indians could live, work the land and otherwise make a living. Consequently, many of the Rancherias were small, often with less than 300 acres.