WEBSITE OF TRIBE: http://californiavalleymiwoktribe-nsn.gov/
1. Historical information about the culture
The Miwok are often admired for their respect of the land and their philosophy of minimizing disruption to it as much as possible. The Miwok tribes were located in valleys of central California and near the Sierra Nevada. They would strictly hunt and gather and did not take part in any form of agriculture. The game varied from large animals, such as deer and elk, to small ones, such as rabbits and ducks. Simply because of the availability to nearby waterways, fishing was also an important food source. While their most important food crop was acorns, their diet also consisted of mushrooms, insects, berries, roots, bulbs and greens. For hunting and fishing, the men had a range of tools. They used bows and arrows, spears, nets, clubs, snares, and baskets for fish and small animals.
Usually, they constructed only temporary houses, and their villages consisted of populations in the range of 70 to 200 people in order to avoid irreversible damage to the land. The villages were built around one large open space for gatherings and ceremonies, and were generally located near a stream or a creek. The houses were constructed from willow branches, weaved vines and twigs, and sometimes mud in the winter for additional insulation. They could be built relatively fast, so for the purpose of cleanliness and a strong foundation, they were burned down and rebuilt whenever necessary. They did not make pottery or even fabrics, which is possibly the reason for an account depicting the “naked men” who encountered Father Vincente in 1775. Animal skins were commonly worn as clothing however.
The Miwok were great basket weavers. The styles varied in design and complexity—taking months, sometimes years, to finish. Despite the years of suppression, the art survived and is still a valued craft to this day. In addition, many tribes in the region held special Kuksu dances that, among other things, ensured a good harvest. The tradition and practices varied slightly from tribe to tribe, but they shared a general purpose. Other forms of dance were also used to celebrate marriages, honor the ancestors, enact creation stories, and cure the sick. These ceremonies took place at the gathering space in the middle of the village.
The Shaman was an important figure in the village. The powers of the Shaman included the ability to communicate with animal spirits, predict the future, commence the rain, and reduce—if not completely extinguish—pain in someone’s body by sucking on the wound. Song and dance were very important tools in the Shaman’s practices but were eventually overshadowed by the religious beliefs of the Europeans.
The appearance of the Miwok was disputed when in 1985 a professor at California State University claimed that the Miwok migrated from Siberia and arrived later than most other tribes. The Miwok, he claims, came around 1000 BC while they were following salmon, as opposed to some other tribes who migrated from Asia 20,000 years ago. His evidence revolves mostly around the similarity between the language of present day Siberian tribes in Russia and some of the tribes in California, including the Miwok, who share roughly 10,000 words in common.
2. Colonial experience of the culture
3. Contemporary developments or issues