Facts about the Miwok Native Indian
This article contains fast, fun facts and
interesting information about the Miwok Native
American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions
did the Miwok tribe live, what did they wear and what
food did they eat? Discover what happened to the Miwok tribe with facts about their wars and
What language did the Miwok tribe speak?
The Miwok tribe spoke in seven different
dialects of the Penutian language
and were comprised of three groups. The Coast
Miwok, the Lake Miwok and the Sierra Miwok.
The Coast Miwok lived along the Pacific
Coast (north of San Francisco from present-day Sausalito to
The Lake Miwok who lived east and south of
Clear Lake along the San Joaquin and
The Sierra Miwok, who the largest group,
lived to the western slope on the foothills
and along the rivers of the Sierra Nevada
What was the lifestyle and culture of the Miwok
The lifestyle of the Miwok tribe varied
according to the natural resources of their
location. The name Miwok derives from their word
'Miwuk' meaning person. They were neighbors to the
Wappo and Washoe tribes,
with whom they frequently traded. Their tribal
lands were subject to various incursions by the
Spanish, Mexicans and finally the Americans. The
people watched as their tribal lands fell
to the Spanish who wanted to convert the tribe to
Christianity and enslave them, the Mexicans who forced the people
to work on their farms and the Americans
who moved west along the California Trail who
were joined by the Gold Rush settlers. The Miwok
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.
Where did the Miwok tribe live?
The Miwok are people of the California Native
American cultural group. The location of their
tribal homelands are shown on the map in
north-central California. The
geography of the region in which they lived
dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Miwok
Land: Sea, coastal regions, mountains, rivers and lakes
Climate: Mild temperate climate
Natural Resources: Oak trees, acorns, buckeye
mushrooms, hazel nuts, bulbs, roots and grasses
Types of housing or shelters:
Types of housing or shelters: Wickiups cedar bark shelters
and pit houses
Land animals: The animals included
deer, elk, jack- rabbits, squirrels,
quail, mountain sheep and black bear
Sea Mammals: Seals, sea lions and sea otters
Insects: Crickets, grasshoppers,
caterpillars and dried
locusts were all eaten to
supplement the diet
What did the Miwok tribe live in?
Cedar Bark Tepee: During the summer the semi-nomadic
California Miwok tribe lived in temporary
pointed, conical cedar bark shelters,
constructed using several poles tied together
that were covered with bark, sticks over the
framework. The interior Miwok also lived in
temporary lean-tos, or pointed cedar bark
shelters, made of bark over sapling framework.
Winter Pit Houses: The more
permanent winter homes of the Miwok consisted of
villages of semi-subterranean
winter homes that were built up to 15 feet into
The Miwok Californian pit house was constructed of
earth and brush with a pitched
roof that was completely covered in earth. The winter houses had a central fire pit
and a smoke hole to
allow smoke to escape and also let light and air in.
Entrance was accessed via ladder on top of the
roof of the Miwok Pit House.
What food did the Miwok tribe eat?
The food that the Miwok tribe ate varied
according to the natural resources that were
available to them. Their food included staple
diet of acorns which they ground into acorn meal
that were stored for up to one year, ground
into acorn meal and leached to make soup, cakes
and bread. The Miwok hunted deer (venison),
black bear, elk,
fowl, and small game such as jack-rabbits and quail.
Fish was also another important Miwok food source,
particularly salmon, but also included trout and
shellfish. The Miwok hunter-gathers
collected other foods including buckeye nuts,
mushrooms, various greens, roots, bulbs,
and berries. Most foods were dried and stored
for use during the winter months. Coastal groups
of Miwok hunted for sea mammals and
considered dried seaweed a delicacy.
What weapons did the Miwok use?
The weapons used by the Miwok included spears,
slings, knives, bows and arrows and clubs.
What transportation did the Miwok use?
Eastern Miwok used a tule balsa on navigable
rivers, the canoe style of boat was unheard of.
Log rafts were used on the coast.
What clothes did the Miwok men wear?
The clothes worn by the Miwok men were limited
to loin cloths woven from grass or bark fibers.
In the winter months warm clothing was needed
that were made from the hides of animals such as
deer (buckskin), elk, squirrel, rabbit and
wildcats. The Miwok winter clothing
and garments included fur robes,
kilts or aprons, and leggings. They wore
one-piece moccasins with long tops that were
wrapped about the calf, but went barefoot
in the warmer weather.
What clothes did the Miwok women wear?
type of clothes worn by the Miwok women included front and back aprons made
of shredded willow bark. Their dress fell to
calf length and were
belted. Special clothes were strung
with ornaments, tassels, shells and quills.
Twined tule sandals or moccasins covered their
feet and in the winter they wore fur robes to keep
out the cold.
The Miwok Headdresses
ceremonial crown-style headdresses of the Miwok,
as seen in the above picture, consisted of a
flicker quill headband that covered the forehead
and was tied at the back. The Flicker
headbands were made from flicker the longest and
narrowest wing feathers. These dark pink or
yellow feathers were placed side by side and
sewn together to form a long headband. These
were bordered by dark brown feathers and
attached to the head with string. Feather
hair plumes were added as a separate form of
decoration to complete the Miwok headdress.
Miwok Tatoos and Body Paint
Miwok people also wore ear and nose ornaments as
well as face and body paint, that was similar to
the Mojave tribe. They also practiced tattooing.
Their striking face and body paint made use of
black and white coloring often applied in
horizontal lines, as can be seen by the above
picture. The white paint color was obtained from
chalk deposits and charcoal was easy to make
resulting in distinctive white and black face
and body painting.