The Miwok (also spelled Miwuk, Mi-Wuk, or Me-Wuk) are members of four linguistically related Native American groups indigenous to what is now Northern California, who traditionally spoke one of the Miwok languages in the Utian family. The word Miwok means people in the Miwok language.
Historical distribution of the Miwok people in California
|1770: over 11,000|
|Regions with significant populations|
|California: Sierra Nevada Mountains, Central Valley, Marin County, Sonoma County, Lake County, Contra Costa County|
|Related ethnic groups|
Anthropologists commonly divide the Miwok into four geographically and culturally diverse ethnic subgroups. These distinctions were not used among the Miwok before European contact.
- Plains and Sierra Miwok: from the 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 (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
Federally recognized tribes
- 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 tribes
- Miwok Tribe of the El Dorado Rancheria
- Nashville-Eldorado Miwok Tribe
- Colfax-Todds Valley Consolidated Tribe of the Colfax Rancheria
- Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation
- Calaveras Band of Mi-Wuk Indians
- Miwok of Buena Vista Rancheria
- River Valley Miwok Indians, formally known as Historical Families of Wilton Rancheria
The predominant theory regarding the settlement of the Americas date the original migrations from Asia to around 20,000 years ago across the Bering Strait land bridge, but one anthropologist claims that the Miwok and some other northern California tribes descend from Siberians who arrived in California by sea around 3,000 years ago.
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 harvested acorns from the California Black Oak. In fact, the modern-day extent of the California Black Oak forests in some areas of Yosemite National Park is partially due to cultivation by Miwok tribes. They burned understory vegetation to reduce the fraction of Ponderosa Pine. Nearly every other kind of edible vegetable matter was used 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 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 people played gender mixed games on a 110-yard playing field called poscoi a we’a. A unique game was played with young men and women. Similarly 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 it he could pick her up and carry her towards his goal.
In 1770, there were an estimated 500 Lake Miwok, 1,500 Coast Miwok, and 9,000 Plains and Sierra Miwok, totaling about 11,000 people, according to historian Alfred L. Kroeber, although this may be a serious undercount; for example, he did not identify the Bay Miwok. The 1910 Census reported only 671 Miwok total, and the 1930 Census, 491. See history of each Miwok group for more information. Today there are about 3,500 Miwok in total.
Influences on popular culture
The Star Wars films feature a fictional species of forest-dwelling creatures known as Ewoks, who are ostensibly named after the Miwok. However, the historical Northern-California footprint of the Miwok people (where George Lucas's home and corporate headquarters were located) may have caused the Ewoks' name to be retconned to enhance the marketability of the 1983 film.
The Miwok people are encountered in Kim Stanley Robinson's book, The Years of Rice and Salt. In an alternate history scenario depicted in the book they are the first group of Native Americans encountered by the first Chinese to discover the continent.
- "Miwok", California Indians and Reservations, San Diego State University, Library, accessed 30 Jun 2010
- Eugene L. Conrotto (1973). Miwok Means People: The Life and Fate of the Native Inhabitants of the California Gold Rush Country. Fresno, Calif.: Valley Publishers. p. 4. ISBN 0-913548-13-8.
- "Buena Vista Rancheria - Me-Wuk Indians". Buenavistatribe.com. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- "California Valley Miwok Tribe (CVMT GovPortal) - Official Website of the California Valley Miwok Tribe". californiavalleymiwok.us. Retrieved 2016-02-24.
- "California Valley Miwok Tribe (CVMT WebPortal)". Californiavalleymiwoktribe.us. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- "Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria". Gratonrancheria.com. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- "Ione Band of Miwok Indians". Ionemiwok.org. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-02-19. Retrieved 2014-01-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- See this notice dated Tuesday, August 11, 2009 from the United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs Agency entitled "Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible To Receive Services From the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs" (Federal Register Vol. 74, No. 153). The "Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, Shingle Springs Rancheria (Verona Tract)" is a single federally recognized Tribe.
- "Welcome — United Auburn Indian Community". Auburnrancheria.com. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- "Wilton Rancheria Announces Restoration of Status as Federally Recognized Indian Tribe", Sacramento Business Journal
- "Donations - Organization by Miwok of Buena Vista Rancheria". Miwokofbuenavistarancheria.webs.com. Retrieved 2013-12-28.
- Billiter, Bill (January 1, 1985). "3,000-Year-Old Connection Claimed : Siberia Tie to California Tribes Cited". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 2014-11-28. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
Some of the California Indian tribes that are descended from Russian Siberians, Von Sadovszky said, are the Wintuan, of the Sacramento Valley, the Miwokan, of the area north of San Francisco, and the Costanoan, of the area south of San Francisco.
- C. Michael Hogan (2008) Quercus kelloggii, Globaltwitcher.com, ed. Nicklas Stromberg Archived 2012-02-18 at the Wayback Machine
- Kroeber, 1925
- "Indian Grinding Rock SHP - The Rock and the People". California Department of Parks and Recreation.
- "Benjamin Barry." The Union. 15 Sept 2010. Retrieved 10 Jan 2012.
- Cook, 1976, pages 236-245.
- Nash, Eric P. (1997-01-26). "The Names Came From Earth". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
- Access Genealogy: Indian Tribal records, Miwok Indian Tribe. Retrieved on 2006-08-01. Main source of "authenticated village" names and locations.
- Barrett, S.A. and Gifford, E.W. Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region. Yosemite Association, Yosemite National Park, California, 1933. ISBN 0-939666-12-X
- Cook, Sherburne. The Conflict Between the California Indian and White Civilization. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1976. ISBN 0-520-03143-1.
- Kroeber, Alfred L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Washington, D.C: Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. (Chapter 30, The Miwok); available at Yosemite Online Library.
- Silliman, Stephen. Lost Laborers in Colonial California, Native Americans and the Archaeology of Rancho Petaluma. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8165-2381-9.
- Miwok Bibliography
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Miwok.|
- California Historical Society:The First Californians, The Miwok
- Native Tribes, Groups, Language Families and Dialects of California in 1770 (map after Kroeber)
- Tribe information from Angel Island State Park
- U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Short radio episode Mouse Steals Fire from Coast Miwok lore in Californian Indian Nights Entertainments, 1930, California Legacy Project.