The Yokuts (previously known as Mariposas[4]) are an ethnic group of Native Americans native to central California. Before European contact, the Yokuts consisted of up to 60 tribes speaking several related languages.

Chukchansi Yokuts woman,
photo by Edward Curtis, 1924
Total population
6,273 alone and in combination[1] (2010)
Regions with significant populations
United States ( California)
English, Yokuts language[2]
traditional tribal religion, Christianity, Kuksu religion,[3] previously Ghost Dance[3]
Related ethnic groups
Maidu, Miwok, Ohlone, and Wintu peoples

Some of their descendants prefer to refer to themselves by their respective tribal names and reject the name Yokuts with the claim that it is an exonym invented by English speaking settlers and historians. Conventional sub-groupings include the Foothill Yokuts, Northern Valley Yokuts, and Southern Valley Yokuts.[5]


Yokuts tribes populated the San Joaquin Valley,[2] from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta ("the delta") south to Bakersfield and the adjacent foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which lies to the east.

In the northern half of the Yokuts region, there were some tribes inhabiting the foothills of the Coast Range, which lies to the west. There is evidence of Yokuts inhabiting the Carrizo Plain and creating rock art in the Painted Rock area.


Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially (See Population of Native California). Alfred L. Kroeber in 1925[6] put the 1770 population of the Yokuts at 18,000. Several subsequent investigators suggested that the total should be substantially higher.[7] Robert F. Heizer and Albert B. Elsasser 1980[8] suggested that the Yokuts had numbered about 70,000. They had one of the highest regional population densities in pre-contact North America.[2]

The numbers of Foothill Yokuts were reduced by around 93% between 1850 and 1900. A few Valley Yokuts remain, the most prominent tribe among them being the Tachi. Kroeber estimated the population of the Yokuts in 1910 as 600.

Today there are about 2000 enrolled Yokuts in the federally recognized tribe and 600 more Yokuts belonging to unrecognized tribes.[2]


According to San Diego State University, the Yokutsan languages are members of the Penutian language family.[2]


Yokuts bands

Contemporary tribes

The contemporary Wukchumni and Choinumni communities do not yet have federal recognition.[10]

Trading routes

The Yokuts tribe of California are known to have engaged in trading with other California tribes of Native Americans in the United States including coastal peoples like, for example, the Chumash tribe of the Central California coast, and they are known to have traded plant and animal products.

Internal conflicts within the Chukchansi tribe near Yosemite

On 5 April 2015 (4-5-2015), it was reported that members of the Chukchansi tribe near Yosemite have been disenrolling other members from the tribe for decades, so that the tribe's casino profits go to fewer people. In the autumn of 2014, several disenrolled Chukchansi tribe members (who were no longer receiving a share of casino profits) arrived at the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino armed with guns, and violence ensued. As a result, a federal judge ordered that the casino be shut down.[11]

Notable Yokuts

Tribal government

Every tribe has a Head Chief, Winatun, and a Village Chief.

-Researched by Mary Ann Brensel[12]

See also


  1. "2010 Census" (PDF). www.census.gov. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  2. California Indians and Their Reservations: Y. San Diego State University Library and Information Access. 2009 (retrieved 29 June 2010)
  3. Pritzker, 157
  4. Powell, 1891:90–91.
  5. Pritzker, 211
  6. Kroeber 1925:883.
  7. Baumhoff 1963; Cook 1955; Wallace 1978.
  8. Heizer and Elsasser 1980:16.
  9. Sydney M. Lamb. 1957. Mono Grammar. University of California. Berkeley PhD dissertation.
  10. Pritzker, 159
  11. "Millions At Stake In California Tribe Membership Dispute". NPR.org. 5 April 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  12. "Tribal Government | Tulare County History". tularecountyhistory.org. Retrieved 2017-12-21.


  • Kroeber, A. L. 1910. On the Evidences of Occupation of Certain Regions by the Miwok Tribes, University of California Press, Berkeley, Vol. 6 No. 3 p. 370
  • Kroeber, A. L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.
  • Pritzker, Barry M. 2000. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.
  • Heizer, R. F., and A. B. Elsasser 1980. The Natural World of the California Indians, University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 0-520-03895-9.

Further reading

  • Baumhoff, Martin A. 1963."Ecological Determinants of Aboriginal California Populations". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 49:155–236.
  • Cook, Sherburne F. 1955. "The Aboriginal Population of the San Joaquin Valley, California". Anthropological Records 16:31–80. University of California, Berkeley.
  • Cummins, Marjorie W. (1978). The Tache-Yokuts, Indians of the San Joaquin Valley. Pioneer Publishing Company. ISBN 0-914330-24-1.
  • Heizer, Robert F., and Albert B. Elsasser. 1980. The Natural World of the California Indians. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Powell, John Wesley 1891. Indian Linguistic Families Of America, North Of Mexico, Government Printing Office, Washington, pages 90–91.
  • Wallace, William J. 1978. "Southern Valley Yokuts". In California, edited by Robert F. Heizer, pp. 448–469. Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, vol. 8. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Webb, Frederick 1910. 'Tachi' and 'Tammukan', in Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Government Printing Office.
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