Today there are about 3,500 Miwok in total.
The Miwok Indians reside in north -central California, from the coast to the west slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There are three divisions of the tribe — the Coast Miwok, the Lake Miwok, and the Sierra Miwok.
The Miwoks were hunter-gatherers. Miwok men hunted deer and small game and caught fish in the rivers and lakes. Miwok women gathered acorns and ground them into meal to make bread and fruits, as well as collecting berries, nuts, and other plants.
The Miwok people were decimated by the diseases brought by the invaders and subjected to atrocities. Following the short-lived Mariposa Indian War (1850) those who survived were forced on to various reservations.
According to Miwok mythology, the people believed in animal and human spirits, and spoke of animal spirits as their ancestors. Coyote in many tales figures as their ancestor, creator god, and a trickster god. The Miwok mythology is similar to other Native American myths of Northern California.
Beliefs. The Miwok had an animistic philosophy: they wanted no walls and trod lightly on the land, leaving no footsteps, always apologizing to the spirits in animals or nature whenever they disturbed them in whatever fashion. Their oral history was transmitted through the stories of the elders and shamans.
Among other things, they were in charge of planning for various festivals that the Miwoks had. Dancing was very important to the Miwoks, both socially and also as part of their religion. Each tribe had its own “dance house”. The Miwoks often danced while wearing costumes made from animal skin.
How did they get their food? Miwok men usually hunted animals and fished. Miwok women gathered acorns, beans, grains and berries. Miwok men used clubs, spears, bows and arrows and animal skins.
The Miwok community lived in dome and conical shaped homes. Theses structures were then covered with redwood boards (called ‘kotcha’) or grass or tule (called ‘kaawul kotcha’). The grass houses had a willow frame covered with bundled grass and a tule mat or animal hide was used for the flap door leading into the house.
Acorns were the main food for the Yurok. Fish (mostly salmon) was also important to them. There were plenty of deer caught with snares.
Traditionally, the groups near and on the coast—the Coast, Lake, and Bay Miwok —gathered acorns, fished, and hunted deer and other game with bow and arrow. They lived in semisubterranean pole- and earth-covered lodges and produced watertight basketry ornamented with beads or feathers.
The Miwok caught salmon and sturgeon from the rivers and streams and collected clams and mussels from the sea-shore. The Miwok also hunted deer and elk in the mountains and valleys.
Their traditional houses, called “kotcha”, were constructed with slabs of tule grass or redwood bark in a cone-shaped form. Miwok people are skilled at basketry.
One of the tools that the Miwok used was a giant stone with holes. They used the stone to grind acorns into flour. Miwoks used rocks to crush things for food and supplies. One of the tools that the Miwok used was a bow and arrow.
As with other tribes of California Indians, the Maidu ate seeds and acorns and hunted elk, deer, bears, rabbits, ducks, and geese; they also fished for salmon, lamprey eel, and other river life.