Published on December 4, 2012 by Amy
The Coast Miwok were the second largest group of Miwok Native American people. The Coast Miwok inhabited the general area of modern Marin County and southern Sonoma County in Northern California, from the Golden Gate north to Duncan’s Point and eastward to Sonoma Creek. The Coast Miwok included the Bodega Bay Miwok from authenticated Miwok villages around Bodega Bay and Marin Miwok.
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The Coast Miwok spoke their own Coast Miwok language in the Utian linguistic group. They lived by hunting and gathering, and lived in small bands without centralized political authority. In the springtime they would head to the coasts to hunt salmon and other seafood. Otherwise their staple foods were primarily acorns, nuts and wild game such as California Mule Deer. They were skilled at basketry.
There is a recreated Coast Miwok village called Kule Loklo located at the Point Reyes National Seashore.
Documentation of Miwok peoples dates back as early as 1579 by a priest on a ship under the command of Francis Drake. Other verification of occupancy exists from Spanish and Russian voyagers between 1595 and 1808, 1976.
In the early 1800s, the Spanish-American Franciscans began to move the Miwok into the missions and divide Marin-Sonoma lands into large ranches under Spanish land deeds. The Spanish Missions established from 1809 to 1834 used Coast Miwok and southern Pomo people as a labor source. Many became known as mission Indians or neophytes at Mission San Rafael Arcángel (of San Rafael), or Mission San Francisco Solano (of Sonoma). Mission records assist in substantiating native genealogical persistence. At first the Coast Miwok were sent to the missions in San Rafael, San Francisco and as far south as Mission San Jose. 850 Coast Miwok had been converted by year 1817. The entire Sonoma-Marin region virtually emptied of people. Later the Coast Miwok were transported back to Sonoma County to help build and live at the Mission San Francisco Solano in present-day town of Sonoma, from this final missions’ founding in 1823 to its secularization in 1836.
The Coast Miwok population declined rapidly after 1837, when a smallpox epidemic decimated the native population of the Sonoma region, as well as from other diseases brought in from the Spaniards as well as the Russians at Fort Ross.
By the beginning of California statehood (1850) the Miwok of Marin and Sonoma Counties were making the best of a difficult oppressive situation, by earning their livelihoods through farm labor or fishing, within their traditional homelands. Some chose to work as seasonal or year-round ranch labors for the Rancho Petaluma Adobe or other Ranches.
After the Mission period (1769-1834) local Indian people continued in servitude to Mexican land grant owners throughout their confiscated tribal territories. Mexican and American period records show that a Coast Miwok, Camilo Ynitia, secured the land grant for Olompali near Novato within Coast Miwok homelands. Olompali was the site of a large village, extending from prehistoric times into the Spanish/Mexican periods, and continues today as an important historic locale.
Another important locale was Nicasio northwest of San Rafael. Near the time of secularization (1835), the Church granted the San Rafael Christian Indians 20 leagues (80,000 acres, 320 km²) of mission lands at Nicasio. About 500 Indians relocated to Nicasio. By 1850 they had but one league of land left. This radical reduction of land was a result of illegal confiscation of land by non-Indians under protest by Indian residents. In 1870, Jose Calistro, the last community leader at Nicasio, purchased the small surrounding parcel. Calistro died in 1875, and in 1876 the land was transferred by his will to his four children. In 1880 there were 36 Indian people at Nicasio. The population was persuaded to leave in the 1880s when Marin County, California curtailed funds to all Indians (except those at Marshall) who were not living at the Poor Farm, a place for “indigent” peoples.
By the early 1900s, a few Miwok families pursued fishing for their livelihoods; one family continued commercial fishing into the 1970s, while another family maintained an oyster harvesting business. When this activity was neither in season nor profitable, Indian people of this area sought agricultural employment, which required an itinerant lifestyle. The preferred locality for such work was within Marin and Sonoma counties.
The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, formerly the Federated Coast Miwok, gained federal recognition of their tribal status in December 2000. The new tribe consists of people of both Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo descent.
Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially.
The population in 1848 was estimated as 300, and it had dropped to 60 in 1880.