From Academic Kids

Miwok—also spelled Miwuk or Me-Wuk—refers to native Californians who lived in what is now Northern California. The word Miwok means people in the Miwok language.

Originally there were three geographically detached groups:

  • The Plains and Sierra Miwok, the main group who lived on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada between the Fresno and Cosumnes Rivers and in the delta area where the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers converge. The Sierra Miwok were the original inhabitants of Yosemite.
  • The Coast Miwok, who lived from the Golden Gate north to Duncan's Point and eastward to Sonoma Creek.
  • The Lake Miwok, who lived in the Clear Lake basin.

Alfred L. Kroeber estimated that, in 1770, there were 500 Lake Miwok, 1,500 Coast Miwok, and 9,000 Plains and Sierra Miwok, totaling about 11,000. The 1910 Census reported 670, and the 1930 Census 491, but this may be an undercount.

The Miwok spoke a language in the Utian linguistic group.

The Miwok lived by hunting and gathering, and lived in small bands without centralized political authority. They were skilled at basketry.

Miwok mythology was similar to other Northern Californians, with many tales of Coyote the trickster.


Plains and Sierra Miwok

Bay Miwok

The Bay Miwok inhabited the general area of modern Contra Costa County.

Plains Miwok

The Plains Miwok inhabited the general area of modern San Joaquin County.

Northern Sierra Miwok

The Northern Miwok inhabited the upper watersheds of the Mokelumne River and the Calaveras River.

Central Sierra Miwok

The Central Miwok inhabited the upper watersheds of the Stanislaus River and the Tuolumne River.

Southern Sierra Miwok

The Southern Miwok inhabited the upper watersheds of the Merced River and the Chowchilla River, as well as Mariposa Creek. They apparently populated most of Yosemite at the time of the arrival of non-Indians. They called the valley awahni. Today, there is some debate about the original meaning of the word, since the Southern Miwok language is virtually extinct, but recent Southern Miwok speakers defined it as "place like a gaping mouth." The Miwok who lived in awahni were also known as the Awahnichi (also spelled Ahwahnechee and similar variants), meaning "people who live in awahni".



The 15 consonants of Southern Sierra Miwok:

  Bilabial Labio-velar Dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Approximant central            

The 6 vowels of Southern Sierra Miwok:

  Front Central Back

Since vowel and consonant length is contrastive, is considered to be a separate (archi-)phoneme.


The syllable structure of Southern Sierra Miwok is the following:

Coast Miwok

The Coast Miwok inhabited the general area of modern Marin County and southern Sonoma County but were driven from their land in 1958, finally regaining federal recognition of their tribal status (as the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria) in December, 2000.

Lake Miwok

The Lake Miwok inhabited the general area of Clear Lake in modern Lake County.

See also


  • The Miwok in Yosemite, pamphlet from Yosemite Association; Craig D. Bates, 1996
  • Broadbent, Sylvia. (1964). The Southern Sierra Miwok Language. University of California publications in linguistics (Vol. 38). Berkeley: University of California Press.

External links


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