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American Indians - Woodland Tribes & California Indians (pg. 2)

Who Are the California Indians?

California Indians lived in an area that had plenty of food and the land was perfect for providing resources. Because of this, these Indians didn't have as much trouble finding food as some of the other tribes did. Some of the California tribes include the Pomo, Chumash, Miwok and Yurok.

California Indians - Shelter

The California Indians lived in communities of up to 2,000 people. Their houses were set up together in groups. They were made out of whatever materials were found in the area. Homes ranged from small huts with walls (but no roof) to twenty-foot long square buildings with dome shaped roofs. Several families usually lived in the bigger homes. The largest house always belonged to the chief and was near the water.

California Indians - Food

Indians in California were hunters and gatherers. Some of the food they gathered were nuts, seeds, berries, roots and bulbs. They hunted rabbits, deer and birds. Fish was also on the menu. For tasty snacks they munched on grasshoppers. Acorns were very important to them, just like wheat is for us. During the fall, they would harvest acorns from oak trees.

California Indians - Clothing

In most of the tribes, men and children wore no clothing. The woman wore a two-piece apron that resembled a skirt. When they did wear clothing (in colder weather, to climb trees, to travel, etc.) it looked like it was made out of long string but it was made from bark. Skirts were made by weaving or braiding bark. Feathers and beads were worn as decorations in some tribes. When it rained or was cold, they would put on animal skin blankets or a bearskin that was worn like a cape.

California Indians - Ceremonies

The biggest event of the year was the acorn harvest celebration. This took place in autumn when the nuts first began to fall from the trees. Gathering the acorns was a big deal in itself. The acorns were then cooked and several different prayers were said. Sacred acts were also performed. Nobody could eat the food, until all of the rituals were completed. The purpose of the tribute was a symbolic gesture to their gods to insure they would always have a steady supply of acorns.

You've probably heard stories about the peace pipe. Only the top guys in the tribe smoked from the peace pipe. It wasn't just used for peace. It was also for war. They would smoke the pipe and say the tribe name they were fighting, hoping they would die - kinda like a curse. There were several reasons the peace pipe was smoked - to bring good weather, to bring rain, to take away evil spirits and for voting. When the pipe was used in a vote, smoking the pipe was taken as a "yes" vote. If the answer was no, the pipe would simply be passed along.

California Indians - Did U Know?

  • All the California Indians were basket makers, however, the Pomos excelled in this art. They made baskets as large as three feet wide and as small as a thimble. They also wove hats, trays, cooking pots, boats and baby carriers.
  • If a warm bath full of soapy bubbles isn't your thing, this might make you change your mind. Some tribes believed one way to make children stronger was to bathe them in icy water - even in the winter.
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