Valley and Sierra Miwok

Valley and Sierra Miwok

infobox ethnic group
group = Valley & Sierra Miwok People

caption = "A Sierra Miwok cedar bark " umuucha " cabin reproduction in Yosemite Valley. The material came from lumbering operations of 19th century miners. Previously the Miwok lived in rounded huts made of brush and mud [Craig D. Bates "Museum Anthropology" 17(2):13 (June 1993)] "
poptime = 1770: "9000-17,800" 1848: "6000"
1880: "100"
1910: "670"
popplace = California:
"Sierra Nevada Mountains"
"Central Valley"
langs = Utian:
Plains Miwok, Northern Sierra Miwok, Central Sierra Miwok, Southern Sierra Miwok
rels = Shamanism: Kuksu
Miwok mythology
related= Miwok
*Coast Miwok
*Lake Miwok
*Bay Miwok

The Valley and Sierra Miwok (also called the Plains and Sierra Miwok), were the largest group of Miwok Native American people. They lived in Northern California on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between the Fresno and Cosumnes Rivers and also in the "Central Valley" in the delta area, where the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers converge.


The Valley and Sierra Miwok lived by hunting and gathering, and lived in small bands without centralized political authority. They were skilled at basketry.


The original Valley and Sierra Miwok people world view included Shamanism, one form this took was the Kuksu religion that was evident in Central and Northern California, which included elaborate acting and dancing ceremonies in traditional costume, an annual mourning ceremony, puberty rites of passage, shamanic intervention with the spirit world and an all-male society that met in subterranean dance rooms.Kroeber, 1907, Vol. 4 #6, sections titled "Shamanism", "Public Ceremonies", "Ceremonial Structures and Paraphernalia", and "Mythology and Beliefs".] [ [ The Kuksu Cult paraphrased from Kroeber.] ] Kuksu was shared with other indigenous ethnic groups of Central California, such as the Pomo, Maidu, Ohlone, Esselen, and northernmost Yokuts. However Kroeber observed less "specialized cosmogony" in the Miwok, which he termed one of the "southern Kuksu-dancing groups", in comparison to the Maidu and other northern California tribes. [Kroeber, 1925, page 445. "A less specialized type of cosmogony is therefore indicated for the southern Kuksu-dancing groups. [1. If, as seems probable, the southerly Kuksu tribes (the Miwok, Costanoans, Esselen, and northernmost Yokuts) had no real society in connection with their Kuksu ceremonies, the distinctness of their mythology appears less surprising.] ".]

Traditional Narratives

The record of myths, legends, tales, and histories from the Valley and Sierra Miwok is one of the most extensive in the state. These groups participated in the general cultural pattern of Central California.


Miwok mythology is similar to other natives of Central and Northern California. The Valley and Sierra Miwok believed in animal and human spirits, and saw the animal spirits as their ancestors. Coyote was seen as their ancestor and creator god. [Clark 1910, Gifford 1917.]


There were four definite regional and linguistic sub-divisions known as: Valley Miwok, Northern Sierra Miwok, Central Sierra Miwok, and Southern Sierra Miwok:

Valley Miwok

The Valley Miwok inhabited the general area of modern San Joaquin County and parts of Sacramento Valley. They spoke "Plains Miwok" a language in the Utian linguistic group.

Authentic Villages

The authenticated Valley Miwok villages are: Access Genealogy, Miwok.]

*"On the Cosumnes River:" Chuyumkatat, Lulimal, Mayeman, Mokos-umni, Sukididi, Supu, Tukui, Yomit. Also near the river: Umucha, Yumhui.
*"On Mokelumne River:" Lel-amni, Mokel(-umni), Sakayak-umni.
*"On the east bank of Sacramento River below Sacramento:" Hulpu-mni.
*"On Jackson Creek:" Ochech-ak.


Northern Sierra Miwok

The Northern Miwok inhabited the upper watersheds of the Mokelumne River and the Calaveras River.See also Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park near Volcano, California. They spoke "Northern Sierra Miwok" a language in the Utian linguistic group.

Authentic Villages

The authenticated Northern Sierra Miwok villages are:
*"At present-day San Andreas:" Huta-sil.
*"At present-day Jackson:" Tukupe-su.
*"Near present-day Jackson:" Pola-su.
*"On the Calaveras River Headwaters:" Kechenti, Kaitimii , Mona-sti.
*"Between Calaveras River and Mokelumne Rivers:" Apautawilti, Heina, Ketina.
*"On the CosumnesRiver:" Noma (South Fork), Omo (South Fork), Yule (south of River).
*"On the Mokelumne River." Ktiniisti, Uptistini, Penken-sii (inland south of River), Sopochi (towards Jackson Creek).
*"On Jackson Creek:" Chakane-sii?, Seweu-sii, Tumuti (on the headwaters), Yuloni, on Jackson Creek.


Central Sierra Miwok

The Central Sierra Miwok inhabited the upper watersheds of the Stanislaus River and the Tuolumne River. They spoke "Central Sierra Miwok".

Authentic Villages

The authenticated Central Sierra Miwok villages are:

*"At present-day Sonora:" Akankau-nchi (1), Kuluti. Also in this vicinity: Hunga, Kapanina, Chakachi-no, Akankau-nchi (2), Kesa, Kotoplana, Olaw_ye, Pokto-no, Pota, Siksike-no, Sopka-su, Suchumumu, Sukanola, Sukwela, Telese-no, Tel'ula, Tunuk-chi, Waka-che.
*"On the Calaveras River:" Humata, Katuka, Newichu (between Stanislaus River and a head branch).
*"On the Stanislaus River:" Akutanuka (northwest), Hangwite (South Fork ), Kawinucha (North Fork), Kewe-no, Loyowisa (near the junction of Middle and South Forks), Oloikoto, Sutamasina (South Fork), Takema (Middle Fork), Tipotoya, Tulana-chi, Tulsuna (between the South and Middle Forks). Tuyiwu-nu, Wokachet (South Fork), Wolanga-su (south of the junction between the South and Middle Forks), Wtiyu Yungakatok (near the junction of the North and Middle Forks).
*"On the Tuolumne River:" Akawila (between a branch of Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers), Hechhechi (at headwaters), Hochhochmeti, Kulamu, Pangasema-nu (northern), Pasi-nu (southeast of Sonora), Pigliku (southern), Singawu-nu, Sala.
*"Near present-day San Andreas:" Alakani (east) , Kosoimuno-nu (towards Stanislaus River), Sasamu, (almost due east), Shulaputi (southeast).


outhern Sierra Miwok

The Southern Miwok inhabited the lower banks of the Merced River and the Chowchilla River, as well as Mariposa Creek. They spoke "Southern Sierra Miwok".Broadbent, 1964.]

The Merced River flows through Manteca. The Mono people (considered Paiute) occupied the higher Sierras and entered Yosemite from the east. Miwoks occupied the lower western foothills of the Sierras and entered from the west. Disputes between the two were violent, and the residents of the valley, in defense of their territory, were considered to be among the most aggressive of any tribes in the area. When encountered by immigrants of European descent, the neighboring Southern Sierra Miwok tribe referred to the Yosemite valley residents as "killers". [] It is from this reference and a confusion over the word for "grizzly bear" that Bunnell named the valley Yosemite. The native residents called the valley "awahni". Today, there is some debate about the original meaning of the word, since the Southern Miwok language is virtually extinct, but recent Southern Miwok speakers defined it as "place like a gaping mouth." Those living in "awahni" were known as the Awahnichi (also spelled Ahwahnechee and similar variants), meaning "people who live in awahni".Bunnel, 1892.] Anderson, 2005.]


The authenticated Southern Sierra Miwok villages are:
*"Near present-day Mariposa:" Kasumati, Nochu-chi.
*"On the Chowchilla Rive headwaters:" Nowach, Olwia.
*"On the Fresno River:" Wasema, Wehilto.
*"On the Merced River:" Alaula-chi, Angisawepa, Awal, Hikena, Kakahula-chi, Kitiwana, Kuyuka-chi, Owelinhatihu, Palachan, Sayangasi, Siso-chi, Sope-nchi, Sotpok, WilitoYawoka-chi.


After whites entered Yosemite and established Yosemite National Park the residents were of both Paiute and Miwok origin, they had either fought to stalemate or agreed to peaceful coexistence, and had intermixed to a limited extent.

Notable Valley and Sierra Miwokans

External links

* [ Online books about the Southern Sierra Miwok]
* [ Central Sierra Miwok Dictionary]
* [ Southern Sierra Miwok Dictionary]
* [ Access Genealogy: Indian Tribal records, Miwok Indian Tribe]
* [ Native Tribes, Groups, Language Families and Dialects of California in 1770] (map after Kroeber)


In 1770, Alfred L. Kroeber estimated to be 9000 Plains and Sierra Miwok combined, but this is an arguably low estimate.Cook, 1976, pages 236-245.]



* [ "Access Genealogy: Indian Tribal records, Miwok Indian Tribe"] . Retrieved on 2006-08-01. Main source of "authenticated village" names and locations.
* Anderson, Daniel. [ "Origin of the word Yosemite"] . Retrieved on 2006-08-01.
* [ Broadbent, Sylvia. "The Southern Sierra Miwok Language." University of California publications in linguistics, Vol. 38. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1964.]
* Bunnell, Dr. Lafayette. [ "Discovery of the Yosemite, and the Indian war of 1851, which led to that event"] , 3d ed. New York City and Chicago, IL: F. H. Revell Company, 1892.
* Cook, Sherburne. "The Conflict Between the California Indian and White Civilization". Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1976. ISBN 0-520-03143-1.
* Kroeber, Alfred L. 1907. "The Religion of the Indians of California", "University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology" 4:#6. Berkeley, sections titled "Shamanism", "Public Ceremonies", "Ceremonial Structures and Paraphernalia", and "Mythology and Beliefs"; available at [ Sacred Texts Online]
* Kroeber, Alfred L. 1925. "Handbook of the Indians of California". Washington, D.C: "Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin" No. 78. (Chapter 30, The Miwok); available at [ Yosemite Online Library] .
* Levy, Richard. 1978. "Eastern Miwok. In California", edited by Robert F. Heizer, pp. 398-413. "Handbook of North American Indians", William C. Sturtevant, general editor, vol. 8. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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