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California Indian Languages: Hokan Tribes

Hokan has great antiquity in California. As compared with Penutian, the inter-relationships of the Hokan languages lie much deeper in time. The broken chain of Hokan language islands around the margins of California presumably includes the relic areas surviving from an ancient continuous distribution. Karok is one such isolate.  (Moratto, California Archaeology *)


Native Location: Northeastern California

Language:  Palaihnihan

Identified Shelters:  Cone-shaped structures covered with tule in the Summer;  In the Winter, wood-frame, semi-subterranean houses covered with grass, tule, bark, and dirt.

Food:  Fish, waterfowl, eggs, tule sprouts, game, berries

Cultural Notes: They are members of the Pit River Nation.

Tribal History:


Native Location: Area along the coast between Paso Robles and Malibu, and the Northern Channel Islands

Language: Hokan

Identified Shelters:  large, circular, domed houses separating multiple family areas; a fire-pit stood in the center and a hole was left on the top of the dome for air circulation.

Food:  Acorn, pine nuts, cherries, seeds, berries, deer, small game, fish, waterfowl

Information Website:  Chumash Life,  hosted by Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Tribal History:

Tribal Website:
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians


Cultural Notes:
  The Esselen were one of the least numerous groups in California, and are often cited, incorrectly, as the first California Indian group to become culturally extinct. This picture of Esselen extinction, although pervasive in the literature, is wrong. Not only did the group not become extinct, there is even recent evidence that some Esselen escaped the missions entirely by retreating to the rugged interior mountains. It now appears that a small group survived into the 1840s before filtering to the ranchos and the outskirts of the growing towns.

Tribal Information:

Tribal History:


Karuk (Karok)

Native Location:
  Klamath River in northwestern California, from Happy Camp in Siskiyou County to Redcap Creek in Humboldt County.

Language:  Hokan

Shelter:  Rectangular structures, made of cedar posts and poles and split cedar planks

Food:  Salmon, deer, acorns, bear, elk, small gamel

Cultural Notes:  Karuk is native for "up-stream."

Tribal History:

Tribal Website:   Karuk Tribe

(aka. DiegueƱo, Tipai-Ipai)

Native Location:  San Diego and Imperial Counties, to 60 miles south of the Mexican border

Language:  Yuman branch of Hokan, divided by Ipai (northern dialect) and Tipai (southern dialect)

Identified Shelters:  Willow frames set into the ground were curved to the center, then overlaid by brush, tulles, or tree branches.

Food:  Acorn, yucca, fish, shellfish, watercress, nettle, celery, lettuce, small game

Kumeyaay History:

Tribal Websites
Sycuan Band Kumeyaay Nation
Barona Band of Mission Indians
Campo Kumeyaay                 
Jamul Indian Village               
EwiIaapaayp Band                

Mojave (Mohave)

Native Location:   200 mile area along the Colorado River from Hoover Dam to Blythe, and the region west of the river.

Language:   Yuman

Identified Shelters:  Four-posted structures built over a circular excavation, thatched with brush and covered with mud

Cultural Notes:  They were once desert farmers dependent on the flood patterns of the Colorado River; they hunted, fished, and trapped.

Tribal History:


Native Location:  Russian River Valley of northern California

Language:  Pomoan

Identified Shelters:  Cone-shaped structures covered with tule or bark

Food:  Acorn, fish, deer, elk, waterfowl, roots, berries, small game

Related Links:   The Supernatural Frontier in Pomo Cosmology

Tribal History:

Tribal Websites
Elem Indian Colony                          
Kashaya Band of Pomo Indians      
Graton Rancheria                            
Koi Nation Pomo Lower Lake Rancheria
Pinoleville Pomo Nation                    
Robinson Rancheria

Stewarts Point Rancheria               


Native Location:  Extends from both sides of the Colorado River, north of Yuma. According to tribal legend, they descended from the heights of Avikwame Mountain (Newberry Peak, near Needles, California).

Language:  Yuman

Shelter:   Dome-shaped huts made of brush with an extended ramada to provide shade and food storage

Food:  Salmon, bass, deer, rabbit, birds, bean pods, wheat, beans, corn, squash, and a variety of melons cultivated according to the Colorado River's flood pattern.

Tribal History:


Native Location:  Area encompassing Lake Tahoe, from Honey Lake to Mono Lake

Language:   Washo

Identified Shelters:  Round or conical structures made of sixteen foot long willow or pine poles tied together in the center, covered with cedar bark, pine boughs, or manzanita; a second layer of brush and tree branches were added during the winter.

Food:   Acorn, buckberry, gooseberry, sunflower seeds, currants, wild onions, rhubarb, turnips, trout, abalone, deer, grouse, quail, mountain sheep, rabbit

Tribal History:

Tribal Websites:  
Susanville Indian Rancheria           
Washoe Tribe of California and Nevada


Cultural Notes:
  Current Tribal affiliations are Wintu, Pit River and Yana. Tribal members live and work in Shasta County. The Rancheria (small reservation), situated on 30.89 acres in south Redding, had it's Federal recognition restored as a Sovereign Nation in 1985.

Tribal History:

Tribal Website:    Redding Rancheria

Yuman (Yuma)

Cultural Notes: The Yuman parrelled the Kumeyaay and Quechan tribes in many of identified areas.

Tribal History:

Other Hokan Tribes: 
Atsugewi - Chimiriko - Diegueno - Halchidhoma - Ipai - Kamia - Kohuana Salinan - Shasta - Tipai

* Moratto, Michael, California Archaeology, Academic Press, Inc., 1984