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.
Miwok tribelets preferred to live in villages of about one hundred persons. They kept their villages small in order to enjoy living at the peak of the environment around them without the need to destroy. There was a male elder in each village with a woman who was responsible for organizing the ceremonies.
Today there are about 3,500 Miwok in total.
They ate plants, seeds, berries, fish and animal meats. They usually crushed acorns. They made acorn bread, acorn soup, and acorn flour. They used acorn flour to make bread and sometimes, they just ate acorn flour.
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.
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.
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.
Trade was an important part of life to the Coast Miwok. They traded fish and shells for hides. The Coast Miwok traded for stone and made it into tools and arrowheads. Some tribes had craftsmen to make tools made of wood and blades out of obsidian.
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.
Ceremonies/ Traditions /Rituals: They only took what they needed from the land and were never wasteful. The Bay Miwok believed totally in the power of animal spirits and the spirits of each other. They worshipped animals as ancestors, imitated them in dance, and told myths about them.
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.
They established their villages alongside the rivers and streams of the Sierra Nevada from the Cosumnes River on the north to the Calaveras River on the south. Other Miwok groups lived to the west and south in California’s great central valley as far west as Mount Diablo and south as far as Yosemite National Park.
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.
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.