Published on October 8, 2012 by Amy
The Yokuts (previously known as Mariposans) are an ethnic group of Native Americans native to central California. Prior to European contact, the Yokuts consisted of up to 60 separate tribes speaking the same language.
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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. “Yokuts” means “People.” Conventional sub-groupings include the Foothill Yokuts, Northern Valley Yokuts, and Southern Valley Yokuts.
Yokuts tribes populated the San Joaquin Valley, from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (“the delta”) south to Bakersfield and also 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 also 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 put the 1770 population of the Yokut at 18,000. Several subsequent investigators suggested that the total should be substantially higher. Robert F. Heizer and Albert B. Elsasser 1980 suggested that the Yokut had numbered about 70,000. They had one of the highest regional population densities in pre-contact North America.
The numbers of Foothill Yokut were reduced by around 93% between 1850 and 1900. A few Valley Yokut remain, the most prominent tribe among them being the Tachi. Kroeber estimated the population of the Yokut in 1910 as 600.
Today there are about 2000 enrolled Yokut in the federally recognized tribe, and 600 more Yokut belonging to unrecognized tribes.
The Yokutsan language is a member of the Penutian language family.