The California Indians Tribes

Published on February 20, 2012 by Amy

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The California Indians
The California Indians


The California Indians lived in what is now California between the Rocky Mountians and Sierra Nevada. This area had a mild climate and an abundance of food.

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The California had one of the largest populations in North America west of the Great Plains. Over 200,000 Indians lived in California. Between 1851 and 1852, eighteen treaties with the United States wer signed by around 400 chiefs. They gave up 75 million acres of land. After this thousands died from idsease and hunger. Their population was reduced to 15,000.

The Intermountain Indians lived in the Great Basin between California and the Rocky Mountians. This land was mostly desert. This region had only a small number of Indians living in it.

The people settled in small villages. Depending on where they lived, their homes were either round or rectangular huts. The river tribes lived in dome-shaped huts sometimes covered with earth. The southern tribes built huts with poles and covered them with rush mats or layers of rushes or grass. The central tribes lived in semi-underground homes. These homes were had a conical roof covered with bark. The central tribes also lived in thatched roundhouses. The huts varied in size and could hold from one family to many related families.

All villages had a sweat lodge, where the men met and slept. The sweat lodge was made by digging a hole in the ground and covering the top with dirt.

The women and children slept in the huts in the winter. During the summer mats supported by poles or brush were used as shelter.

Some villages had a large structure made of earth and grass. This structure was used for councils and ceremonies.
Men wore loincloths or no clothing in the summer. The women wore short skirts made of fibers from bark, grass, tule, and sometimes deerskin. In the winter capes that hung down to the skirts were wore. Both men and women went barefoot except during snow. Skin moccasins were wore during the winter. Fur and fiber blankets were also wore during the winter. Tattooing was used as a substitute for clothes for some southern tribes.


The California area was rich in natural resources. The main foods included wild plants, seeds, and nuts. The people also ate grasshoppers, caterpillars, and grubs.

The California tribes were hunters and gathers. The men fished, trapped, and hunted. The women gathered food. The me caught fish with hooks and spears. The people who lived in the coastal regions ate shellfish, dolphins, porpoises, and whales.

Acorns were used by the California tribes. They ground them into flour, then washed away the bitter acid. The flour was mixed with clean water. It was cooked over hot rocks to cook it into mush. The mush was eaten alone or mixed with berries. Sometimes it was molded into a cake and baked.

Food was scarce in the Great Basin area. Few arimals lived their because it was too dry for most wild plants. The Indians moved about in small bands to search for food. They hunted antelope, birds, and deer. They also ate rats, snakes, grasshoppers, lizards, grubs, and roots.


This group of Indians feared spirits of the dead. No one spoke the name of a dead person in case the spirit might think someone was calling it back to the earth. The Indians burned a dead man’s house, body, and belongings so that the ghost could not use them.


The California tribes made money by breaking shells into small rounded beads. They strung the beads in groups.
Baskets were woven so tightly that water could be carried in them. The Pomo tribe was the most skilled at weaving the baskets.


The California tribes were known for their beautiful baskets. The baskets were used as traps, tools, cradles, gifts, and storage containers. Both men and women wove the baskets using a variety of techniques and patterns. They were decorated with beads, shells, and tiny feathers.

Source: mce.k12tn Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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