Published on October 21, 2010 by John
Miwok (also spelled Miwuk, Mi-Wuk, or Me-Wuk) can refer to any one of four linguistically related groups of Native Americans, native to Northern California, who spoke one of the Miwokan languages in the Utian family. The word Miwok means people in their native language. In 2008, ancient artifacts related to Miwok ancestors were unearthed in Calaveras County, some as many as 5000 years old. Many of the artifacts will be reburied with a special ceremony. The Miwok believe the artifacts belong to the land. Subgroups Anthropologists commonly divide the Miwok into four geographically and culturally diverse ethnic subgroups. These distinctions were unknown 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. (This 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.
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Federally recognized tribes
The United States Bureau of Indian Affairs officially recognizes eleven tribes of Miwok, Mi-Wuk or Me-Wuk descent in California, as follows: Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians as the Sheep Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians) Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians Ione Band of Miwok Indians, of Ione, California Jackson Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians 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 Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, formerly known as the Federated Coast Miwok Middletown Rancheria (Members of this tribe are of Pomo, Lake Miwok, and Wintun descent) 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.
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 preferentially exploited acorns from the California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii; in fact, the modern-day extent of the California Black Oak forests in some areas of Yosemite National Park is partially due to preferential cultivation by Miwok tribes. They burned understory vegetation to reduce the fraction of Ponderosa Pine. Nearly every other kind of edible vegetable matter was exploited 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
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.